The North American Handmade Bicycle Show showcased scores of jaw-dropping bikes by some of the finest framebuilders in the world again this year. We’ll soon show you nearly every bike that was on display in the halls of the Louisville Convention Center in Kentucky, but to start our coverage, let’s take a look at the bikes that won this year’s award categories.
Best in Show – Groovy Cycleworks
Taking home top honors was a stunning rig that Groovy Cycleworks built for a retired surfer in Singapore. Made of titanium and wood (yes, wood), the ‘Kauai 6-5-0’ features a dedicated surfboard rack (that unfortunately wasn’t at the show), a truss-type fork, hand laminated 27.5in wooden rims, and Groovy’s own TIG-welded steel crankset and swept-back segmented titanium handlebar.
The octopus-themed paint job pays homage to a tattoo the bike’s owner has on his calf, and the Brooks leather saddle is engraved with a picture of the bike’s owner riding a wave.
Best Artisan Bike – Cykelmageren
Cykelmageren never fails to disappoint at NAHBS. This year, the Danish company brought an incredible stylized road bike that had nearly everyone in awe. Many of the components were fully fabricated in-house, such as the front and rear hubs, brake calipers, and the outrageous handlebar.
Even the shift lever was a feat of ingenuity. It’s essentially a deconstructed Shimano Rapidfire trigger shifter but actuated by a complex system of miniature chains and cables; flick the lever on one side to upshift and the other to downshift. The gates on the ratchet wheel had to be filed by hand to get it to index properly on the old Campagnolo rear derailleur.
Best Mountain Bike – Retrotec fat bike
Curtis Inglis pulled out the stops for his backcountry-friendly Retrotec fat bike, with its trademark curved twin top tubes, segmented seatstays and fork, custom front rack, and simple yet tasteful finish. Some were apparently a little surprised by the judges’ pick but then again, fat bikes are still mountain bikes, aren’t they?
Best Tandem – Black Sheep Cycles
It sometimes seems as if Fort Collins, Colorado builder James Bleakley is virtually incapable of using straight tubes in his titanium creations – which is just as well since the company’s curvaceous frames never fail to draw a crowd. This year, Bleakley brought to NAHBS a titanium tandem with twin curved top tubes, a two-piece telescoping stoker seat tube, and a DaVinci independent drivetrain that lets both riders pedal at their own cadences.
More impressively, the frame could be broken down into three sections for travel using a mix of S&S couplers and Black Sheep’s own bolt-together joints.
Best Cyclocross Bike – No.22 Broken Arrow
Taking home ‘Best Cyclocross Bike’ honors was No.22 – a builder new in name but not in practice, having been born out of the old Serotta workshop in upstate New York.
Intricate details abound on the titanium Broken Arrow, including a slick machined seatstay bridge and head tube badge, a durable brushed and blasted paint-free finish, and Paragon Machine Works’ new Syntace X-12 thru-axle rear dropouts. Some of the most important work is hidden away inside, though, as the tubes are each internally butted based on rider needs and preferences.
Best Road Bike – Repete
This was Repete’s first trip to NAHBS and it was a fruitful one at that. The new Czech builder took home ‘Best Road Bike’ honors with a TIG-welded Columbus steel beauty finished in a mix of matte black and dark chrome paint. Chrome paint is said to be notoriously difficult to work with but Repete did an outstanding job with clean mask lines and just enough gleam to make the bike stand out.
Finishing the bike off perfectly was a Campagnolo Super Record EPS electronic group and Bora Ultra carbon tubular wheels.
Best Finish – Shamrock Cycles
Shamrock Cycles brought a fleet of bikes to NAHBS this year. None of them wore plain paint jobs but one undoubtedly stood out with a wildly intricate Mondrian-themed finished that supposedly took Corby Concepts more than eighty hours from start to finish – complete with matching graphics on the stem, seatpost, and wheels. Over the top? You betcha – but in the best way possible.
Best TIG-welded Frame – Kent Eriksen Cycles
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and few builders have laid as much titanium weld bead as Kent Eriksen. That deep well of experience was evident in his prize-winning titanium tandem, which Eriksen left in its raw state to fully show off his handiwork. If there was a flaw anywhere, the judges certainly couldn’t find it.
