Steel is the perennial first choice of materials for builders at the North American Handmade Bike Show but attending tubing exhibitors Reynolds, Dedacciai and Columbus all reported significant increases in demand as of late, and clearly not all of it is coming from the handmade segment.
Reynolds have expanded its range of superb 953 stainless steel tubing to include more durable 0.7/0.4/0.7 butting profiles (previous butted tubes were exclusively 0.6/0.4/0.6mm), oversized head tubes for use with internal-cup headsets, a range of seat stays and even 953 dropouts.
In addition, Reynolds have also added longer tube and fork blade lengths in their regular alloys to cater to the still-growing 29er market and have even brought back a limited run of 531 tubing to celebrate their 110th anniversary.
Similarly, Dedacciai are bringing back their Zero Uno steel tubes and yes, Columbus is actually reintroducing SL!
Even Italian bicycle building icon DeRosa is reporting increased sales of its Neo Primato steel road framesets and titanium models. A possible renaissance in the works?
Chris King-Cielo bikes now in full swing
Chris King is best known for his line of nearly indestructible headsets but he is now returning to a passion he once abandoned long ago: framebuilding. We first saw a sample back at last year's show but production is now finally underway and will actually comprise two distinct lines: 'Cielo' and 'Cielo by Chris King'.
Cielo frames are TIG-welded by a Portland-based 'build team' and will be offered in 'sportif' - think stable and comfy for long road rides - and 'cross varieties, both using True Temper OX Platinum tubes. Finishing bits including seat stay caps, head tube badges, fork tips, dropouts, head tube collars and fork crowns are all produced fully in-house.
Cielo sportif frames will be offered in 49-62cm sizes in 1cm increments and 'cross frame size offerings are similarly broad.
In contrast, 'Cielo by Chris King' frames are made by the man himself using individually chosen tubesets and hand-finished and shaped Henry James lugs. Models will vary by season and King has opted for a sportif model for this first go around.
Details include polished head tube lugs, dropouts and fork tips, a machined stainless steel fork crown, and a unique front end that squeezes a 1 1/8" fork through a head tube normally used with a 1" steerer. Custom skirt-free stainless steel cups are brazed right to the ends of the tube, leaving a classic appearance but one fully compatible with modern stems.
Both the Cielo and Cielo by Chris King framesets will also be available as 'modules' with any number of factory-installed Chris King components such as headsets, bottom brackets, and wheelsets.
Speaking of headsets, Chris King has also launched a long-awaited hidden-cup version. The new InSets will use similar stainless steel bearings as on other Chris King headsets and will carry the same 10-year warranty.
Chris King will offer both 1 1/8" (120g) and tapered 1 1/8"-to-1 1/2" (150g) sizes in its full range of ten anodised colours beginning this June. Suggested retail price will be US$129.
Though the InSets are designed to fit industry-standard press diameters used by manufacturers such as Giant, Chris King still recommends that installers first ream and face head tubes to ensure a proper fit and the intended level of performance. Cutting tools are slated for production shortly after the headsets.
More artistic style from Sycip
Sycip's snow bike
Jeremy Sycip (brother Jay recently took a position at Chris King-Cielo) toned down the booth a bit this year, trading previous years' jaw droppers for a collection of more subtly-styled pieces.
As was seemingly popular this year, Sycip showed off a snow bike with trademark segmented fork and seat stay construction (and yes, they were capped with pennies) and a custom integrated bar/stem combination. Just in case your winter sojourn involves a little extra gear though, a small custom rack is fitted out back.
Sycip also displayed a sweet 26" steel hardtail with S&S couplings but our favourite was probably the red-and-cream townie. Simple frame style, painted-to-match fenders, stem and front rack, upright positioning: just the thing for cruising around town.
Oh, and about that rack? The wooden shelf was perfectly sized for a six-pack of your favourite bottled beer and yes, there was a bottle opener mounted right up front just in case you couldn't quite wait until you got home.
Alternate Needs Transportation says 'go by bike!'
ANT's 'bare' commuter
Mike Flanigan of Alternate Needs Transportation has long touted the benefits of commuting by bicycle and in contrast to many of the embellished showpieces on display by many of his colleagues at NAHBS, Flanigan's bikes were all about function.
In fact, not a single one bore any identifying labels save for the intentionally weathered head tube badges yet each was attractive if only for its single-minded and purposeful design.
One of our favourites in particular would look right at home on the streets of Amsterdam or Gent with its low step-through frame, upright positioning, full complement of racks, fenders and lights, and even a self-contained rear wheel lock commonly used in Europe.
In spite of the utilitarian look, Flanigan still fitted it with a variety of modern bits such as a Chris King NoThreadset, Paul Components alloy chainring and Shimano Nexus internally geared rear hub.
Was it cool looking? We suppose that depends on your perspective but we certainly wouldn't be embarrassed rolling one of these down to our local pub.
Kimori joins growing list of Japanese exhibitors
Some of NAHBS' most interesting items were situated in the Kimori booth and included a pair of fully suspended - and perhaps a bit scary-looking - steel truss frames with an extraordinary level of detail. A single air-coil shock was used for the parallelogram-linkage front end while the rear made do with a simpler single-pivot design and elastomer stack.
Kimori also displayed an array of intriguing fixed-gear components such as a tidy-looking conversion kit for Shimano rear freehubs, a TiN-coated titanium rear cog and an intriguing clamp-on brake kit for dedicated track bikes.
Remember Easton's magnesium stems? Kimori apparently haven't as they showed off their own version complete with separate male/female titanium and aluminium hardware to preserve the protective overcoat. Claimed benefits include lighter weight and improved vibration damping relative to aluminium or carbon.