Almost by definition, The North American Handmade Bicycle Show has been a showcase of outliers: bikes that were built specifically to be showpieces, or bikes built at the request of people who couldn’t find what they wanted in the mainstream market. It’s been a reliable portend of upcoming trends, paint palettes, styles, and even tech features at times.
These days, however, as the show has matured, some of that quirkiness seems to have dissipated. Without doubt, there is still plenty of uniqueness to be found here, but it’s not as widespread as it once was.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you. Whereas once many builders would specifically craft bikes explicitly for shock and awe value, we’re now seeing more pristine and premium examples of what people are actually buying and riding.
And you know what? That’s just fine with me.
This gallery features the work of
Calfee Design, Enigma Bikes, Favoloro, Mars Cycles, Pegoretti, Pursuit Cycles, Ritchey, Seven Cycles, T-Lab, T-Red — and yes, there’s still plenty more to come.
What does it take to stand out in a sea of carbon fiber? Metal, and lots of it – preferably of the shiny and polished kind, like this titanium all-roader from Enigma.
Most of the components for this build were first shipped to Chris Howard of CycloRetro in Melbourne for a thorough polishing. Stay tuned for more on this bike soon, here on CyclingTips.
I get it; offering a finish like this is cost-prohibitive for a groupset like Campagnolo Potenza. But can’t we at least get something similar as an option? Maybe a limited edition? Pretty please?
The polished Campagnolo Potenza disc brake caliper is striking already, but it’s the polished rotor carrier that is arguably even more of a departure from the stock unit.
I’m sure this titanium ‘cross bike would be a fantastic bike to race on weekends, but it also almost seems criminal to subject something so pretty to such abuse.
Color-shifting paint never gets old.
The polished stays adds some durability to what would otherwise be an area highly vulnerable to chips and scratches.
How often is a painted finish so immaculate that you can see the reflection of the engraved bottom bracket shell in it?
Since when does Salsa Cycles make these pretty thru-axle skewers? Clearly I missed the memo.
Pursuit Cycles is the carbon offshoot of renowned titanium builder Carl Strong, his wife, Loretta, Bill Cochran, and Jared Nelson. Each frame is fully manufactured in Bozeman, Montana, with a focus on meticulous manufacturing processes so as to perfectly translate the design to a finished product.
Whereas the majority of mass produced carbon frames use one-piece front triangles, Pursuit molds three separate sections and then joins them together later. In this way, each section can be made using conventional bladder molding, but because there’s much better access to each section, the bladders can be shaped and positioned much more carefully for more consistent internal finishes, even without the use of silicone rubber pre-forms.
The finish work is stunning.
There are no press-fit bottom brackets to be found here. T47 has a loyal following among the handbuilt crowd.
Ritchey’s stock frames are TIG-welded in Asia, but Tom Ritchey has gotten into the habit of bringing one-off frames to NAHBS that he’s fillet-brazed himself. This new Swiss Cross is destined for long-time friend Thomas Frischknecht.
The production frame might be TIG-welded, but the new Swiss Cross will still use the same awesome-looking dropouts that you see here.
Hallelujah – a threaded bottom bracket. Granted, this is a steel frame, but those can (and have been) outfitted with press-fit shells, too.
The driveside dropout is similarly tidy. Replaceable hangers aren’t often found on steel frames, but it’s good to see one here.
Italian frame builder Romolo Stanco never disappoints at NAHBS. This road racer sports a similar profile to modern carbon fiber road bikes, but is made of niobium steel.
Whether the dropped seatstays provide any performance advantage in this case in terms of ride quality or aerodynamics is debatable, but they sure look cool.
This sort of profile is more often found in a handful of progressively minded aero carbon fiber road bikes. Turns out it looks pretty sweet in steel, too.
The seatpost binder wedge is discreetly tucked away underneath the top tube.
These Brakco rotors feature aluminum carriers and ceramic-coated aluminum brake tracks. They need to be used with special pads, but just as you’d expect, they’re wickedly light. Claimed weights for a 160mm-diameter version is right around 70g.
Mars Cycles builder Casey Sussman showed off this classy road bike that was fitted with some mega-cushy tires.
The pierced top tube is a nice design touch.
Pump pegs are coming back into style! As it turns out, it never stopped being cool to be prepared and self-sufficient.
What’s the sense of being a custom builder if you can’t have a little fun? These 35mm Continentals didn’t really quite fit in here, but 32mm ones probably would have been ok.
It’s actually kind of a bummer that Zipp no longer makes these “Cheese Weaponry” cranks. They were far ahead of their time, arguably driving a wedge in between the cranks that were commonly in use at the time, and what we now see on bikes today.
Craig Calfee has been building custom carbon bikes for a long time, and many today don’t realize how far that history really goes. Remember this one? It dates back to Greg LeMond’s time with Team Z in 1991.
Calfee has long used buttresses to reinforce the joints on his custom carbon frames.
Calfee’s finish work has obviously improved in the 28 years since this bike was produced, but the concepts he pioneered nearly three decades ago are still in use today.
The “SuperAero” triathlon bike was a project Calfee worked on from 2009 to 2014. The main triangle was actually formed using a pre-made honeycomb panel. The general shape was cut from there with fittings added and edges finished from there. Out back is Calfee’s Manta micro-suspension unit to smooth out the ride.
This prototype is obviously a little rough, but the development timeline was well on its way. Unfortunately, fellow collaborator Steve Hed passed away before he could finish this project with Calfee, and the concept was tabled.
This sort of shaping more typically comes out of a giant steel clamshell mold, not a small custom shop in California.
Canadian company T-Lab offers titanium frames with truly dramatically shaped tubes, all designed to provide a super cushy ride quality.
The latest T-Lab R3 is a so-called “omni-road” model, built with sportier geometry, but with enough room for 700x32mm or 650x42mm tires. This particular one was part of a limited-edition collaboration with snowboard icon Burton.
The top tube and down tube are both radially flattened and ovalized, but it’s the seat tube that really draws the eye.
What’s it like to ride a titanium bike with this kind of shaped tubing? We’re going to find out soon enough.
The matching blue highlight on the ends of the brake lever are a nice touch.
Seven Cycles debuted a pre-production sample of a new full-suspension titanium mountain bike frame called the Mobius.
The new Seven Cycles Mobius rear end uses a traditional Horst Link four-bar rear end, offering up to 140mm of travel depending on configuration.
Seven Cycles is using an unusual method to form the front of the chainstays. Instead of using a welded titanium structure (like what Bingham Built does, for example), the ends of the chainstays are clamped in an aluminum yoke.
The rear dropout uses a bolt-on caliper adapter. Interestingly, it’s been designed to accept either a flat-mount or post-mount caliper.
Dario Pegoretti passed away last August, but the company that bears his name has decided to carry on.
Is this paint job worthy of Dario Pegoretti’s legacy? That’s not for me to decide.
Michele Favaloro is a true bespoke carbon builder out of Italy. He normally specializes on road bikes, but this 29er hardtail shows off his MTB chops as well, at least assuming you’re a racer that prizes an ultra-stiff and efficient-feeling ride.
The one-piece carbon fiber cockpit is custom as well. Note the ultra-low stack height.