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This year marked my thirteenth consecutive trip to the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, the premier showcase for custom-built bikes in the world. After more than a dozen years of staring as this level of craftsmanship and artistry, one might assume that I’ve grown numb to it all — just another carved lug, just another stack-of-dimes weld bead, just another fancy paint job.
But if anything, I appreciate these incredible creations more than ever.
The life of a custom builder constitutes long hours, lots of manual labor, and not nearly as much financial reward as it should. They say that the cycling industry is built on passion, and nowhere is that more evident than among this group.
Many in the custom world have come and gone because of this, so those who have stood the test of time are all the more impressive as a result. It’s not just their longevity that commands respect, however, but also the fact that the best builders have also somehow managed to continually refine their product. Their stuff not only looks good, but has been steadily improved so as to be functionally superb, too
This first round of coverage from the 2018 NAHBS — there will be six installments in total — focuses on some (but not all) of the veterans in the business whose creations were on display at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford: Marc DiNucci, Gianni Pegoretti, Bob Parlee, Craig Calfee, Nick Crumpton, Ben Serotta, and Tom Ritchey. Each of these builders may have been around the block a few times, but they can still more than hold their own against the new guard.
Ben Serotta’s new aModoMio line of custom TIG-welded steel and fillet brazed road bikes signals the heralded builder’s long-awaited return to the industry after shuttering his eponymous brand several years ago. The new company name (“my way”) reflects his desire to return to his hands-on roots, with more attention paid to one-on-one interaction.
aModoMio will offer both disc-brake and rim-brake frames, all intended for 25-28mm tires and designed to be “capable of being your all-day companion.”
Welcome back, Ben Serotta.
Ben Serotta’s premium aModoMio line of TIG-welded and fillet brazed steel frames may be garnering much of the attention, but what’s perhaps even more intriguing is his new Duetti sister brand. These aluminum frames bear many of his long-time design features, but are welded in Asia.
Ben Serotta was arguably the earliest proponent of heavily shaped metal tubing with his original Colorado line three decades ago. Note how the top tube on this Duetti starts out rectangular at the seat tube before switching to a rounder profile up front.
Similarly, the down tube on the Duetti grows in diameter as it approaches the bottom bracket — a common trick now, but Duetti founder Ben Serotta was doing this 30 years ago. Kudos for displaying this bike with fenders, too.
The machined flat-mount brake interface is welded on to the non-driveside chainstay on Ben Serotta’s new Duetti line of welded aluminum road frames.
Duetti frames are offered in an unusually generous size range. Designer Ben Serotta is paying extra attention to the smaller end of the spectrum, too. This prototype is quite tiny, but its use of 26″ wheels yields very normal-looking proportions. One exception is the seemingly long chainstay length, which is dictated more by drivetrain restrictions than geometry constraints.
TIG-welded aModoMio frames will be manufactured by a local contract builder; only the fillet-brazed frames will be made by Ben Serotta himself. Wait time and cost will increase accordingly.
Nick Crumpton has been steadily honing his craft since 2004, and is widely regarded as one of the finest carbon-fiber frame builders in the world. His latest creation is a disc-brake version of his top-shelf Type 5.
Crumpton molds all of his own tubing in-house. The flat-mount rear dropout is molded in one piece with the chainstay.
Crumpton says he can fit tires measuring over 32mm-wide while maintaining very compact rear ends.
Clearance to spare.
The replaceable derailleur hanger is integrated with the thru-axle threads.
You’ve heard of Dario Pegoretti, but have you heard of his brother, Gianni? He’s one of three people — the others being Matt Cazzaniga and Antonio Attanasio — behind Italian custom frame company DeAnima. One of its latest models is the disc-equipped AMG road bike.
DeAnima’s frame prices are surprisingly reasonable when compared to other custom brands, especially considering their bona fide made-in-Italy manufacturing and the fact that custom paint is included.
