First look: Portland Handmade Show

The bike geeks were in full force at the Portland Convention Center

The 4th Annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHMBS) presented by Don Walker kicked off with an industry-only day at the Portland Convention Center on Friday, and among the gathering of the industry's reported 1,250 most dedicated bike geeks, there was much to see and plenty to get excited about. Here's our first report.

What's old is new again

Bicycle design and innovation reached its peak nearly 100 years ago, when the US patent office had two divisions: one for bicycles, one for everything else. Those who own copy of The Data Book, a richly illustrated pictorial highlighting everything from paired spoke wheels, threadless headsets, clamp-on stems and internal gearing developed in the early 20th century. A quick perusal of The Data Book shows that most of what we see in the industry today has been done at least once before, decades ago. The innovators here in Portland pay homage to history because the natural progression of an independent builder is to start simply (fixed gear) and evolve into utility (porteur) and endurance (randonneur).

Material of choice is mainly steel, and as its been said by many who know more about metallurgy than me, if steel was introduced today it would be hailed as the most exotic material for bicycle fabrication ever. Tube bending and manipulation is also more prevalent these days, reflected in baskets and racks adorning virtually every bike in this Convention Center. Purveyors of titanium, Chattanooga-based Lynskey, not only showed off a titanium racer with twisted top and down tubes, it also introduced its first steel model, using Tre Temper's ultra-thin and light S3 tubing.

As the undercurrent of independent builders quickened the past five years, the bike industry has taken notice. Tube makers Reynolds, Columbus and Dedacciai send their top people to the NAHMBS, because this is where the action is. Longtime American framebuilders Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, Steve Potts and Bruce Gordon share the floor with newcomers Sacha White (Vanilla), Ira Ryan, and Tony Pereira. Utility evangelist Mike Flanigan (ANT) is across the aisle from Shimano and Dedacciai, with local manufacturer Chris King holding court smack dab in the middle of the Center, a symbolic reflection of the shared reverence of King's coloured headsets and hubsets adorning more than half the bikes at the Show.

Continental and Brooks are component favourites, and have sent representatives from Europe to drink in the American small building scene. Schwalbe, noticeably missing from this Show, is becoming a hot tyre choice with their retro large volume and coloured randonneuring models, spotted on several bikes.

Check out the next several days as we serve up more photographic highlights and tidbits from the Show. For more of the same, click on over to our sister site for an eyeful from tech editor James Huang.

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