North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) 2011: part 4

Lugged masterpieces from talented builders both new and old

Lugged bikes are few and far between in the production world, but they continue to be highly popular with small builders at NAHBS.  The brazed construction requires less heat than TIG welding and most notably offers the option of ornate lugs. This year’s show highlighted the wide range of styles and sizes available, and ultimately the joining style provides yet another canvas for the artisans to show off their craft.

Dave Anderson wins the ‘President's Choice’ award with gleaming Reynolds 953 road bike

Minnesota builder Dave Anderson took the "less is more" approach on his way to winning the "President's Choice" award at NAHBS this year with a brushed and polished lugged Reynolds 953 stainless steel road frame offset with just a smattering of sky blue.

The short-point lugs bore small cutouts accented in white and offered a visible hint of brazing material at the joints to highlight the frame’s impeccable craftsmanship.

The swathes of silver are nicely offset by patches of blue on this Dave Anderson road bike

Anderson also conferred a 'do-anything' personality to the bike with the generous tire clearances, center-pull brakes, and polished fenders along with a climb-eating triple crankset.  

Roland Della Santa's frames are full of holes – in a good way

Famed Reno, Nevada frame builder Roland Della Santa — onetime builder for Greg LeMond in the three-time Tour de France champion's early years — is now offering an interesting option for his steel frames: chain stays that are full of holes.

Della Santa isn’t simply going crazy with a drill press. The, optional, hole filled chainstays are more accurately described as cross-drilled then filled in with steel tubes that are brazed in place. The ends then filed and sanded smooth to finish. 

Roland Della Santa first drills the holes in the stays, brazes in short sections of tubes, then grinds and files the ends flush with the rest of the stay.  According to Della Santa, each set of stays takes about half a day to create

The treatment results in a very unique look. According to Della Santa, the reinforced holes also noticeably boost torsional rigidity, while adding just 20g per stay. 

Mark Dinucci takes the 'Best in Show' with award a simple – yet perfect – lugged steel runabout

As is often the case at NAHBS, awards are based not necessarily on who can craft the most flamboyant rig, but on who's spent the most time sweating the details and refining certain aspects of construction to utter perfection. 

Mark DiNucci's green townie won "Best in Show" at this year's NAHBS

Long-time builder Mark DiNucci took the top prize of this year's show for a seemingly simple green steel runabout featuring immaculately tapered lugs, high-luster hand-polished cranks, as well as hand-wrapped and lacquered grips. 

Additional details include cleanly integrated front and rear lights, contrasting fenders finished in bright red, a slick custom chain guide, and chromed steel half-clips with leather toe protectors. 

Dave Wages wins "Best Road Frame" award with his classic randonneur machine

Randonneur and other 'adventure' style bikes were all the rage at this year's NAHBS and Dave Wages of Ellis Cycles took home the "Best Road Frame" prize for his exquisitely detailed take on the classic genre.

Though old school in appearance, the modern thin-walled oversized steel tubing makes Wages' "modern classic" interpretation not only lighter than they were back in the day but better riding, too.  The hand-carved stainless steel lugs, fork tips and dropouts were all polished to a shimmering gleam, as were the matching bespoke front and rear racks, too.

Dave Wages won "Best Road Frame" of NAHBS with this Ellis randonneur machine

As is appropriate for the genre, Wages equipped the bike with front and rear lights – both powered by a front hub dynamo – but the wires were also painstakingly run internally so as to be nearly invisible.  The front light wire is fed through the rack tubing before making a jump into the down tube, while the rear power line is run inside the fender.

Wages also showed off a lugged steel 29" hardtail in addition to a Shimano Dura-Ace Di2-equipped lugged steel "dirt road bike" with polished stainless steel S&S couplers and another unfinished lugged steel dirt road bike frame to show off the craftsmanship that's normally hidden underneath the paint. 

Wages says he does very few mountain bike frames but you'd hardly know from appearances.  The brazed head tube is essentially one big lug for the top tube and down tube, and extended sleeves serve as built-in gussets. 

Herbie Helm – a new builder no more

One of our favorites from NAHBS 2010 was a steel frame from then-new builder Herbie Helm and his 2011 showpieces carry on the ornate lug work that garnered him so much attention in Richmond.  

The highlight of his booth was a green and white randonneur bike with intricately carved lugs, a custom front rack, front and rear fenders painted to match, a neatly extended seat tube and a custom stem to finish things off.  The generator powered rear light is beautifully integrated into the back of the seat cluster while the front is neatly attached to the front rack — and of course, the wiring is internal throughout. 

The seat cluster isn't fully lugged on this Herbie Helm but it's painted to look that way

Showing he's no one-trick pony, Helm also displayed a white and purple road bike built using a mix of lugged and fillet brazed construction. 

Ira Ryan Cycles: elegant styling, clean construction, and racer chops

Portland, Oregon builder Ira Ryan has shown a wide range of machines at past NAHBS, but concentrated on sportier aspects of cycling for the 2011 show with highlights including two lugged steel roadsters plus a fully rigid steel hardtail. 

