Friday, February 22, 2013

NAHBS 2013, Day 1. I was there.

A Moots built to carry a chainsaw, among other things. This was perhaps my favorite bike of the show. Plenty more on that about halfway down the post.
UPDATE: Day 2 photos are here.

I have not previously attended the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, or any other large bike event of its kind. However, this year it is in Denver, so there was no way I would miss it. So, if you're ready to see the bikes, brace yourself. A word of caution though, a tremendous number of photos are to follow. As overwhelming as the number of photos may be, it is not nearly so much so as to have been there. It was a good thing, but overwhelming just the same.

If you are still here, it may help to make sure you have a tasty beverage before you begin.

My Pugsley on light rail on the way to the show. Not handmade, per se, but certainly hands were used in its construction.
Off to a good start, I parked next to Cass' snazzy '84 Stumpjumper, also not exactly handmade.
Thanks to BikeDenver for the valet parking.

NAHBS Denver. It's official. 
Right out of the gate, I met the incomparable Tarik Saleh, of whose famous bike club I am a member, as well as his fine family.
I got there right as the place was roaring to life.
1987 Steve Potts Signature. Fillet brazed.
Ordinarily I'm fairly organized, but I immediately realized there was too much going on for me to quickly make any sense of it. So, I started with something akin to comfort food; a vintage mountain bike. This Steve Potts wasn't new, but it was as much of a gem as any of the bikes there. It's a masterful drop bar mountain bike, chock full of creative innovations.

WTB roller cam brakes, front and rear. Vintage Specialized Ground Control tires.  
Note the custom shifter pods for the Deore XT top mount shifters. 

I can easily imagine a Gypsy on this bike.

That's Steve himself on the right.

Beautiful Wheel Fanatyk hardwood rims and Curtis Odom hubs.

More shiny things from Curtis Odom.

Curtis Odom bike jewelry with a gigantic chainring.

A Brodie full-suspension electric bike. 

Go Rider bamboo longtail fatbike. Excitingly, many longtail fatbikes were to be found.

A Peacock Groove running the current gold-standard of superfat wheels and tires.

A slightly skinnier Peacock Groove with paint too impossibly bright and sparkly to capture on camera.

A Geekhouse Brentwood, in quite possibly the same hue as an '87 Raleigh Seneca, for you Raleigh folks out there..

I'm thinking the Pugsley wants a set of these nicely thin VP platform pedals. Who am I to say no?

I met up with Cass of while out riding and Scott of Porcelain Rocket, who were looking at Scott's amazing new Hunter adventure bike. These guys are both titans of the adventure biking world.

This Hunter is another longtail fatbike, and one of my favorites at the show. Scott has big plans for it on the Canning Stock Route, as first ridden here.

As incredible as the bike are Scott's frame bags. They bolt into the frame, with no need for straps. The result is lighter and stronger than other frame bags. That yellow fabric glows to assist in finding things at night.

Beautiful fork on the Hunter.

The rear rack of the Hunter is removable. Smooth clean lines on everything. Not quite as long as a Big Dummy, this bike should be a bit more nimble off road. 

Fat front, full suspension. Fat was definitely a recurring theme.

Another fattie, this is the same Reeb that I encountered a short while ago. There were many bikes sporting the Gates Carbon Drive everywhere I looked. 

A trio of Independent Fabrications 29ers. The paint was so glossy that it appeared wet.

This Ti Cycles electric assist bakfiets had a lot of things going on.

Some bikes have flask cages. This one had a cage to hold a full-sized 750 ml bottle of scotch. Note the Gates Belt Drive.

I remember Funk as a Denver area custom builder in the late '80s. They are still kicking with this nicely executed 29+ front, fat rear bike. 

This English Cycles 29er has gracefully arced top tube to seatstays.

Another beautiful English, that is probably very fast in the right hands. I'll have to say that the required riding posture would probably rip me in half.  

This Andy Peirce had the best flowing lines of any bike at the show, and this was my favorite tandem. The colors and craftmanship were astounding. I have to get better pics tomorrow. That's Andy on the left.

Andy Hampsten, second from the left, and his eponymous bike.

It's easy to see the inspiration for his modern bikes from his Huffy-branded vintage race bike from the 7-11 team glory days.

Vibe fatbike with some extreme copper plating.

