Creativity rolls at 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show

Photo copyright Nathan A. Ferguson.

Aluminum may be the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust, but it was scarce at the 2013 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. While plenty of mass producers are still building with it, artisans at the show were pushing the edge with new techniques. This was materials science gone mad, but in a good way.

And this year’s show in Denver broke an attendance record with some 200 exhibitors and an estimated 7,000 attendees even though the third and final day saw the city’s biggest snow dump of the season.

While the artisans shared a passion for cycling, they drew on their personal experience.

Take Chris Connor of Connor Wood Bicycles who was showing off his Woody Scorcher made of steam-bent ash wood and reinforced with layers of Kevlar. It gave it a distinctly baseball bat feel. Connor transferred his knowledge of carpentry and building guitars into his two-bike line. The Scorcher comes stock with 29er wheels, disc brakes, and a Gates Carbon Drive System in single-speed configuration for $4,500.

Then there was Sueshiro Sano of Japan showing off his striking mahogany, yes mahogany, road bike. His family has been building wooden boats for more than 200 years and he got into the business when he was 13.

There were more than a few vibration-absorbing bamboo bikes, some mated with carbon tubing. And there was a just-for-fun bike made of Douglas-fir.

The competition was friendly but intense with some builders putting in special requests to large component manufacturers to give them the edge in winning show prizes. Can you make that part in purple? And of course they did.

All the niches were well represented with a lot of attention going to fat tire mountain bikes, belt drives, internally geared hubs and gravel racing/multi-surface touring bikes. It will be interesting to see what happens with titanium versus newfangled stainless steel.

There seems to be a growing number of formal training courses in frame building and with software like BikeCAD Pro, it’s not too difficult to develop your own dream ride. In any case, this is good energy for all aspects of cycling. Let the creativity roll.

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