As classic and elegant as fillet brazed and lugged construction methods are, TIG welding was still highly favoured at the North American Handmade Bike Show.
That's because it affords a greater variety of joint types and geometries than lugs and is more readily applied to non-ferrous materials like aluminium and titanium than brazing.
Black Sheep Bikes
Fort Collins, Colorado-based Black Sheep Bikes displayed some of the wildest titanium creations we've seen and covering a range of applications including road, mountain and utility.
One of the most notable examples was a cruiser-style singlespeed townie with an integrated custom titanium rear rack and truss-type fork with the upper struts welded directly to the bars.
Power was transferred via a Gates toothed belt with the tension adjusted via uniquely telescoping chainstays. Up front, a dynamo hub powered front and rear LED lights, and all wires and cables were neatly internally routed.
Sitting next to the townie was a stunning (and very light) fully rigid 29er mountain bike with gracefully arcing twin top tubes and down tubes, another truss-type fork and a custom integrated titanium bar and stem. A Gates belt drive and telescoping stays were used here as well, and a pair of King titanium cages were welded directly into the main triangle.
Black Sheep have recently started working with Australian Marty Renwick to form the Vuelo Velo label, which Renwick says is designed to appeal more to the European market.
Along with a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped road bike with a radically curved seat tube and internally routed cables was a striking track machine with twin chainstays, an integrated Campagnolo-compatible bottom bracket with press-fit bearings, a custom titanium segmented fork and a similarly curved seat tube that afforded an ultra-short wheelbase.
The titanium creations from former Moots principal Kent Eriksen and Sedona, Arizona-based FORM Cycles, on the other hand, were more conventional in appearance but no less impressive. Eriksen's highlights included a full-suspension rig based on Yeti's ASR suspension design but using a custom titanium main triangle and a 650b front wheel suspended by a Cannondale Lefty fork.
FORM's ultralight 29er titanium hardtail also sported a Lefty fork on its way to achieving a claimed sub-20lb finished weight. Distinguishing features included an integrated seatmast, a BB30 bottom bracket shell and internal routing for both the derailleur and hydraulic rear brake line. Internal routing was also featured on FORM's titanium cyclo-cross racer.
TIG-welded steel bikes were of course on hand at NAHBS as well. Longtime Italian builder Tiziano Zullo arrived in Richmond with a handful of frames and one particularly eye-catching road bike complete with stout chain- and seatstays, giant socket-style dropouts and a gorgeous geometric-pattern paint job with a metallic bronze base.
Mike De Salvo
Portland, Oregon-based Mike DeSalvo did his own version of a TIG-welded road bike – a starkly elegant orange number with a slightly sloping top tube, traditional external-cup headset and painted-to-match carbon fork. Though it wasn't as flashy and elaborate as some other bikes we saw at NAHBS this year, the timeless style still makes us want one.
Check out the thumbnail gallery at the top of this page for more photos of these and other bikes on show at NAHBS, including road, cyclo-cross, mountain bike and trials models from Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT), BREW Bikes, Brompton, Caelfera, Co-Motion, Cysco, Kimori, Kish Titanium, Maietta, Quiring, Stijl and Ted Wojcik.