DeAnima’s frames feature bespoke geometry, but they’re not traditional tube-to-tube builds. The head tube and down tube of the AMG are molded in one piece, for example, but there’s still enough flexibility in the design to allow for a wide range of customization.
The DeAnima AMG’s enormous down tube makes good use of the extra-wide PF86 press-fit bottom bracket shell.
The DeAnima AMG certainly lends credence to the idea that disc-brake road bikes can be beautiful.
Huge chainstays on the DeAnima AMG.
DeAnima also debuted at NAHBS its first gravel bike, called Soul. As with other DeAnima frames, the new Soul is offered with custom paint at no extra charge.
A few bits of carbon fiber braid peek through the paint.
Even with 42mm-wide tires, there’s room to spare.
Clearance is a bit tighter out back, but still generous.
DeAnima customers can choose from a fixed number of paint schemes, but are free to select from a enormous collection of colors.
This DiNucci was built for Matt Harvey of Enduro Bearings. Sadly, he won’t even get to ride it for another couple of months until it’s made its rounds on the show circuit. The baby blue paint is accented with metallic copper details.
Perfection in the form of a lugged seat cluster. Note how the seatpost binder is neatly carved into a barrel shape.
The chainstays are straight as an arrow, but there’s still plenty of room for 30mm-wide tires.
Enduro machinist Sonny Brunido crafted the one-off headset from the company’s XD-15 bearing steel. The ultra-hard material is exceptionally durable, but also tricky to machine. Don’t count on Enduro bringing these into production any time soon.
Likewise, the custom Campagnolo Ultra-Torque bottom bracket cups are machined from Enduro Bearing’s XD-15 ultra-hard steel.
The dropouts are particularly stunning on this DiNucci.
The chainstay brace is formed into an elegant “X” shape.
The dropouts seem symmetrical at first glance, but the shaping on the driveside one is flattened to create clearance for the drivetrain.
Who says Campagnolo rim-brake calipers can’t handle wide tires? There’s room to spare around these 30mm-wide Schwalbes.
The machined-to-match headset cap is a nice touch.
Even the housing stops are gracefully shaped with rounded edges and ovoid bases.
Parlee Cycles gave its three painters free reign to do whatever they wanted for the showpieces at NAHBS.
This Parlee Chebacco features a old-fashioned circuit board motif. The masking work on its own is amazing enough. But the base paint also fades perfectly from one end to the other.
The eight-bit lettering is a nice touch.
Parlee Cycles painter Brian Burke has an affinity for throwback colors and designs. The cutout profile and splatter pattern was deemed to be perfect for a classic road bike.
The colored banding on the seatstays is a brilliant little detail.
Finishing things off is the ghosted Parlee logo on the down tube.
This Parlee paint job was inspired by old hot rods. Estimated retail cost for something like this is US$3000-5000 – just for the paint work.
According to Parlee, it’s exceptionally tricky to combine gloss and matte like this.
Anyone else have flashbacks of Q-Bert?
Craig Calfee showed off at this year’s NAHBS an intriguing idea for a damage-resistant adventure bike.
Seatstays and chainstays are the areas most commonly damaged in a crash, so this Calfee uses solid carbon fiber stays that are far tougher than the usual hollow tubular ones.
The flattened chainstays are supposedly not only more durable, but also are said to act as leaf springs to provide some rear-end comfort.
Craig Calfee has long been intrigued with bamboo as a building material for bikes. His latest development is carbon fiber-reinforced bamboo tubes that supposedly retain the natural material’s unique ride quality, but with greatly reduced weight.
The bamboo tubes certainly lend a unique aesthetic.
The Calfee Manta Adventure is meant for somewhat tamer endeavours, with lightweight carbon fiber tubing, clearance for wide tires, and a lightweight rear suspension design.
Ritchey is best known for its wide range of components, but many also forget that the company has a collection of road, mountain, and cyclocross frames, too. This Logic steel road frameset is fairly priced, and a blast to ride.
A newer member of the Ritchey fleet is the Timberwolf 27+ steel hardtail.