North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) 2011: part 1

Bike industry icons Chris King and Tom Ritchey return to their roots

The North American Handmade Bike show (NAHBS) is now a mainstream draw for builders manufactures and riders alike. The continuous growth of the event's popularity has served to inspire iconic industry names to make new efforts — whether it be behind a lathe or torch — to better cater to the small builder and so that they too can stand by their own handcrafted goods.

Chris King expand Cielo frame range                 

Chris King's Cielo range of steel frames will include four more models to go along with the original collection, including two race-oriented road platforms, a dedicated cyclo-cross racer and new extra-small and extra-extra-small sizes for their big-wheeled hardtail.

The new Sportif Racer is based on the original Sportif but gets shorter chainstays, a shorter head tube, tighter clearances (meaning standard short-reach brakes), and new vertical dropouts. Barring special mounts like River City Bicycles' Reacharounds, there are no provisions for fenders or racks like on the original Sportif so it's expected that this new variant might be more appealing to riders living in drier climates outside of Chris King's Pacific Northwest headquarters. Suggested retail price for the frame and fork is US$1,895.

Cielo will also produce a small run of similar, but more exclusive, Sportif Racer Limited frames built with Columbus XCR stainless steel tubing. We expect the frame to offer a springier ride, while the material offers increased corrosion resistance. Cielo say the frame will also offer aesthetic upgrades including multi-media blasted logos. Final pricing is yet to be determined.

Cielo will soon offer the Sportif Racer Limited, built with Columbus XCR stainless steel tubing

Diehard cyclo-crossers get the new Cielo CX Racer, built with feedback from the Pedro's factory team who used the standard 'cross bike in 2010. Details include race-specific geometry with no fender mounts – or even bottle mounts – vertical dropouts, a slightly sloping top tube and an oversized head tube compatible with Chris King's latest InSet hidden-cup headset. Final pricing is yet to be determined.

Chris King displayed his own personal Cielo as well, built with stainless steel tubing. Naturally, there are a number of extra special touches including a modified Chris King Steelset integrated directly into the custom stainless steel lugs plus a stunning finish with see-through clear coated panels, which showcase the heat-treated tint on the bare tubes. And yes, King's bike is equipped with Campagnolo components but interestingly, not his own hubs. We're told the Campagnolo-compatible drivers for the R45 hubs are coming soon.

Chris King integrates a modified SteelSet into the stainless steel lugs and head tube of his personal Cielo frame

Chris King's iconic headset line grows, too. King showed new models specifically aimed at small builders at NAHBS. The Builder's Edition traditional headsets will be produced in limited quantities in polished and laser-etched stainless steel. Threadless fitments will be available in both 1in and 1-1/8in sizes while threaded ones will be offered in 1in only.  NoThreadsets will also come with a matching stainless steel stem cap.

The Builder's Edition InSet, on the other hand, is aimed at custom builders who want to use a hidden-cup style headset but prefer a (very) slightly slimmer external head tube profile. As such, the Builder's Edition InSet is designed for 42.93mm-diameter (internal) head tubes instead of the usual 44mm.  Optional stainless steel or titanium upper bearing caps also will be available to build into custom stems.

This Moots stem beautifully displays what's possible with Chris King's new optional upper bearing caps

Finally, Chris King also unveiled the InSet Mixed Tapered headset designed for standard 44mm oversized head tubes. As the name suggests, the new headsets will allow tapered 1-1/8in to 1-1/2in steerer tubes to fit into otherwise straight 1-1/8in-compatible frames. 

Ritchey bring back the Swiss Cross, add new 29in steel hardtail

Retro fans rejoice! Ritchey plan to resurrect their venerable Swiss Cross steel cyclo-cross frame in time for the 2011-12 season. Returning features include a fastback seat cluster with the same minimal – yet effective – rear brake cable routing as before, Ritchey's trademark socket-style dropouts, and similarly small-diameter steel tubing for a smooth ride on rougher courses. 

Also returning is Ritchey's venerable Swiss Cross but with a few modern updates

The originals models’ elegantly curved seatstays are replaced by straight tubes on the new bikes. The head tube has also been modernized to fit the now-standard 1-1/8in steerer diameter. Ritchey still prefer the 1in head tube's smaller diameter for how it interfaces with the top tube and down tube, though, so the center section still sports roughly the same size as before.

The new forged Ritchey head tube features a slim profile like an old 1in bike but directly accepts 1-1/8in bearings

But the forged ends now directly accept 1-1/8in bearings – which cleaves 80g of weight in the process. Suggested retail price for a new Swiss Cross frame with Ritchey’s WCS carbon 'cross fork is US$1,295 and projected availability is around August.  Projected frame weight is 1,680g (3.7lb).

Also coming in August is a new 29in-wheeled steel hardtail called – what else – the P-29er. Standard features include Ritchey Logic tubing, Paragon sliding dropouts for singlespeed or geared use, a curved down tube for extra fork crown clearance, and the same clever head tube design as on the Swiss Cross.  The P-29er is also planned for an August release and suggested retail price is US$999 for the frame only. Claimed projected frame weight is 2,450g (5.4lb).

Ritchey are re-entering the mountain bike frame market with this P-29er steel hardtail

And if you have a preference for either of the two paint schemes pictured here, feel free to let Ritchey know – the company are still deciding between the retro-inspired fade and the more modern-looking block design. To thwart misconception, it should also be noted that Tom Ritchey, the man, has never stopped making frames – it's just that since his departure from the mainstream bike market, he's only built frames for close friends and family.  Unfortunately, the new frames won't be built by Tom himself nor will they be fillet brazed as pictured here. 

Not so fast while Tom Ritchey apparently still builds fillet brazed steel frames for close friends and family, production frames will be TIG welded in Taiwan

Production models of the Swiss Cross and P-29er will be TIG welded in Taiwan but even so, we still don't expect that to widely detract from their appeal. One of the most striking frames in the Ritchey booth at NAHBS was actually one of his oldest: a road bike that he built for his father. Despite its age, there are still lots of signs of forethought in technologies that didn't widely appear until years later, including an integrated seatmast, a pseudo-threadless front end, and trick rear brake cable routing that fed directly through the seat tube.

A classic piece of retro awesome

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