Rocky Mountain Bicycle Show - Part 1

Snow bikes, bamboo townies, tandems and other strangeness

The second Rocky Mountain Bicycle Show took place over the weekend of August 21-22 in Denver, Colorado. Once again, there were plenty of unique handmade bikes on display, demonstrating a wide range of building materials and techniques.

Snow bikes in August?

Small builders seem to love snow bikes for whatever reason and RMBS 2009 was no exception. Local builder James Bleakley of Black Sheep Bikes showed up with his rendition, a typically swoopy titanium singlespeed creation complete with his own take on the small-tubed titanium truss fork. Instead of the usual sliding dropouts or eccentric bottom bracket, Bleakley also chose to go his own route with a pair of telescoping chain stays to tension the chain.

Unlike the Moots snow bike (which also made another appearance at this year's show), Bleakley's bike looked to be more utilitarian with its capacious front rack and yes, a cupholder. As is usually the case for this segment, both the front and rear wheels use identically spaced hubs in case something goes wrong with one of the freehub drivers.

Upstart builder Sendero Cycles also brought its own version, outfitted in more of an expedition style with front and rear racks, a Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost and five bottle mounts – two specifically sized for fuel canisters. Save for the dual top tubes, the steel frame was otherwise fairly traditional in appearance and construction.

The sendero fauxgsley snow bike is built in expedition style.:

Sendero Fauxgsley

Haven't heard of Sendero? Neither had we before the show, seeing as how they've only been around since December. But one of its key members certainly has plenty of experience: none other than mountain biking legend Joe Murray. Keep an eye on these guys.

Townies abound in bicycle-friendly Denver

RMBS' host city may contain roughly half a million inhabitants but its numerous bike paths and lanes and mostly aware drivers still make Denver an official bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. Not surprisingly, townies and commuters still occupied much of the show floor this year.

All the whiz-bang small builder features are here: the schlumpf two-speed transmission, schmidt dynamo front hub, e3 led light with custom mount, paul components brake levers and dimpled fenders.  :

Aaron Hayes of Courage Bicycles built this townie for his girlfriend

Portland-based builder Aaron Hayes of Courage Bicycles tossed the gamut of small builder tricks into an understated brown townie he built for his girlfriend. A Schlumpf crank neatly provides two gear ratios but with the clean look of a singlespeed, the Schmidt front hub dynamo powers neatly integrated front and rear E3 LED lights, and just in case some more intensive travel is in store, the lugged steel frame includes a pair of S&S couplings for quick disassembly.

Portland-based civilian brought along this clean-looking pale green commuter.:

Tyson Hart (Civilian) brought this green townie

Fellow Portland builder Tyson Hart of Civilian Bicycle Company showed off his own townie, too, built with a step-through lugged and TIG-welded steel frame and Shimano Nexus internally geared hub.

Lugs are fitted to the top and bottom of the argonaut townie head tube but they're then joined to the rest of the frame via fillet brazing.:

A closeup of Ben Farver's townie he built for his girlfriend

Likewise, Argonaut Cycles builder Ben Farver also brought along a townie he built for his significant other. The steel step-through frame features both lugged and fillet brazed joints along with leather details and a trick stainless steel brace joining the top tube and seat tube. Naturally, there's a Schmidt dynamo front hub here as well.

Renovo's panda commuter is built from laminated bamboo strips.:

Renovo's bamboo Panda

One of the most unusual townies on hand, though, was the laminated bamboo Panda from Renovo. Unlike Calfee's natural bamboo creations, Renovo first builds up blocks of bamboo, whose inner and outer surfaces are then machined like with their hardwood bikes (yes, wood – as in Paul Bunyan) and bonded together to form the final structure.

According to Renovo, the natural composite materials (wood and bamboo are actually quite similar in principle to carbon fibre composites) offer an ultra-smooth ride, carbon-like durability and are also environmentally sustainable – not to mention recyclable.

The sendero station wagon was built for a customer who wanted to haul a lot of gear - or the occasional late-night passenger.:

The Sendero Station Wagon

Sendero's commuter was also rather unique. Built on an extended wheelbase measuring somewhere in between an ultra-long Xtracycle and a standard single frame, the 'Station Wagon' was commissioned for a customer who wanted to haul a lot of gear but also the occasional passenger. Footpegs are integrated into the chain stays just ahead of the rear dropouts and the rear rack is reinforced with extra-beefy hardware. Anyone need a lift?

High-end options for the discerning tandem rider(s)

DaVinci's unique tandem drivetrain allows the captain and stoker to pedal at different cadences.: davinci's unique tandem drivetrain allows the captain and stoker to pedal at different cadences.

DaVinci's unique tandem drivetrain

Three tandems also caught our eye at this year's RMBS. As always, DaVinci's unique drivetrain is compelling for its ability to let the captain and stoker pedal at different cadences – or even coast completely while the other rider does all the work. The system is more complex looking than typical tandem transmissions but its independent pedaling benefits and extra-wide gearing range still makes it more than worthwhile for many potential customers.

Bilenky's stunning red and white tandem includes s&s couplings for easier transport.: bilenky's stunning red and white tandem includes s&s couplings for easier transport.

Bilenky's stunning white/red tandem

Situated right next door was a Rohloff hub-equipped tandem from Bilenky Cycle Works. In contrast to the DaVinci, the Bilenky drivetrain was more simplistic in appearance, sporting just two chains, no visible derailleurs and both chains on the right-hand side of the bike. S&S couplings on the frame also make for reasonably easy transport as well.

Oh, but where to put the Rohloff shifter? Since the proprietary twister is intended only for use on mountain bike bars, Bilenky built a short extension into an extra-tall headset spacer. Though not quite as ergonomic as having the shifter underhand at all times, it's admittedly functional.

Paketa says its v2 magnesium tandem frame can be built up under 11kg (24lb).: paketa says its v2 magnesium tandem frame can be built up under 11kg (24lb).

Paketa's super light tandem

Paketa's road tandem definitely slotted in at the more performance-oriented end of the scale with a feathery magnesium frame that the company claims is lighter, stiffer and smoother than an aluminium equivalent – all without the usual supplementary tube between the captain and stoker compartments.

According to Paketa's JP Burow, the V2 tandem can be built up around 11kg (24lb) and the show display bike was likely even lighter given its Gates Carbon Belt Drive standing in for the usual timing chain.

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

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