Trends, Innovations, and Comments
INDIANAPOLIS – 115 exhibitors and 6,428 attendees attended a highly successful fifth annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show, at the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, February 27 – March 1, 2009, and many exhibitors called this the best show to date.
“I am delighted with the way NAHBS went this year. When I first announced Indianapolis as the location, a lot of people were unhappy about it. But I have always been confident there is a good market here in the Midwest for handmade bicycles, it’s just under-served. I think 6,428 people proved my hunch was good,” said the show’s founder and director, Don Walker.
Media attendance at the show was approximately 100, the same number as at Portland in 2008, and the overall attendance figure is almost 1,000 less, but still well above the San Jose figure of 4,000 in 2007. The growth trend for NAHBS continues despite the economic woes.
With literally hundreds of customers among the builders of lugged bicycles, Mark Norstad of Paragon Machine Works, who supplies a range of hardware accessories to the industry, has a fair overview of industry trends.
“Business for me has been down a little on 2008, but 2008 was a record year. A lot of orders were taken after last year’s show. Many people who made those orders may not be willing to jeopardize their deposit even if they’re in financial difficulty now. We’ll know a lot more a year from now. I’m not seeing any frame builders quitting to get a day job,” said Norstad.
Another thing Norstad said, which was echoed by other voices at the show, is there is an increase in the number of carbon fiber handmade frames being made. One example of this is Independent Fabrication, who won the Best Carbon Fiber Bicycle award for their prototype.
Drew Guldalian, of Engin Cycles, pointed to other standards being taken up in the industry. One of these is the spread of the BB30 bottom bracket – one of the benefits of which is it enables use of the outstanding Zipp Vumaquad crankset. Another product Guldalian mentioned is the new internal head tube from Chris King. Some 15 builders received these before the show.
One of these builders was Carl Strong, who incorporated it into his Best TIG Welded award-winning bike of 2009. Strong reported that this oversize tube gave a lot more surface area to attach other tubes to, as well as having a lower stack height which, in his view, improved the aesthetic.
Many of the builders ended the show feeling very good about the whole experience. Below is a digest of their remarks – in random order.
Richard Sachs – Richard Sachs Cycles: “I never thought the Midwest had to vindicate itself. There was criticism of the weather and travel concerns, which I thought was misplaced. The weather was good, but it really wasn’t a factor, and the number of people who traveled here from afar shows that travel was not an issue.
“I would willingly come back here next year. “There was no downside to any aspect of the show. This was a perfect place. It was better, overwhelmingly better, on every level than anywhere we’ve been yet. The venue, the city, the hotel was a really great price for what you got, from the moment we got off the Interstate I got a good feeling about this city. It’s like a gift.
“The number of people, the quality of the people – they asked good questions, they asked a lot about the history of frame building. And I did better business than ever before at NAHBS.”
Drew Guldalian – Engin Cycles : “I thought it was a phenomenal crowd. They really are great people here. I’d love to come back to Indianapolis, but not next year. In San Jose we learned you can’t go to the same place two years running. A lot of people travelled a long way to be here, I just don’t see them making the same long trip next year. A few years from now, definitely. But not next year. “The show was great. Very well organized.”
Carl Strong – Strong Frames : “Probably the best NAHBS yet. The people that came are really specifically interested in custom handbuilts. The city itself is very friendly, the layout of the downtown, the hotel the walkway to the convention center, that was very easy. The volunteers at this show were great, it was very well organized, and the decorators were very easy to work with.”
Sheila Moon – Sheila Moon Athletic Apparel : “Excellent – as usual! It was very similar to Portland for us, dollar-wise maybe not quite as high as last year. It’s cool to be in a new market, there’s lots of new exposure. People drove five or six hours to get here, some flew.”
Mark Nobilette – Nobilette Cycles : “The best show yet. Best customers.”
Nick Crumpton – Crumpton Cycles : “The best NAHBS yet. These customers had some history with handmade bikes.”
Carl Schlemowitz – Vicious Cycles : “Busy, very busy. The level of questions was much more sophisticated than last year.”
Joe Marchionno – Villin Cycles : “It was really good. I went to the show last year. It was not better or more than other years, just a different crowd.”
Eric Noren – Peacock Groove Bicycles : “This show was as good for me as the past two years combined. I saw more flash bulbs go off around my booth than anywhere else! It was great for me. More people liked the paintwork on my bike than were offended by it!”
