A gathering like the North American Handmade Bicycle Show is always bound to yield more than its fair share of outliers: bikes that fall well left-of-center, whether it be for purely visual reasons, or because its intended purpose is so far from the mainstream that you could never hope to find anything remotely equivalent in the mass market.
This year’s NAHBS was no different in that respect, and while casual onlookers might judge many of these unusual builds as frivolous design exercises, the fact of the matter is that nearly all of them were built for someone who specifically commissioned such a thing — and is presumably happy with the end result.
So judge not, and instead revel in the level of creativity displayed. These bikes might not be for you, but then again, that’s the beauty of custom. By definition, they only need to satisfy one person, and one person alone. And chances are, that person doesn’t care what you think, anyway. To each their own.
This photo gallery features the work of Ascari Bicycles, Bamboo Articulation, Bilenky Cycle Works, Black Sheep Bikes, the Cal Poly Bike Builders Club, Carrer Wooden Bicycles, Chapman Cycles, English Cycles, Juliet Designs, Porter Cycles, SaltAir Cycles, Squid Bikes, and Stanridge Cycles.
New builder Juliet Designs had a steady swarm of people surrounding its booth at NAHBS thanks to the striking lines of this carbon fiber frame.
Bikes like this are often viewed solely as design exercises, but Juliet Designs absolutely intends for its unique creation to be ridden.
The frame is obviously radical in appearance, but the rack mounts indicate at least a modicum of attention paid to everyday practicality.
Juliet Designs set out to make something different. Needless to say, mission accomplished.
The frame was basically constructed in two halves, and then joined together at the seat cluster, bottom bracket, and head tube. Juliet Designs had two versions of this frame on hand at NAHBS: one made purely of carbon fiber, and this one made with a wooden core.
Very clever, very striking.
Juliet Designs made this carbon fiber brake lever, too.
New builder Porter Cycles attracted quite a crowd with this art deco-inspired steel track frameset.
The polished stainless steel tube peeks through the cutouts in the one-piece head tube lug.
The seat tube treatment is striking.
The rear dropouts are filed to match the rest of the frame.
The gold seatstay bridge stands out nicely.
The stepped cutout on the seat lug is in keeping with the design of the rest of the frame.
Rob English didn’t come to this year’s NAHBS, but his presence was most certainly felt. This incredible tandem time trial bike was on display at the FSA booth.
Amazingly, the tandem was designed for (relatively) easy transport with stoker main tubes that clamped in place. Once the stoker tubes are unclamped and removed, the entire tandem could pack down rather compactly.
The stoker handlebar mounts to a sliding stem clamped to the ovalized top tube.
This incredible tandem touring rig from Chapman Cycles was simply stunning.
Chapman Cycles built this tandem for the long haul with plenty of carrying capacity.
Lots of classic touches here.
The custom trailer was a sight to behold in and of itself.
A good use for an old headset.
The attachment method to the rear hub is quite intricate. Note how Chapman Cycles polished various bits on the vintage Phil Wood disc-brake rear hub.
Fluted seatposts seem to be making a comeback based on bikes displayed at NAHBS.
One of the most interesting bikes at this year’s NAHBS was a prototype folding bike from Black Sheep, designed by a mechanical engineering professor at Colorado State University.
The clever design makes for very easy packing inside a standard S&S travel case. Photo: Bert Vermeulen.
The pivot placement – just above the bottom bracket – sits almost exactly halfway in between the dropouts so as to create the smallest possible package.
The keyed locking mechanism up top looks crude in this prototype form, but its design makes for an extremely rigid connection between the two halves.
One of the toughest parts of travel bikes is how the wheels just don’t get that small (or narrow). But with this patented design, the front hub can be removed from the rest of the wheel via three quick-release levers. Once the hub is removed, the front and rear wheels can nest directly against each other, saving precious space in a travel case.
Another bit that is often challenging for compact packaging in a travel case is the cockpit.
However, these MorfTech bars – originally designed for triathletes – fold forward to fit more easily in a travel case. Soon, they’ll be fitted with conventional drop-style bends, too.
The telescoping steerer tube shaft extends down through the fork crown when the bike is folded, so a conventional front brake thru-bolt wouldn’t work. Instead, Black Sheep built a custom fork that uses the short mounting stub of a rear brake, leaving the center of the tube open.
This SaltAir city bike features a Pinion gearbox transmission and Gates toothed belt drive, which require virtually zero maintenance.
Pinion’s latest gearbox designs are built with a magnesium case that’s both smaller and lighter than earlier aluminum ones. Adding to this bike’s durability is the stainless steel chainring.
Pinion’s top-end P1.18 gearbox offers a monumental 636% total range, all in 18 equally spaced steps for maximum usability.
Squid Bikes is best known for its incredible paint jobs, all of which are done with spray cans.
The resulting aesthetic is undoubtedly distinctive.
Paul Components built for this Squid a custom fixed-gear version of its WORD singlespeed disc rear hub.
Funnest head tube badge ever? Maybe.
Stanridge built this frame from a mix of steel and balsa foam. The shape pays homage to an old 3Rensho design.
The flutes on the stainless steel seatmast are elegantly painted.
While it can be debated whether this design has any aerodynamic or structural benefit, it’s undeniably striking.
All of this shaping could presumably be made fairly light were it constructed of carbon fiber. But it’s not, and the result is pretty weighty.
Winged extensions help bolster the rear end.
The left-hand FSA drivetrain was originally made for the United States Olympic program.
The ghosted head tube badge looks fantastic.
Stanridge builder Adam Eldridge built this track bike for the folks at FSA.
Ironically, Stanridge replaced the stock FSA hub with one custom made by Phil Wood.
The single front disc brake can be actuated by either brake lever, courtesy of a modified adapter made by Problem Solvers.
Bilenky Bicycles was on hand at this year’s NAHBS, and despite the host city’s proximity to the hometown of the New England Patriots, the company was proudly touting its Philadelphia roots. For those who don’t follow American football, the underdog Philadelphia Eagles recently triumphed over the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and Philadelphians are expectedly elated.
This Bilenky cargo bike sports a neat tie-rod system for the front wheel.
The Shimano STEPS mid-drive motor helps rider haul heavy loads.
Ascari Bicycles definitely has a strong throwback theme to its unusual aesthetic.
This sort of ornamentation is rarely seen on bicycles.
Ascari’s unique look isn’t for everyone, but it might be for you.
Ascari Bicycles hails from Brooklyn, New York, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever see one locked up on the street somewhere.
Bamboo ARTiculation’s clever kid’s bike is made from bamboo, of course, but it can also be configured to fit a wide range of rider heights thanks to a frame that can flipped up or down. It can even be fitted with a drivetrain as skills improve.
What was arguably even better than the bikes at NAHBS were the enthusiastic fans, who hailed from all aspects of cycling and marveled at what the builders had created. I didn’t have a chance to catch this kid’s name, but he was clearly fascinated with much of what he saw. Way to go, kid. Bikes are rad.