Monday, March 5, 2007

NAHBS Report

I went down to the North American Handbuilt Bike Show in San Jose this weekend with my buddy Alex. All of the pictures I have here were taken by Alex. He's really good at taking bike shots. More of his pics of the NAHBS can be found on his Smugmug site.
Here's some stuff:
It's back. Finally, and what took it so long? The bi-plane fork was all over the place on the 29er's down there. And rightfully so. It's such a cool design.
Pacenti is selling this beauty. Long Shen is making it. It's about 60mm wide -- which is great for big downhill mountain bikes, but I'm hoping he'll get some 50mm's in for the rest of us that just like fatties on our "road" bikes. I don't really think there's a huge benefit to the design -- some kind of built in "spring" is the claim, but it just looks cool. Sycip actually had a bike with an original Ritchey/Bridgestone bi-plane fork crown on it.

Deep V's and Track Bikes == Peas and Carrots
First off: there were a zillion track/fixed gear bikes. A lot of mongo 29ers too. Cool if you're into that, and I am kind of, but me thinks these groups are overly represented. That said, I'm into the bling that is Deep V rims on fixed/track bikes. I'm not a huge blinger, but going to this kind of show there is a ton of bling everywhere and you start thinking about your bikes as sort of an accessory to your whole image -- and the fact that you do portray and image. Like it or not. It's weird. But it can't be denied.
The Deep V's are super strong and actually make sense for "urban" riding. That's in "quotes" because it's a funny and overused and kind of markety word. But the point is that you want strong rims for bouncing around the city -- and of course you don't want to shy away from the occasional single-track or trail riding either. A little bling never killed anyone either, and the Deep V delivers. The bummer for me is that I had just ordered a Deep V before I went to this show and I got boring black or silver-- can't exactly recall. At the show, I saw white, pink, yellow, and gold. And red. Alex was the picture taker and I didn't bug him to take pics of the super bling deep V. There's always next year.
The City Bike: are we on the same page here?
Shimano has been doing a competition among bike builders/manufacturers to build the best the bike around it's commuter/city-bike gruppo, the Alfine (al-feen-ay). This is a polished up version of the Nexus dynamo hub and the Nexus 8-spd internal hub. The gruppo may include the shifters and lights.
This bike here is a "Bill Rider." He nailed the main stuff that matters: full fenders so you can ride on wet streets/rain and not get mucked up. Lights integrated into the rear stays. Nice. Sturdy racks. The rear rack is built with hefty tubing and will haul a good pile of crud. A nice rake to the front fork. The bag there is attached and stays attached to the front rack. It's main purpose in life is to carry a heavy lock. Good kickstand. Only thing missing there is a chain guard, and if you want to get super picky: a skirt guard.
Ok, the guy who won, did not only NOT have fenders, but he built a custom rack in such a way that you CAN'T add a rear fender. And there was no front rack. Huh? He said racks "mess with the lines of a bike." Second place, or was it third? Whatever: it had those funny little half-fenders and no racks; and the light was sort of tacked on at the end; pointing nearly into the wheel. Gimme a break! C'mon Shimano people: give the awards to the people that make a functional bike first.
Big Bikes that Haul Stuff
Lots of cool stuff going on here.

Sycip had the monster truck bike. This was optimized for motorcycle panniers made by Ortleib. In addition, this is the first bike I've seen that has built in provisions (as in brazed on bits) to support the stokemonkey. Looks like it would be fun to ride.

I think Fraser is going to be more well-known in this tiny niche of a niche market of big/long bikes. They are from San Diego, and I could definitely see the well-heeled 30-somethings riding down the beach path with this bike loaded up with kids and crud... check out the built-in foot rests. These are well-thought-out bikes.

Coolest Innovation

I got lucky a couple weeks ago when Hairy Gary pulled a 94 BCD NOS Ritchey crank from his stash and sold it to me. If he hadn't, there's no doubt in my mind I'd be shelling out $270 for these beauties.

This is the White Industries crank. Alex's notes on this picture say it all: "Outer ring is splined and available in many sizes. Inside ring uses any 5-bolt BCD. Great for compact doubles. $275, 108mm bottom bracket."

I love stuff like this. It is SO stinking simple. It's the kind of thing you look at and think, "damn, I could've thought of that."

Wrap Up

There was a huge collection of Bruce Gordon bikes. I think the earliest one was from 1974. The guy really is ahead of the curve. He was doing what we would call "29'ers" many years ago. It was also really fun to browse his 30 or so bikes and just look at component changes over the years. He's known for being kind of a grump. I told him I really enjoyed looking at his bikes and what a cool perspective it was to see them all together. He sort of grunted at me.

The builders at NAHBS represent such a tiny tiny fraction of the bike market in this country. Likely less than 1% would be my guess. And the majority of that is because "Seven" was there, so with out the representation of Seven, we're talking about an even tinyer minority of bikes. These guys that do this for a living do it because they love it. Maybe Richard Sachs makes a few bucks. Some day I buy a custom bike. If I do, I'll stay local and have Hairy Gary do it. Cause he's local, and he's good.

There was a rumor going around that NAHBS will be in Portland next year. That would be so perfect. We'll see. All in all, a fun show. If you're into bikes or just into seeing really well-made stuff made by real craftsmen, it's worth a trip.

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