Gravel grinders and fat-tyred road bikes at NAHBS

Versatile roadsters mix it in with traditional race bikes

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show has always been a reliable indicator of hot trends in the industry. This year's event in Charlotte, North Carolina is littered with countless gravel grinders and all-road machines that mimic the general look of traditional road racers but with far more tyre clearance to tackle both dirt and gravel roads. Here's a look at some of the most notable examples.

Alchemy Bicycle Company

Alchemy showed off one of the highest-performance examples of the genre at this year's show with its all-new Aithon – a more evolved and purpose-built model that shares its spirit with the custom Helios Disc we commissioned from the Colorado company last year. The Aithon essentially uses the same front end as the Helios but with a dedicated carbon rear end that features much more widely-set stays that will clear tyres up to 40mm across.

Alchemy angled the seat stays further rearward to allow for a chain stay-mounted disc brake caliper, and the modified geometry supposedly makes for a more comfortable ride, too. Actual frame weight will vary depending on how the tubes are laid up, but Alchemy says the 56cm one on display weighs around 1,050g.

Alchemy bicycles revealed at this year's nahbs a gorgeous new carbon fiber gravel race bike called the aithon: alchemy bicycles revealed at this year's nahbs a gorgeous new carbon fiber gravel race bike called the aithon
Alchemy bicycles revealed at this year's nahbs a gorgeous new carbon fiber gravel race bike called the aithon: alchemy bicycles revealed at this year's nahbs a gorgeous new carbon fiber gravel race bike called the aithon

Up front is a brand-new fork that Alchemy is also molding in-house. The 385mm axle-to-crown length splits the difference between road and 'cross forks and the projected weight is 430g.

Alchemy will soon include its own fork - molded in-house - with its new aithon gravel race bike pending final development and testing. the 385mm axle-to-crown length puts it in between a 'cross fork and a road fork. target weight is 430g: alchemy will soon include its own fork - molded in-house - with its new aithon gravel race bike pending final development and testing. the 385mm axle-to-crown length puts it in between a 'cross fork and a road fork. target weight is 430g
Alchemy will soon include its own fork - molded in-house - with its new aithon gravel race bike pending final development and testing. the 385mm axle-to-crown length puts it in between a 'cross fork and a road fork. target weight is 430g: alchemy will soon include its own fork - molded in-house - with its new aithon gravel race bike pending final development and testing. the 385mm axle-to-crown length puts it in between a 'cross fork and a road fork. target weight is 430g

Alchemy expects the Aithon to be available around May.

Argonaut Cycles

Argonaut modified its carbon fiber road racer with extra tyre clearance and dual disc mounts for this year's NAHBS. The rear disc mount is especially tidy, too, with a custom dropout built in-house plus an elegant post mount bonded to the chain stay. Up front is an Enve Composite disc road fork.

Argonaut refers to its new bike as a gravel racer but there's realistically only room for 28-30mm tires. even so, it's utterly gorgeous and we expect that it would be a dream on paved or dirt roads: argonaut refers to its new bike as a gravel racer but there's realistically only room for 28-30mm tires. even so, it's utterly gorgeous and we expect that it would be a dream on paved or dirt roads
Argonaut refers to its new bike as a gravel racer but there's realistically only room for 28-30mm tires. even so, it's utterly gorgeous and we expect that it would be a dream on paved or dirt roads: argonaut refers to its new bike as a gravel racer but there's realistically only room for 28-30mm tires. even so, it's utterly gorgeous and we expect that it would be a dream on paved or dirt roads

Argonaut refers to the new bike as a 'gravel racer' but some might dispute that. Argonaut builder Ben Farver tells BikeRadar that the bike will handle at most a 30mm-wide tyre up front and a 32mm-wide one out back.

Breadwinner Cycles

Breadwinner Cycles – a joint project between fellow Portland, Oregon-based builders Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira – evokes the spirit of exploration and freedom with its B-Road, built with Columbus Spirit chromoly tubing and enough clearance for tyres up to 38mm wide. Breadwinner will build the B-Road for rim or disc brakes and the included Enve Composites fork is painted to match. Three bottle mounts should provide enough fluid for hours of carefree pedaling, too.

