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by James Huang
March 16, 2017
Photography by James Huang
Now in its 13th consecutive year, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show has grown from humble beginnings in Houston, Texas, to one of the largest gathering of bespoke bike builders in the world.
Bikes on display at the 2017 NAHBS, held March 10-12 in Salt Lake City, Utah, spanned the full spectrum of usages and materials, from road to mountain, townie to cargo, and everything in between, in metals, composites, and even wood.
U.S. technical editor James Huang was on the show floor once again, attending his twelfth consecutive NAHBS, and as usual, he found far too much to include in one gallery, so we’ll be rolling our coverage out over the next several days.
Kicking things off are carbon fiber bikes from Alchemy, Appleman, Argonaut, and Calfee, as well as a few eye-popping steel creations from new builders, like Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira of Breadwinner, to old hands like Giovanni Battaglin and Doriano De Rosa.
Denver-based Alchemy Bicycle Company debuted a new titanium gravel/adventure bike called the Kratos. Features include generous 45mm tire clearance, three bottle mounts (which are strategically placed to allow for frame bags), a large-diameter 31.6mm seatpost for post-mounted bags, and rack mounts. The Fox suspension fork is essentially just for show; standard issue will be an Enve CX carbon fork.
The tapered headset provides plenty of space for the slick two-tone media blasted logo.
Flat-mount disc brakes and thru-axles are standard issue on the Alchemy Kratos.
Alchemy also showed off its new Helios Disc, built with a new rear end and a stunning tinted clearcoat paint job.
The amazing paint job allows just the right amount of color peek through, cheerfully exposing some details of the lay-up.
Unfortunately, this paint job doesn’t come standard; it’s a hefty upcharge.
While many companies are set to include Mavic’s neat Speed Release thru-axle system up front, Alchemy is among just a few companies that are already using it out back as well.
Erik Rolf of Alliance Bicycles apprenticed under legendary builder Carl Strong — and the tutelage shows.
All four bikes in the Alliance Bicycles booth at NAHBS were custom built for customers, and all four featured T47 threaded bottom brackets.
Allied Cycle Works is on the cusp of a revolution in bicycle manufacturing, not so much in terms of where they’re made, but by the fact that their entire operation is housed under one roof in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Allied’s sole full-custom carbon option is the 800g Echo.
Custom carbon builder Matt Appleman has progressed quite a bit since first arriving on the NAHBS scene in 2011.
Appleman’s bikes are usually all business with raw carbon finishes devoid of paint or decoration, but he decided to have a little more fun this time with this “donut bike”.
Appleman says the “frosting” and “sprinkles” are both made of epoxy resins.
The tube-to-tube construction is neatly sanded and left exposed for all to see.
The apple on the dropout is a nice touch.
While one could easily argue that many mass-produced frames are also “handmade,” it’s rare for any of those hands to actually sign the finished product.
Appleman is putting the finishing touches on a new flat-mount disc setup.
Appleman built his carbon all-road bike around these 36mm-wide Challenge Strada Bianca open tubulars. NAHBS is always a bellwether for industry trends, and judging by this year’s show, road tires will continue to grow wider.
Argonaut Cycles builder Ben Farver boldly cut one of his frames in half to show off his handiwork. While most carbon fiber frames are pretty on the outside, rarely do you get this close a look at what’s going beneath the skin.
While many custom builders use a tube-to-tube construction with mitered tubes and wrapped joints, Farver’s methods have more in common with mainstream brands in that he uses molded lug subassemblies and bonded tubes.
Here, you can see that the top tube and head tube are molded in one piece, while the down tube is bonded on afterward. The yellow layer on the inside is aramid (more commonly known by its trade name, Kevlar).
The tapered bond joints allow for some flexibility in frame geometry. The same lug can be used for multiple angles.
Molded carbon fiber dropouts are bonded to the chainstays down below, and bolted up top to the adjoining seatstays.
The finished product.
Wooden bikes seemed to be more popular than ever at this year’s NAHBS. This one comes from new builder Max Burson of B3 Bicycles.
Regardless of what you may think of wood as a performance material for bicycle frames, it certainly has an unmatched natural beauty.
Officina Battaglin is the brainchild of Giovanni Battaglin, who won both the Giro and the Vuelta in 1981.
Officina Battaglin uses classic steel brazing methods, with with more modern dimensions to improve performance over classically designed frames.
The finish work on this particular frame is gorgeous.
As always, the devil is in the details.
Columbus Spirit is widely regarded as one of the finest steel bicycle frame tubesets currently available.
Officina Battaglin tapped Berk Composites for this integrated bar and stem. Based in Slovenia, Berk is one of just a handful of bicycle companies using Innegra fibers to reinforce carbon composites.
The “shelf” on this hooded steel dropout is dramatically thinner and more elegant-looking than what is typically found on titanium or aluminum frames.
Bixxis frames are made in Italy by Doriano De Rosa. His father is Ugo De Rosa.
Marks like these are almost like the bicycle equivalent of family crests. Even without the brand name on the down tube, there should be no mistaking where the bike came from.
“Italian bikes for the 21st century”.
Portland-based custom framebuilders Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira teamed up in 2013 to form Breadwinner Cycles, a range of semi-custom steel bikes aimed at anyone looking for something a little more unique.
The paint on this particular sample was inspired by BMW’s M-Sport motorsports division. Ryan has long been a fan of BMW motorcycles, and Pereira a purveyor of older BMW cars.
The detail work on this Breadwinner Lolo Disc is beautiful to behold. All things considered, the pricing is fairly reasonable, too.
The idea of dressing up the inside of the fork isn’t new, but it is pretty.
The steel thru-axle disc dropouts are graceful and delicate-looking.
Words to live by!
The cable routing is a mix of internal and external paths, but it works nonetheless.
There isn’t enough room with the smaller-diameter tubes and threaded bottom bracket to feed the hydraulic hose all the way through the chainstay, so it pops out at the base of the down tube before making the rest of its way to the caliper.
The production version of this Breadwinner isn’t likely to include this painted-to-match Ritchey integrated carbon cockpit, but given how good it looks, hopefully Ryan and Pereira will consider it as an option.
Calfee’s Manta Pro fully embraces the idea that suspension and high performance shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.
This webbed lug construction has long been a Calfee trademark. Longtime cycling fans will recognize it on some of the old carbon frames raced by Greg LeMond.
The titanium and carbon fiber head tube badge is a nice touch.
The rear end of the Calfee Manta Pro features a small shock that provides a few millimeters of wheel travel. It adds minimal weight, but considerable comfort and traction.
The bottom bracket shell is designed around Look’s ultra-oversized Zed crankset. A bolt-in adapter allows for threaded cups to be used, too.
Calfee has long been a fan of bamboo as a material for bicycle frames, given its close structural relationship to carbon fiber.
Neat LED turn signals are featured at both ends.
The seatpost is affixed in a sort of bamboo leaf spring for a smooth ride.
Yep, even the wheels have been retrofitted with bamboo spokes.
The level of craftsmanship on display here is quite stunning.
New from Calfee is the redesigned Luna Pro, which gets a larger down tube and head tube than before, plus updated lug shapes that promise improved stiffness.
Claimed frame weight on the revamped Calfee Luna Pro is about 1,315g for a 54cm size.
Retail prices for complete Calfee Luna Pros start at US$4,600 with Shimano 105.
Also new from Calfee are optional custom carbon fiber front racks, which are built directly on to the carbon fiber fork.