New MADE custom bike show picks up where NAHBS left off

Three straight years of North American Handmade Bicycle Show cancellations have opened the door for a new event that caters to custom builders.

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It’s been barely a week since Don Walker, the organizer and founder of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, announced that the 2022 event planned for Denver, Colorado, had been postponed for the third year in a row, this time “due to the unexpectedly low number of commitments to attend from exhibitors.”

Just yesterday, however, comes an announcement from long-time bicycle industry PR firm ECHOS Communications that a new show for custom builders called MADE is being launched in Portland, Oregon. 

“NAHBS was amazing; it helped foster my personal love for handbuilt bikes,” said ECHOS vice president Billy Sinkford. “There was simply room for something new. We don’t view this as a takeover. We’re doing something different, and we hope it’ll be appreciated by the builder community. This came as a direct ask from the builder community to try and start a new handbuilt show, and try to reimagine what the model looked like a little bit so we could identify some areas that needed work and push things in the right direction.”

Unlike NAHBS, which moved locations each year, MADE will reside permanently in Portland in an effort to provide some long-term logistical stability and predictability to exhibitors. There’s also a major airport nearby to facilitate domestic and international travel, and several well-populated metropolitan areas from which to draw a crowd. 

Also unlike NAHBS, the new show will be held outdoors, like Sea Otter. Builders will also be encouraged to bring samples that show attendees will be able to test ride. 

“Indoor trade has floundered and failed for the entire active outdoor industry,” Sinkford said. “Outdoor Retailer attendance was down; Interbike doesn’t even exist anymore. The existing handmade show is not taking place, and hasn’t taken place for multiple years. Those are all inside. We can draw whatever correlations we want between that, but outside means more people are going to come, and in addition to that, I like the sunshine, you like the sunshine, and it’ll be way easier for people to throw a leg over a bike if we’re already outside than if you’re inside at a trade show.

“For the builder, the consumer is coming to this show to meet and hopefully find a frame builder that they align with to build them their dream bike. And if they’re given the option to ride a sampling of that builder’s products when they’re outside at a trade show as well as getting to introduce themselves and find out a little bit about that builder, the chances they’re going to come back to that person and make that purchase or invest in that dream bike — or honestly, just dream about it for even longer — are even greater than when they get to look at it, drool over it, and then they walk to another booth and can’t do anything with it. So the outside and the ability to actually demo bikes — for builders that are able to bring demo bikes — I think will be a really, really good draw. There are a lot of other changes we’re going to be making [from NAHBS], but that’s going to be the biggest one.”

Show organizers are hoping MADE will become a global destination for custom bike builders and their customers.

Despite being held in the temperate central coast of California, Sea Otter has been no stranger to inclement weather, which has affected the show in various ways over the years. Needless to say for those familiar with the region, Portland isn’t exactly known for consistently good weather, but Sinkford is reasonably confident nonetheless.

“It’ll be either in late August or early September, and that has historically when we should have absolutely stunning weather here. It’s going to be on a weekend where, for the last fifteen years, there’s not been a drop of rain. We have a small, but magic window, and that’s when we’re going to throw it.”

MADE isn’t just aspiring to be a regional show; instead, it’s looking to replace NAHBS as the premier event for custom builders in North America — and arguably worldwide. However, it’s facing stiff competition from the existing Philly Bike Expo in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which has blossomed into a wildly popular and well supported event since it was founded in 2010. 

Sinkford insists he isn’t at all trying to eat Philly Bike Expo’s lunch, though, saying there’s room for multiple events.

“I have not spoken with [PBE organizer] Bina [Bilenky] since announcing this, but she and I have been in deep conversations about this over the last two years about what’s going on the handmade market, how she’s supporting it, what our potential efforts would be. We love what she’s done, and are extremely supportive of it. PBE will get free booth space at our show to promote what they’re doing, and we’ll absolutely be vocal advocates for her. If we can maybe tie things together, if it’s better suited for the builders… I don’t know what that would look like, but we’re absolutely open to it.

“We’re going to try and make it so that our show is a no-brainer for people to attend. It’ll be either extremely inexpensive or free depending on the size and scale of your operation, and hopefully incentivize people to still exist and do other things within the industry. If we’re able to offset the costs for some of these builders, then those builders will still have the ability to drop coin and exhibit at PBE. We don’t want anyone to have to make a decision, and we’re not trying to take away from any existing trade shows, period. We’re hopefully just making something easy for people to do, and layer into other events.”

MADE is certainly being quite aggressive in incentivizing builders to attend. Builders will be able to display at no charge, for example, and the show has partnered with BikeFlights to “offset and subsidize” shipping costs for builders.

Although MADE is being announced now, there will be no show in 2022; the first event will take place in 2023, with the exact dates still to be finalized. That said, the show already has a healthy list of industry commitments. Builders will include Moots, Mosaic, Speedvagen, Argonaut, Schon Studio, Retrotec, Stinner, Breadwinner Cycles, Falconer, and others, and ancillary brands Paul Component Engineering, Chris King, Abbey Bike Tools, The Pro’s Closet Museum, and others have signed on, too.

“We probably will not get as many east coast builders, especially in year one, but we want everybody under the same roof, and if we’re able to achieve that multiple times a year, that’s awesome,” Sinkford said. “There was long a time when there was only one option, and if you were doing anything else other than that, it was not necessarily viewed as a right thing to do. I hope that more [of these shows] pop up, and we’re able to talk more about this part of the market that, historically, has not gotten as much media attention or consumer attention as it should.”

According to Sinkford, the show has been inundated with inquiries since making the announcement yesterday, and interested parties should receive more information in the coming days. In the meantime, prospective exhibitors, attendees, and media can stay in the loop by adding themselves to MADE’s mailing list at www.made.bike.

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