Breadwinner cycles - a joint project between ira ryan and tony pereira - offers up the b-road with room for up to 700x38mm-wide tires and built with columbus spirit chromoly steel tubes: breadwinner cycles - a joint project between ira ryan and tony pereira - offers up the b-road with room for up to 700x38mm-wide tires and built with columbus spirit chromoly steel tubes
Breadwinner cycles - a joint project between ira ryan and tony pereira - offers up the b-road with room for up to 700x38mm-wide tires and built with columbus spirit chromoly steel tubes: breadwinner cycles - a joint project between ira ryan and tony pereira - offers up the b-road with room for up to 700x38mm-wide tires and built with columbus spirit chromoly steel tubes

Co-Motion Cycles

Co-Motion has a long history with touring and adventure bikes, highlighted by its Cascadia and Divide models. The Cascadia is built with Reynolds 725 steel tubing with room for 35mm tyres and fenders, dual disc brakes, front and rear rack mounts, and three bottle mounts. The Divide, on the other hand, also features Reynolds 725 tubing but is built more ruggedly with room for 29x2.0in mountain bike rubber.

Co-Motion's versatile cascadia can accommodate 700x35mm tires with room to spare for fenders: co-motion's versatile cascadia can accommodate 700x35mm tires with room to spare for fenders
Co-Motion's versatile cascadia can accommodate 700x35mm tires with room to spare for fenders: co-motion's versatile cascadia can accommodate 700x35mm tires with room to spare for fenders

Ellis Cycles

Ellis Cycles' Strada all-road machine was a subtle variation of the standard road bikes for which the company is better known. Built with Columbus Life chromoly tubing, Shimano Ultegra Di2 with slickly done internal wiring, and medium-reach dual-pivot rim brakes, Ellis says there's just enough extra clearance for standard tyres and fenders or moderately wide rubber measuring 28mm across or so.

Ellis cycles built this steel road bike with columbus life chromoly tubes and medium-reach brake calipers that can handle moderately high-volume tires: ellis cycles built this steel road bike with columbus life chromoly tubes and medium-reach brake calipers that can handle moderately high-volume tires
Ellis cycles built this steel road bike with columbus life chromoly tubes and medium-reach brake calipers that can handle moderately high-volume tires: ellis cycles built this steel road bike with columbus life chromoly tubes and medium-reach brake calipers that can handle moderately high-volume tires

HED

HED is best known for its wheelsets but is now embarking on an intriguing frame project with Erik Noren of Peacock Groove. The new 'Triple Crown' partially derives its name from its characteristic triple stainless steel fork crown plates but also for its ability to be three bikes in one: an all-road bike, a touring machine, or an adventure bike depending on the build kit.

HED is getting into the frame business in cooperation with erik noren of peacock groove: hed is getting into the frame business in cooperation with erik noren of peacock groove
HED is getting into the frame business in cooperation with erik noren of peacock groove: hed is getting into the frame business in cooperation with erik noren of peacock groove

We were most intrigued with the adventure build, which by swapping to 27.5in wheels easily accommodates 2in-wide tyres. Standard features throughout include front and rear disc brakes, front and rear thru-axles, rack and fender mounts, and stainless steel reinforcing rings on the head tube.

Nice detailing on the hed triple crown, built by erik noren of peacock groove: nice detailing on the hed triple crown, built by erik noren of peacock groove
Nice detailing on the hed triple crown, built by erik noren of peacock groove: nice detailing on the hed triple crown, built by erik noren of peacock groove

HED expects the Triple Crown to be available starting in May. Retail price is US$3,500 including the frame, fork, HED Ardennes Plus FR Disc wheelset, HED GTO drop bar, and HED GTO stem.

Independent Fabrication

IF can do any of its bikes in custom configurations and the titanium Club Racer it had on display at NAHBS included just about every option available: S&S couplers for traveling, a split rear triangle for a Gates belt drive, an eccentric bottom bracket shell, a custom steel fork built in-house, and extra clearance front and rear for long-reach brakes and room for 32mm-wide tyres.