The Vibe's copper theme is carried through on the custom flask.

Vibe's custom integrated tail light.

Avery Cycles of Denver had a very clean bike with a velvety blue matte finish.

The Moots IMBA trail bike
Alright, we've arrived to the philosophical reckoning section of my NAHBS experience. As a precursor, I have to say that every bike at the show was terrific in its own way, and many incorporated some ingenious elements; it's just not possible to get to this level otherwise. However, along with stunning beauty and craftsmanship, I think that an event of this caliber requires a bit more from builders in order to rise to a peak among their peers. For me, that something extra is the conceptual underpinnings of a bike's design. It is that ethereal something that a builder weaves into the construction of the bike itself. It's something that inspires those who see the bike to absorb its encapsulated concept, perhaps learn and grow from it, and even to carry it to action. The Moots IMBA trail bike does just that.

At the show, I overheard several people comment on the "chainsaw bike." True, it has a chainsaw on the rear rack. Obviously, most bikes do not. What makes this bike different is not the chainsaw specifically, but that it encourages an expansion of view beyond trail riding, to both trail building and toward community building. IMBA has long supported stewardship and responsibility for off-road bicyclists; an admirable effort perfectly embodied in this bike. Key elements of a trail building experience are there: a range of tools for the labor of trail work and a beer carrier for reward following hard work, all wrapped into a capable trail bike born of the pride of superior craftsmanship. The assembled form is acknowledgement of the collective efforts of a community to build and improve itself, and to shoulder its share of responsibilities for all trail users.

A second conceptual layer for me is that Moots chose to build the IMBA trail bike around the design parameters embodied within the Surly Krampus 29+, which, from my encounter with a Krampus last Fall, I feel is emblematic of the next generation of trail bikes. This perception was strongly supported by many of the bikes that I saw at the show; fat 29+ wheels and tires, comfortably swept wide handlebars, and simplified drivetrains, all coupled with varying capacity for racks, packs and cargo. Conspicuous racing pedigree or intent was largely absent. Amid the synesthesia-inducing environment of the show, these features came into focus among many of the off-road bikes. It is perhaps a signal to a return to the roots of what it means to venture off road on a bike; it is to experience the journey as the destination.

These ideas are at the core of why the Moots IMBA bike struck me as impressive even among all the other amazing bikes. And with that, I'll return to more bike photos.

Yes, that is several linear feet of curvy titanium tubing, not the least of which is that gloriously wide handlebar. Masterful Porcelain Rocket bags.

See the theme? Again, this is another longtail fatbike. The idea makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. 

Handles and heads for a functional pulaski/shovel are integrated into the front rack. Yep, it holds beer, too.

I would love to take a ride to check out that wide bar.

Superb attention to detail; craftsmanship bar none.

The insert panel reads, "Routt County Riders," the locale of Moots in Steamboat Springs. The IMBA logo is on the other side.

Moots again.

Incredible artistic detail on these Ventus lugs. 

The paint on this Ground Up looked like candy.

An elegant Legacy Frameworks mixte.

The chrome and blue of this Ellis is a perfect match. Really looks like a capable bike.

These Zambikes were specially designed to increase bike accessibility in the developing world.

A Sycip of classic, functional form.

Bilenky had some bikes with incredible paint.

Bike icon Tom Ritchey is on the right, in front of his Break-Away tandem. 

I've long admired Retrotec bikes. This was another of my favorites of the show. A Retrotec 29+ beautifully built around the conceptual heart of a Surly Krampus. Curtis Inglis, the builder, is in green. Tracy stands mesmerized, at left.

A Boo fatbike from nearby Fort Collins. The swoopy fork has nice lines. 

The svelte titanium bar/stem combo on the Boo harkens to the days of the bull moose bar

Bikepacking also figured prominently, as in this Cielo.

The bar on the Cielo. I'm really liking the utility of an extended crossbar, appearing with some frequency on several bikes. 

YiPsan bikes of Fort Collins; the builder is at center.

This Donkelope had a whimsical, 18th century vibe. That's some sort of retrofitted carbide bike lamp up front. 

Breadwinner Bikes, from a duo of Portland's custom superstars.

Breadwinner's built-in u-lock system.

One of the Masi bikes used in the movie Breaking Away, a perpetual favorite of many a bike nut like me.