Ryan characterizes himself as having, "one foot in the classic world of Eddy, Roger and Bernard" and while the bikes appear to be "timeless, durable, and well fitted" as intended, one of the most striking aspects is the keen aesthetics based on his flying swallow logo.

Swallows drop out of the clouds on this Ira Ryan road bike

Ryan used a polished stainless steel flying swallow on the seat tube on one otherwise fairly understated road bike while the other two machines in his booth integrated the bird into more intricate paint jobs. 

Richard Sachs – don't fix it if it isn't broken

Richard Sachs' seven-year waiting list hasn’t been earned by virtue of offering the latest features and constantly chasing the elusive target of cutting-edge technology.  In fact, the header on his web site proudly declares that, "technology alone is a poor substitute for experience."

With more than 35 years of frame building behind him, Sachs champions the continual refinement of old school pinned and brazed lugged steel construction and with the exception of paint, which is done by Joe Bell, he continues to do every aspect of each build himself using the same custom-spec PegoRichie steel tubing that has faithfully served him and his factory 'cross team for years. 

Some might consider it sacrilege to treat a Richard Sachs bike is such a way but this is just how he intends for his 'cross bikes to be

Not surprisingly, Sachs' 2011 NAHBS booth was virtually identical to what he used in 2010 with the familiar consistent collection of trademark red road, 'cross and track bikes – and just like last year, it was consistently full of people, too.  Despite his frames' coveted status, one pair of utterly filthy 'cross bikes still served as a clear reminder: these things may be highly sought-after but they're still meant to be used.

Clever setup from Shamrock Cycles lets you go from commuting to racing with the turn of a screw

Indiana based Shamrock Cycles showed a particularly interesting lugged steel 'cross bike built with Columbus Spirit for Lugs tubing and Nuevo Richie lugs, and equipped with full fenders, front and rear racks, and lights.  Despite appearances, Shamrock insists it's ready to race – huh?

Even the thumbwheels on this Shamrock Cycles bike get some handmade attention with etched logos and tidy leather washers

The secret is Shamrock Cycles' clever method of attaching all of these bits.  Instead of standard bolts, Shamrock uses tool-free thumbwheels to attach the racks to the frame and the fenders are mostly connected to the racks, not the frame.   According to Shamrock, pulling everything off takes just five minutes and in case your commuting setup normally involves bottle cages, too, even those are attached with thumbwheels as well. 

Signal Cycles moves into production with new Saltzman model

As we've come to expect, Portland-based Signal Cycles showed off a number of exquisitely detailed steel bikes including a fully rigid single-speed 29er, a gorgeous mustard-hued townie with stainless steel lugs and rear rack (that won the "Best City Bike" award this year) and a stainless-lugged randonneur bike with generator-powered front and rear lights, an elegant front rack, and a custom stem.

Though best known for its bespoke creations, Signal is also moving into the production realm with a new Columbus-tubed steel road model called Saltzman – named after a favorite road west of Portland.

Signal Cycles is adding a production model called Saltzman for customers that want the custom look but can't afford the custom price tag

As is typical for the region, the Saltzman will offer true road bike manners but with enough room beneath the long-reach brakes for full fenders.  Signal will offer the Saltzman in 5 stock sizes with either Shimano 105 (US$3,300) or Ultegra (US$3,900) builds in two stock colors: Dirty Teal or Bone White.  Painted-to-match fenders will fetch another US$150.

Vendetta townie is a vision in green

The star of Oregon builder Vendetta Cycles' booth was a lugged steel townie resplendent in emerald green metallic paint on the frame, fork, custom stem and matching fenders.  Vendetta topped things off with a green leather Brooks saddle and grips and green-anodized Paul single-speed hubs, while the stainless lugs were left brightly polished for contrast. 

Though it sounds a bit over the top on paper, it was anything but in person.   In fact, the green and polished combination was quite tasteful and aided by impeccable finish work with perfectly matched hues, intricately carved-out windows in the lug work, and neat internal cable routing on the stem. 

Vendetta Cycles routes the front brake line through the stem on this townie

Vendetta also showed off a bright neon green lugged steel track bike built with stiffer Columbus Max tubing and a one-piece steel bar and stem combination.  The final touch was a set of rare blue-anodized Araya Aero aluminum rims.

Zanconato moves into the chainring business

Mike Zanconato brought three lugged steel machines to NAHBS – a Columbus Max-tubed road racer with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2, a clean white 'cross racer, and a more classic-looking Columbus PegoRichie-tubed baby blue roadster fitted with hammered aluminum fenders.

Though most of the interest in the booth was for the bikes themselves, Zanconato was quick to draw attention to his new tight-ratio dedicated cyclo-cross chainrings. 

Zanconato integrates threads into the new inner cyclo-cross chainrings

Zanconato says he will offer the new chainrings to fit Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo cranks in both standard and compact.  All feature machined 7075-aluminum construction, shift pins, hard anodized finish, and integrated threads on the inner rings. 

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