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by James Huang
March 17, 2017
Photography by James Huang
NAHBS may be North America’s largest gathering of “hand built” bikes, but what exactly constitutes “hand built,” anyway?
Depending on your interpretation, even molded carbon fiber bikes, mass-produced in Asia, would qualify, as more sets of hands touch those than many of the metal frames produced by the most famous names in the business.
Perhaps a more accurate descriptor of the bikes on hand at the North American Hand Built Show would be “bespoke,” or “custom,” both of which better convey the sense that the bikes shown at NAHBS are typically built solely to suit the particular needs and wants of a single rider — often to the point where it might not even work well for anyone else.
Of all the bikes displayed at this year’s show, none more completely embodied that spirit of individuality than the “Purple Reign” Prince tribute bike built for Anna Schwinn (yes, that Schwinn) by Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. As expected, the frame was specially built for the project, but Schwinn’s obsessiveness in the dedication is more fully revealed in the similarly custom build kit — even going so far as to feature laser-etched crying doves on the single right-hand shifter housing.
I could go on and on about the thoroughness of this project in words, but ultimately, it’s one that’s best taken in visually. So feast your eyes for a few minutes, and also enjoy a few of the other bikes that were proudly on display at this year’s NAHBS, from Cherubim, Cio, Co-Motion, Cryptic, Leuck, Lightweight, Loue, Low, and Renovo — and don’t worry, there are still many more to come.
Peacock Groove won this year’s prestigious “Best in Show” award for this Prince tribute bike.
In case you’re wondering, yes, that really is a guitar pick used by Prince, permanently embedded in a stem custom made for this project by Paul Components.
Prince’s symbol is littered throughout the bike.
Everywhere you looked on this bike, there was more to see.
Stainless steel rings reinforce both ends of the head tube.
Yes, even a custom saddle — and on a custom anodized seatpost.
Another brilliant Prince symbol placement.
Paul Components doesn’t offer this polished-and-purple version of its Klamper disc brake.
It’s hard to think of a more appropriate place for these words to be placed.
The pinstriping is gorgeous.
It’s hard to see here…
…but yes, the doves are actually crying.
Even the Silca frame pump is finished to match.
Japanese builder Cherubim never fails to impress at NAHBS.
The fenders here aren’t just an afterthought; rather, they’re an integral part of the bike’s overall aesthetic.
The frame has been purpose-built around the chromed fenders.
The fender stays thread directly into the frame.
Australia-based Cio was yet another wooden frame builder at NAHBS, this time going for a more modern aero look on this road model. Claimed weight for this 56cm size is 1,800g, and retail price is US$4,760 / AU$6,350..
Unique to Cio, though, are carbon fiber reinforcements featured both outside and inside the frame tubes.
Whereas even carbon fiber bikes are often painted, wooden bikes are invariably just treated to clear coats so as to let the natural beauty shine through.
Co-Motion continues to expand its collection of single bikes (the company is better known for its tandems) with this Camino CS3 all-road bike built, with Reynolds 853 steel tubing and clearance for tires up to 32mm-wide.
An integrated seatmast from Co-Motion? Yep.
Cryptic Cycles won the “Best New Builder” award at last year’s NAHBS and returned this time around with this understated carbon road racer.
Tinted clearcoats are always risky for carbon frame builders, as they hide nothing – and reveal everything.
It should almost be a requirement that anyone who chooses this paint option from Cryptic Cycles live somewhere sunny.
Carbon fiber was once the domain of bigger companies, but an ever-increasing number of smaller outfits — often one-man setups — are dabbling in the material to great effect. This head tube was made by new builder Cody Leuck.
Lightweight previewed its new Urgestalt Disc frameset at NAHBS.
Flat mount brakes were only introduced by Shimano in 2014, but they’ve already taken over.
Loue Bicycles hails from Singapore.
Loue Bicycles’ hand-wrapped joints aren’t the prettiest, but they’re bound to get better.
Words to live (or rather, ride) by.
Andrew Low of Low Bicycles showed off his revamped mki aluminum road racer.
Low Bicycles has long championed the use of aluminum for high-performance racing frames.
New from Low Bicycles are these flattened chainstays, which purportedly help smooth out the ride quality a bit.
The widely spaced seatstays help with rear-end stiffness, but also provide a neat pathway for an internally routed rear brake hose on disc models.
Low also provided a sneak peek at this gravel model.
The chainstays are flat, but also quite wide — an increasingly common theme throughout the road bike market.
A subtle reminder of who built your bike.
Renovo was an early pioneer of modern wooden bicycles, first showing at NAHBS a decade ago.
This latest Renovo creation mimics the look of modern aero road bikes.
It’s hard to beat the unique aesthetic of natural wood.
Renovo frames are built one at a time, by hand, in Portland, Oregon.
Cane Creek only made fifty of these titanium-and-wood headsets. Renovo was given two of them.
Each Renovo frame is built using a mix of several types of wood.
Each piece of wood coming into the Renovo shop is measured for stiffness.
Even wooden bikes can be subjected to FEA analysis.
This complicated inlay is quite the sight on a bicycle down tube.
Renovo has recently started offering this curved and flattened seatstay arrangement on its hardtails, saying it makes for a smoother ride on bumpy trails.
A frame like this almost seems too pretty to ride.