04 March, 2013

Nic's NAHBS Report

By Nicholas Carman (Gypsy by Trade)

The North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show (NAHBS) is always an exciting place to view bicycles. Builders are challenged to push form and function to new heights, exploring ideas new and old to make the best bicycles possible. This year's show in Denver, CO was ripe with new wheel dimensions including 650b mountain bikes, over a dozen fatbikes (26x4.0”+) in every frame material imaginable, and the new 29x3.0” size pioneered by the Surly Krampus. Titanium frames were plentiful and bamboo frames had a strong presence. Even the custom carbon market seems to be growing.

More bikes featured disc brakes this year, including touring, rando and city bikes. One beautiful lugged steel rando bike mated Campy 11-speed equipment to new TRP cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes. Many bikes were wearing lightweight luggage in the modern bikepacking style, including a Cielo (Chris King) touring frame with luggage made by Tanner in Portland, OR of domestic canvas and leather, attached to the frame without racks. Such a refined statement may help persuade some riders into lightweight touring.

It is always interesting to see how Velo Orange products are used in the wild. How about Ultegra brifters on a VO Porteur handlebar, attached to a bike with a carbon fork? That's not what Chris had in mind when he designed those bars, I'm sure. What about 650b Diagonale rims with a SRAM XX carbon crankset and a classic aluminum chainguard? Of course, there were more traditional pairings as well, mating lugged steel to shiny alloy cranks, fenders, and racks. Take a look.
Geekhouse bikes are a mash-up of modern function and retro styling, and sometimes retro function with modern styling They featured several VO parts including 650b Diagonale rims on their pink Brentwood porteur bike, which paired an aluminum chaingaurd and a 1x10 SRAM XX drivetrain. A similar purple city bike spent some time at the Brooks booth, displaying a VO stem and rear constructeur rack with Brooks luggage.
Jon Littleford's Expedition Touring bike spared no detail for the long haul, including a rust-coat with a clear coat finish and expedition-grade racks with stainless coverings to minimize abrasion from pannier hooks. Dynamo lighting and internal wiring connected to a vintage Cat-Eye tail light and a modern headlight. A Grand Cru headset and VO bar tape were prominent up front, while a VO touring hub made the rear end shine. I asked Jon to display the features of this hub. He shifted onto the smallest cog, lay the chain on the chainrest and unhooked the brake, removed the wheel, and after removing the QR skewer, he quickly removed the entire cassette along with the oversize aluminum axle. This process would have been no more difficult along the roadside, and within seconds, one could replace a spoke on the drive side of the wheel, which is usually obscured behind the cogset. Additionally, the freehub pawls are exposed for cleaning or lubing, and sealed cartridge bearings can be removed and replaced without tools. Reassembly is just as smooth. During this process-- no more than a minute-- I held the bike upright on the table while snapping photos.
Vincent Rodriguez
This fast city bike featured a steel frame and a carbon fork, and was built with a VO fluted double crank, Grand Cru headset and a VO Porteur handlebar with Ultegra brifters neatly attached.
This young builder from Tokyo brought a nice rando frame to the show, unpainted, to show his tidy brazing. His bike featured a 50.4 VO double crank, and a Cinelli aero bottom bracket shell.

Curtis Odom
Curtis machines exquisite hubs inspired by vintage styles, but with modern guts. Several wheels were built with VO rims. Most of his wheels were built with Ghilsallo wood rims from Wheel Fanatyk.
This classic road bike uses vintage bits and VO elkhide bar covering. From a distance, this looks much like a few VO Rando frames I have seen. Chris Bishop builds bikes in Baltimore, MD, one of the nearest framebuilders to VO headquarters.

Note: Many framebuilders remove manufacturer decals for shows like this, so it was a challenge to verify the identity of metal fenders, which adorned bikes in abundance. None are pictured here but most likely, some were from VO.


Matteo said...

I'm very impressed with the Littleford.

Dave said...

Nice write-up on the show. I went to NAHBS when it was in Indianapolis about 4-5 years ago, and saw some rando-type bikes but most weren't. Maybe that segment is becoming stronger. Regardless, it's good to see V-O's presence proliferating.

By the way, the "beautiful lugged steel rando bike" that mated Campy 11-speed equipment to new TRP cable-actuated hydraulic disc brakes" was built by Harvey Cycles Works of Indianapolis. I've recently got to know Kevin Harvey and he's an easy guy to work with and a very skillful artisan. He's spent years fabricating parts for race cars in Indy, and really knows what he's doing. I don't know of many custom builders in the midwest, so I'm glad to see a good builder emerge so close to me. I had a custom bike built a few years ago and did not stay local, and I won't make that mistake again.

Trailer Park Cyclist said...

Congratulations to Velo Orange for having such a wealth of good taste and such a high level of craftsmanship that these artisans from around the continent have chosen your products to complement their finest efforts.

Nicholas touched on the fact that there was a strong response at NAHBS to the introduction by Surly of the Knard tire and Rabbit Hole rim. It must be gratifying indeed for the crew at Surly to see this positive response to their always bold innovation.

I wonder what it means? Frame builders have responded to the new 3" tire: will there be a similar response in terms of rubber? Street tires in 3"? This blurs the distinction between 29'r and fat, which I suspect was the point all along.

I think that if the ever-elusive One Bike To Rule Them All is ever found, it will have a Surly lineage. And yet I think that Velo Orange is on the same trail with the Campeur (accidental pun) and it is something good to see.

This is an important endeavor: the price of gasoline is never going to go down and most municipalities are waking up once again to the simple functionality of bicycles. Those racks on the front of buses, though, how wide do they go? The problem is a beautiful one and getting All the World on two wheels might just save the day.

Look at the examples that the Gypsy presents here: they put the fun in functional, every one of them; and they all have so little to do with bicycle racing that it gives one hope.

Hope, also, is important.

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