Best Experimental Bike – SyCip Bikes
Rarely one to just go with the status quo, Jeremy Sycip won the ‘Best Experimental Bike’ category with his 27.5+ steel hardtail, complete with a tidy custom front rack to carry a few essential (or a mighty lunch), Shimano’s new STEPS e-assist system, and a bespoke steel cage around the bottom bracket area to house the drive motor. Sycip’s trademark feature was in place as usual, too, with a pair of shiny American pennies capping the seatstays.
Best City Bike – Paul Brodie
Mountain bikers may know Paul Brodie more for his eponymous mountain bike brand but the affable Canuck also teaches a frame building class at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. In past years, Brodie has brought to NAHBS some amazing works of pure artisanship with even the smallest of parts being fully made from scratch.
This time around, Brodie showcased his personal townie, which featured a fairly standard frame layout but plenty of artful details. There’s a custom computer and light mount up front (which is affixed to a stem faceplate that Brodie machined himself), both racks are one-offs, and the front wheel speed sensor is bolted to a dedicated mount on the fork. Brodie even machined the housing guides in-house.
Best Lugged Frame – DiNucci Cycles
That veteran builder Marc DiNucci would take home the ‘best lugged frame’ prize was without question. The steel frame looked ordinary enough from a distance but up close, DiNucci’s mastery was revealed in remarkably delicate lug tapers, gracefully shaped braze-ons, hand-sculped buttresses on the lugs, and impeccable brazing work. It’s a shame that all of this will eventually be covered up with paint.
Best Carbon Lay-up – Alchemy Bicycle Company
Alchemy Bicycle Company debuted its new Oros carbon fiber 29er hardtail at this year’s NAHBS, winning ‘Best Carbon Lay-up’ in the process. Alchemy builds its carbon frames completely in-house at its Denver, Colorado workshop, including molding tubes and lugs, wrapping joints, and curing complete frames – not to mention paint and finish work.
The new Oros sports all the modern features you’d expect like a PF92 bottom bracket shell, tapered head tube, thru-axle rear dropouts, and convertible internal cable routing, but it’s how Alchemy puts it all together that makes the Oros notable. Instead of traditional tube-to-tube construction, Alchemy places the joints closer to the middle of the tubes for increased strength and better consistency. The sparse clearcoated finish leaves that handiwork plain for all to see, too, and it’s remarkably clean at that.
Alchemy will begin shipping Oros frames in May for US$4,000, complete with a Fox 32 Float fork. Claimed weight for a large frame is 1,100g.
Best New Builder – Love Baum Cycles
Judges couldn’t help but notice Love Baum Cycles’ steel all-road machine, with its lovely green and orange paint, slick custom stem, and steel seatmast topper. What really wowed onlookers, though, was the carved seat lug. After all, why just put the bike owner’s name on the top tube when you can carve their initials into the frame itself?
People’s Choice – Mars Cycles
Mars Cycles builder Casey Sussman won the show attendee-selected ‘People’s Choice’ award for his gorgeous fillet-brazed steel ‘cross bike. Selective masking showed off the raw brushed stainless tubes while clever details such as the novel rear brake mount, machined-in head tube badge, and internal routing was enough to make a serious impression.
President’s Choice – Ron Sutphin/United Bicycle Institute
Ron Sutphin brought to NAHBS a well-executed steel ‘cross bike, complete with a fetching silver-and-purple paint job and some admirably tidy custom internal routing for the Thomson Covert Stealth dropper seatpost.
The President’s Choice award was somewhat controversial, though, given that winner Ron Sutphin doesn’t actually offer frames for sale. He does, however, teach a frame building class at the United Bicycle Institute (where he also happens to be president) – so while you can’t buy one of Sutphin’s frames, he can teach you how to build one of your own.
Best Campagnolo-equipped Bike, Honorable Mention – Pedalino Bikes
Campagnolo hosted its own subset of awards at NAHBS. Despite having only built three frames, Julie Ann Pedalino of Pedalino Bikes scored an honorary mention for her pearlescent white steel road bike, which was subtly decorated with a nicely carved seat lug and tasteful, brazed-on gold accents (including a heart-shaped ‘3’ as a serial number). Watch out for this one.