One of the most striking things about the North American Handmade Bicycle Show is the diversity of materials and construction methods used by the builders. Whereas once custom bikes were predominantly made out of steel and titanium, carbon fiber is becoming more common than ever before — and even aluminum is making a strong comeback for bespoke clients who place a greater priority on low weight and high stiffness, but perhaps don’t have the budget (or stomach) for carbon fiber.
Most builders specialize in one material, such as titanium builders No.22 and Funk Cycles. However, other builders choose to deal in multiple currencies. Mosaic, DeSalvo, and Enigma all showed both steel and titanium bikes at this year’s NAHBS, and Colorado track-bike specialist Ground Up Speed Shop added aluminum to the mix — sometimes even combining all three.
3D printing continues to move forward as well. Australian builder Bastion Cycles didn’t attend this year’s show with its innovative printed titanium lugs and bonded carbon fiber tubes, but Utah builder Jamie White of Métier Vélo arrived in Salt Lake City with three bikes using the same format. Likewise, new builder Cerevo brought its own 3D-printed titanium-and-carbon fiber Orbitrec creation all the way from Japan.
Regardless of the materials used, the true mark of an artisan builder is arguably their ability to transform the mundane into the magnificent. Canadian builder Paul Brodie displays that talent every year at NAHBS, through his work at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he teaches a course on frame building. Brodie’s custom town bike began life as a discarded shaft-drive mountain bike, but aside from the drivetrain bits itself, every other part from made from scratch.
Sadly, Brodie says his creation didn’t attract much attention at the show, but that’s probably only because passersby didn’t know what they were walking past. It’s a brilliant display, and one that certainly warrants a closer look (and for a more detailed play-by-play on the build process, please visit our friends at Cycle Exif).