Yesterday was the busiest we’ve seen it at NAHBS. We did well with our soft goods, so it was definitely worthwhile.”
Dwan Shepard – Co-Motion Cycles : “A stunningly successful weekend. I had a great time at the show, and I was really impressed at the quantity and quality of show attendees. One of the highlights was the abundance of very helpful and friendly volunteers. “I loved Indianapolis- what a great town. Having NAHBS revisit would be great, but I’d rather see that in a few years rather than next year. I think one of the great strengths of NAHBS is exposing a new audience every year. Whatever you decide, we won’t miss it.”
Noah Rosen – Velocolour : “Suzanne Carlsen (Headbadges) and I are already talking about next year. The venue was great and the people were friendly. We both have already recieved a ton of e-mails as a result of doing the show which shows the power of community and good organization.”
Craig Calfee – Calfee Design : “Nice job with NAHBS this year. I think it’s great that the show moves around the country. People read about it and wish they could go – so when it comes to their area, they make sure to go. I think that’s why you had such a good turnout in Indy.”
About NAHBS : The North American Handmade Bicycle Show moves from city to city each year and is usually scheduled close to the last week of February. The show is dedicated to showcasing the talents of established builders of custom bicycles. It aims to be a meeting point – online and in person – for frame builders and consumers looking for custom-made bikes, for the sharing of ideas, and the promotion of a special industry with a rich history. Since its first year in 2005, NAHBS has grown from a show with 23 exhibitors and 200 attendees to a show with 150 exhibitors and 7,000 attendees.
Three diverse booths represented the first handmade forays from Japan to NAHBS.
And all three gave the same enthusiastic answer, in translation, about how they discovered the show …
Yohei’s blog! Yohei Morita is a photographer representing the Japanese side of COG, a large-format fixed gear magazine published in the US by Peter DiAntoni of Milwaukee and distributed in Japan by Morito. COG translates portions of both paper and web editions into Japanese. The magazine conducted a studio photo project throughout the 5th NAHBS.
Morita has flown from Japan to attend all five NAHBS shows—and is a ubiquitously sociable photographer and reporter.
The overseas visitors flew home with a “best of” trophy
Cherubim won “Best Track Bicycle” honors. Shin-Ichi Konno is a second-generation builder who also included in his display a road bike with unique stainless steel “mono aero bar” along with a red mini-velo.
Kimori showed their line of Colossus truss-frame bikes, emphasizing full-suspension built around 20-inch wheels, plus adapters and converters for track, fixed and SS bikes.
CCP hosted a large staff for their line of progressive fashion apparel. The owner commissioned three vintage-styled bikes to be built for the show by Ikeda of Rew10Works, who was also in attendance.
In translated interviews, each of the Japanese companies said they thought the trip was well worth their while, adding that their wares were directly available to the US market via the web. They each also mentioned that NAHBS was clearly on the forefront of global independent bike culture.
Additionally, Italian builder Zullo brought along Japanese apprentice Masateru Yasuda as part of their show staff.
Recently retired top-ranked pro keirin racer Koh Annoura, now of Houston, Texas, attended show seminars with a view to learning frame-building and launching his own line of bikes.
Japanese media was also on the scene.
Videographer Teisuke Morimoto represented the new Japanese fixed gear magazine, Pedal Speed.
Takehiro Kikuchi was a freelance writer for the mainstream magazine Cycle Sport, Japan’s version of Bicycling.
words & images Jeff Potter, of OutYourBackDoor.com, with translation courtesy of Tim Potter
Nick Crumpton arrived at this year’s NAHBS as one of The Original Six, the cohort of framebuilders who have been represented at every show since its inception. What keeps him coming back? Well, the allure of seeing old friends and colleagues, but most of all an over-riding enthusiasm and joy at being immersed in a life-long love of cycling.
Nick’s first interest in what makes a bicycle frame tick was sparked over twenty years ago when stripping a Schwinn Paramount back to the metal before his first paint job. The revelation of the intricacies of the brazes and lugs fascinated him and led him to suppose that he could do better.
It was in the mid-nineties that he founded Crumpton Bicycles in Austin, Texas. Originally building steel frames, Nick’s search for the perfect material resulted in the development of carbon fiber frames and their associated construction techniques. Nick wielded his brazing torch for the last time over two years ago.