This independent fabrication titanium club racer singlespeed was custom built with s&s couplers, a gates carbon belt drive, and long-reach caliper brakes with plenty of clearance for high-volume road tires: this independent fabrication titanium club racer singlespeed was custom built with s&s couplers, a gates carbon belt drive, and long-reach caliper brakes with plenty of clearance for high-volume road tires
This independent fabrication titanium club racer singlespeed was custom built with s&s couplers, a gates carbon belt drive, and long-reach caliper brakes with plenty of clearance for high-volume road tires: this independent fabrication titanium club racer singlespeed was custom built with s&s couplers, a gates carbon belt drive, and long-reach caliper brakes with plenty of clearance for high-volume road tires

Adding the finishing touch were custom bar end plugs with IF's unmistakable crown logo.

Custom bar end plugs for this independent fabrication machine: custom bar end plugs for this independent fabrication machine
Custom bar end plugs for this independent fabrication machine: custom bar end plugs for this independent fabrication machine

Kent Eriksen Cycles

As with IF, Kent Eriksen Cycles has always been able to do any of its titanium bikes in custom configurations and it took the opportunity at this year's show to showcase its gravel grinder capabilities. Eriksen didn't break any new ground on its samples but it was an impressively tidy execution nonetheless with clean and unadorned seat stays, enormous 1in-diameter chain stays, Paragon Machine Works disc rear dropouts, and an Enve Composites 'cross fork. All of which easily had room to spare for the 33.3mm-wide Jack Brown tyres used on the show bike.

Eriksen showed off this titanium gravel grinder at nahbs but the reality is that company has always been able to build such a thing: eriksen showed off this titanium gravel grinder at nahbs but the reality is that company has always been able to build such a thing
Eriksen showed off this titanium gravel grinder at nahbs but the reality is that company has always been able to build such a thing: eriksen showed off this titanium gravel grinder at nahbs but the reality is that company has always been able to build such a thing

Mosaic Bespoke Bicycles

We showed you the lead-up to Mosaic's NAHBS show bikes over the past few weeks and it was time for the full reveal in Charlotte, North Carolina. One of the titanium bikes – built for dealer Blacksmith Cycle in Toronto, Canada – included enough clearance for 28mm-wide tyres courtesy of slightly longer stays and a Wound-Up fork. Disc brakes were used front and rear.

Mosaic bicycles built this titanium roadster for toronto-based dealer blacksmith cycle: mosaic bicycles built this titanium roadster for toronto-based dealer blacksmith cycle
Mosaic bicycles built this titanium roadster for toronto-based dealer blacksmith cycle: mosaic bicycles built this titanium roadster for toronto-based dealer blacksmith cycle

Disc brakes were also featured on the titanium bike Mosaic built for Velosmith Bicycle Studio in Wilmette, Illinois. That sample was more of a road racer but still featured slightly wider tyres – tubular, in this case, which when combined with the Enve Composites rims would likely produce a fantastic ride quality.

Also on display at the mosaic booth was this dual-disc road bike, again with room for moderately high-volume tires: also on display at the mosaic booth was this dual-disc road bike, again with room for moderately high-volume tires
Also on display at the mosaic booth was this dual-disc road bike, again with room for moderately high-volume tires: also on display at the mosaic booth was this dual-disc road bike, again with room for moderately high-volume tires

Six-Eleven Bicycle Company

Virginia-based builder Six-Eleven showed off a steel all-road bike with dual disc brakes, clearance for 28mm-wide tyres, and beautifully executed seat stays that arc cleanly into the seat cluster. Finish work was gorgeously done, too, with a metallic silver paint job and gold accents.

This six-eleven all-road bike was built to accommodate tires up to 40mm wide: this six-eleven all-road bike was built to accommodate tires up to 40mm wide
This six-eleven all-road bike was built to accommodate tires up to 40mm wide: this six-eleven all-road bike was built to accommodate tires up to 40mm wide

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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