This Co-Motion tandem has dual Gates Carbon Drives. Gates is a historic Denver company and key sponsor of the event.

Great classic styling in these Kohak bikes from Japan.

A sleek, chromed Masi.

Fine flowing lines of a fatbike made by Black Sheep from Fort Collins.

Nice pink rims on this Twenty2.

I didn't quite capture the full name of this very masterfully brazed bike, but the young Japanese builder was a charismatic fellow.  

This Hunter was another that I quite liked, with a style and camo paintjob likely inspired by the popularity of similar features in the early days of mountain bikes. Another bike that Nicholas would probably enjoy.

I spent part of the afternoon talking with Cass Gilbert of while out riding. He and his Stumpjumper are new to each other, but he is not new to adventure biking. He has gained some fascinating perspectives while riding much of the world, including my Peace Corps service country of Kyrgyzstan.


  1. Looks fun! I've only been to one NAHBS, the one in '08 here in Portland. I thought about going last year when it was in Sacto, but was too broke at the time. Now I don't have the time, but I need to get to Denver at some point.

    1. It was very fun. If it hadn't come to me, I probably wouldn't have attended; not for lack of interest, but because my probability of discretionary travel is low at present.

      If you're ever in Denver, I'll be happy to show you around. I may have a bike or two to lend as well.

  2. Thanks for the photos for us SOBs that can't attend in person.



    1. Glad to help out. If anything, consider the photos partial repayment for the info and entertainment value of your window into fun things to do in Canada and Mexico.

      There have been truly wonderful things to see at the show, but the atmosphere of good people and like minds is every bit as great.

  3. Great that you were able to attend and even greater that you ran into Tarik. Terrific photos and comments. Yours is the best conveyance of the NAHBS experience that I think I've seen.

    1. The show was great, but meeting some of the people that I've been following online for years has been just as enjoyable. Tarik is a bit of a celeb, but more than that, he's a good guy.

      Many thanks on your accolade regarding my impressions. That's high praise, coming from you, who I view in your keen vernacular reckoning of an experience, as a wordsmith in the same vein of Mark Twain. No exaggeration.

      Maybe there will be NAHBS in Spokane soon, and we can have a gathering of the bike nerds.

  4. Wow, some serious eye candy there. That moots is a pretty sweet looking ride.
    And rubbing elbows with some big names too, Hampsten, Tarik, Ritchey.

    Rumor was the Gypsy was going to blow into Denver, so maybe keep an out for him.

    Jon's TwoWheels blog got me thinking about what the copper plated Vibe would look like after a few years of proper use. The oxidized copper fat bike wheelset is gonna look sweet.

    1. I took photos of a lot of bikes, but nowhere near all of them. It really is just too much to absorb, so what is shown here is a mere sliver of all there was to see.

      There were a lot more big names and/or influential people there, some of whom I'm sure I wandered past without recognizing. There's no mistaking Tarik's iconic mug, though it was conspicuously vacant of mustache.

      I did find the Gypsy, and went for a nice little urban ride with him and Cass on the second day. Both are down to earth, good fellows, collectively with more miles in their legs and the stories to go with them than I can even imagine.

      Agreed, that Vibe would look even better with the copper oxidized and everything worn in just right.

  5. Great write up Andy.

    A real pleasure to meet you. Thanks for initiating me to a taste of the bike culture Denver has to offer. I'm impressed to say the least, and would love to return.

    That Retrotec was Best Mountain Bike in show. Krampus... you know you want one!

    1. It was great to meet and talk with you as well. Denver definitely has room to grow, but as a city, we've made some considerable progress in a short time. More important than the infrastructural changes, a culture of bikes is beginning to thrive. You are very welcome to come back any time for more.

      The Retrotec was a great choice for Best Mountain Bike, as it embodied many of the same concepts that I attributed to the Hunter in this post. More than ever, I think that the Krampus is a shadow of the future. I do want one, but may instead have to go with a Knard/Rabbit Hole wheelset for my Pugsley.

  6. Thanks for coming to the show and posting a pic of our bike Andy.

    Feel free to add a link to our site.

    Legacy Frameworks

    1. Glad to do it, Levi. On the second day of the show, my wife attended with me and your mixte was probably her favorite bike of the show. Very nice work!