Asked what distinguishes his frames from any other carbon fiber bike builder, he modestly points out that every builder represented at the NAHBS produces great work, but if he were to characterize his own endeavors he would say that it is his passion for the sport and desire to produce the very best bicycle in terms of performance and comfort for his customers.
At the moment, Credit Crunch America seems to be avoiding builders like Crumpton’s and their peers. Nick puts this down to the fact that builders like him have the support of a demographic which still rates quality design and workmanship very highly. This means that Crumpton’s bicycles are still built in America with the international kudos which that promotes and has contributed to Nick now having a European distributor in London, UK.
So, Nick Crumpton’s “selfish enjoyment of riding a bike,” has resulted in the development of one of the most respected businesses in cycling run by one of framebuilding’s most respected personalities.
The “Pedal Park” at NAHBS offered valet parking to show-attendees who biked to the event.
Patinas of scratches, stickers and mud couldn’t hide the handmade bikes that could be seen throughout the racks, revealing a wide range of set-ups for daily riding.
It was a show alongside the Show!
Courteous attendants kept the curious at bay, but it was enjoyable seeing obvious evidence that the kind of work showcased inside was being used outside on the rugged streets of Indianapolis.
words and image Jeff Potter
Broakland’s Twin Drive Bike: The whole point of Broakland Bicycle’s twin drive bike is simple: riding it is fun.
The Oakland builders of three years created the bike’s unique crankset as a challenge to themselves and to add an aesthetic component to their riding. With creative input from a group of Bay Area graffiti artists and a breadth of fifteen years welding experience, these builders work to create something unexpected and exhilarating.
In addition to being eye catching, the second chain provides a back up in case riding strapless and fixed snaps one. Two previous NAHBS showings find the guys from Brookline here in Indianapolis to connect with the rest of the hand-built community and visit with old friends.
Renova’s Belt-Driven Crank set: The Italians at Renova have an interesting entry for their first showing in the United States.
Their city ride-ready custom model comes equipped with numerous personal touches, but the stand out has to be the belt-driven crank set. The idea stemmed from wanting an older style of frame to be updated and different than most bikes on the road.
Renova decided one way to accomplish this would be to alter the crank set, have a smaller chain ring attached to the bottom bracket, and switch out standard brake levers for ones from a motorbike. All this creates a quieter and more comfortable riding experience, and eliminates the need to roll up the right leg of your pants.
The Waterford Joust: Innovations in Bike Polo The Schwinn family has a dedicated history of hand-building all ranges of steel bicycle frames full of heart.
Based in Waterford, Wisconsin, they have been a part of the Schwinn Paramount factory since the 1970’s and eventually went on to found Waterford Precision Cycles in 1993. Although well known for their reputation within custom road frame circles, their newest bike polo frame, The Joust, has been drawing a sizable crowd to their booth at this year’s NAHBS.
The Joust was designed specifically for a rider looking for an advantage in the burgeoning sport of bike polo. Tucker Schwinn, a seasoned polo player himself, and Waterford co-founder Marc Muller looked at different frame specs when deciding how to build their Joust. “It definitely has to have quick handling and be incredibly durable,” Schwinn said. “I wanted something with comfortable geometry, like a track bike, but also needed it to be really nimble like a circus bike.” He added, “Another question you have to ask is, ‘What’s going to last the longest on the court?’”
Anna Schwinn commented further on the detailed advancements made on the newest Joust model. “We wanted a 700cc bike with 26in. wheels, but that doesn’t leave any pedal clearance,” she said. To adjust for that, the Joust’s bottom bracket has been brought up to form a nearly horizontal line with a smaller rear triangle, in addition to a longer, reinforced head tube connection to the down tube. A bash guard has also been implemented onto the crank set to keep players moving during the tough beatings the frame and components endure during a typical match.
Since these bikes are part of the Fleet Velo brand, that allows Waterford another great advantage she added: “The private label lets us create a frame for a special community, and that’s a very meaningful part of [the job].”
words & images Doug Fellegy
Over the next few days there will be more reports from the show appearing here. Meanwhile, plans abound for next year’s show …
The images from the show have been pulled together here. Thanks to all contributors. Keep looking back because these are constantly being added to.