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by James Huang
March 18, 2017
Photography by James Huang
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.
Meanwhile, titanium icon Moots showed off its latest 3D-printed titanium dropouts, and Reynolds Technology is continuing to forge its own 3D printing pathway with a new printed head tube.
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).
Oregon-based builder Mike DeSalvo was one of the original exhibitors at NAHBS 13 years ago. One of the highlights from him this year was this lovely titanium gravel machine.
Matching the outlining on the logo to the headset is a nice touch.
Mike DeSalvo releases a “Builder’s Special” edition each year, with a predetermined paint scheme and set build kit. Pricing for this year’s edition ranges from US$3,650 to US$4,300.
DeSalvo’s “Builder’s Special” features the same craftsmanship and handiwork as fully custom DeSalvo machines, but with fewer options in terms of sizing, paint, and spec.
The “Builder’s Special” may be a little less custom, but it’s no less beautiful.
UK builder Enigma is now available in the United States.
The custom anodized K-Edge Garmin mount pairs nicely with the Union Jack paint scheme.
This is hardly the first time a bike’s paint job has been inspired by a popular motorsports team, but it still never gets old.
The Enigma Extensor is built with a triple-butted Columbus stainless steel tubeset.
Colorado builder Daryl Funk displayed this curvaceous titanium gravel bike, fitted with a Lauf leaf-spring carbon fiber suspension fork.
Titanium builders have really stepped up their games in terms of media blasting and graphics.
Eric Baar of Ground Up Speed Shop almost didn’t make it to NAHBS at all after suffering a vehicle breakdown in Vail, Colorado. Luckily, though, he only ended up arriving a day late, with eye-popping track bikes like this in tow.
Baar refers to this machine as his travel bike, built with an aluminum front end, a bolt-on titanium rear triangle, and a steel fork.
Ground Up Speed Shop is perhaps best known for its incredible pinstriping work.
Eye-catching? You betcha.
The bolt-on design makes it easy to pack this setup into an airline-legal travel case.
Metier Velo builds exclusively with 3D-printed titanium lugs and bonded carbon fiber tubes. A new lower-cost option uses lugs manufactured in Israel.
The 3D-printed lugs produce a unique, industrial aesthetic.
The dropouts look like they’re cast, but they’re actually formed by lasers.
The geometry of Metier Velo’s new Super 622 Evo is meant to mimic Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo, but with a sloping top tube.
Metier Velo frames are topped with its own 3D-printed seatmast head. Saddle height is adjusted via a threaded collar.
The battleship-grey look will invariably appeal to many, but it’s hard not to imagine what this frame would look like with a more refined surface finish — and perhaps some color.
Serial numbers are printed directly into the lugs.
Even the logos are 3D-printed.
Metier Velo’s premium option uses lugs printed by GPI Prototypes. According to frame builder Jamie White, the lugs comprise the vast majority of each frame’s material cost. In the event of a bad crash, the tubes can be debonded and the lugs reused to create a new frame.
Complex internal shapes like this can be easily done with 3D printing.
The bottom bracket is reamed prior to cups being inserted.
Moots is now offering an array of anodized logos on its titanium frames.
This stunning Moots Routt RSL gravel machine features Chris King’s new green anodized finish.
The green highlights nicely complement the matte grey titanium tubes.
The limited-edition kit includes a finished-to-match Spurcycle bell.
Moots is nearly ready to release its own carbon fiber gravel/cyclocross fork.
Fender mounts are neatly hidden behind the dropouts and behind the crown.
Moots was an early adopter of 3D printing, used here for its flat-mount disc dropouts.
Mr. Moots, still going strong after all these years.
Boulder-based builder Mosaic Bespoke Bicycles had quite the array of machines at this year’s NAHBS.
Finished-to-match fenders were a common theme throughout the show.
Mosaic also built this custom rig to showcase Shimano’s new Metrea urban groupset.
It remains to be seen whether Shimano’s new Metrea urban groupset will catch on.
Mosaic’s new paneled paint job looks fantastic.
No.22 recently began offering carbon fiber seat tubes on its titanium frames.
The head tube badge is simple and purposeful.
This is easily one of the prettiest seat tube toppers around.
The seat tube topper’s shape isn’t random; rather, it’s meant to mimic the shape of the head tube badge.
Beautiful at any angle.
The seatstay bridge on No.22’s track bike continues the same aesthetic theme.
This showpiece was finished by the masters at Velocolour in Toronto, Canada.
Orbitrec brought this 3D-printed titanium and carbon fiber machine all the way from Japan.
It won’t be long before this sort of construction becomes more commonplace.
Tucked away inside the down tube of Orbitrec’s road bike was this little electronics box, packed with a variety of sensors that will measure everything from your position on the road to bike lean angle.
Paul Brodie always brings just a single bike to NAHBS. This year’s choice was a shaft-drive townie.
Shaft drives may not be as mechanically efficient as chain drives, but they’re wholly sealed against weather and super slick aesthetically.
Brodie fabricated nearly all of the fittings in his own shop.
The bowed frame design is timelessly beautiful.
Paul Brodie teaches a class in bicycle frame building at the University of the Fraser Valley.
Note how the steerer clamp uses a blind hole for a cleaner look.
Even the headset spacer was custom machined.
One of the best tubeset decals we’ve seen.
The disc caliper mount is particularly elegant.
Getting the alignment just right on separate post mount tabs like this isn’t easy.
This entire assembly is custom made.