NAHBS: Bamboo and snow bikes, steel cyclo-cross machine and more

Endless eye candy from Indianapolis

The 2009 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) opened its doors to roughly 1,700 attendees hailing from as far as Hawaii, Japan and beyond. 

Nearly all of the major players were on hand for what looks to be the busiest NAHBS to date. Highlights from our first show report included bikes from Vanilla, Parlee and Della Santa. In our second report we saw new machines from Serotta, a singlespeed full-suspension bike from Naked builder Sam Whittingham and a curvy titanium model from Black Sheep.

In this latest report we look at sustainable bamboo bikes from Bamboosero, a custom snow bike and lots more.

Calfee takes bamboo construction idea in a new direction

Craig Calfee’s recently launched Bamboosero project applies his bamboo and hemp fibre frame construction to something much bigger than just one-off show bikes. Calfee is now teaching residents of third-world countries how to build similar bikes but for utilitarian purposes.

Much like SRAM’s admirable World Bicycle Relief program, Bamboosero seeks to equip local residents with bicycles that can be used to greatly enhance mobility to places like schools, ease access to necessary resources like food and water, and seek medical care in far-off locations. 

In Bamboosero’s case, however, the bikes are built by local residents and use locally available bamboo. Calfee has already shown the bamboo is capable of hauling heavy loads and feels that having the residents build the bikes themselves fosters the development of sustainable local economies.

Calfee’s Bamboosero frame design is obviously much simpler than the showpieces we’re accustomed to seeing from him at NAHBS with its traditional frame layout and substantial built-in rear rack. While the parts spec is decidedly modest, the ambitions of the program are anything but. Shops are already running in Ghana and others reportedly nearing completion in Zambia, Mexico and Uganda.

Courage tackles the Portland ‘cross scene with good ol’ steel

Carbon fibre and aluminium cyclo-cross bikes dominate the mass market yet many builders such as Portland, Oregon-based Aaron Hayes of Courage Bicycles – ‘best new builder’ of NAHBS 2008 – still feel that modern steel alloys can offer comparable levels of performance but with far superior ride quality. 

Hayes built up his latest 1450g (3.2lb) iteration into a race-ready 7.2kg (16.0lb) machine for the show with a mostly sensible mix that included Edge Composites carbon tubulars and carbon ‘cross fork and a SRAM Red 1x10 drivetrain fitted with a chain guard of his own design. Save for the sketchy carbon saddle we certainly wouldn’t hesitate to take one of these to our local series.

Courage also showed off this gleaming white road bike.

Sitting opposite the ‘cross bike was a white steel road bike, both of which bore Courage’s latest dropout design. The previous stainless steel-sandwiched plates have now been replaced with stiffer units that offer more weld area for the stays, replaceable aluminium derailleur hangers, and even replaceable aluminium faces on the non-driveside. 

Engin Cycles chugs along

Engin Cycles’ booth was populated with the usual array of beautiful yet functional bikes covering a wide range of genres that included a conventional road racer, a 29” fully rigid singlespeed, a 26” full-suspension mountain bike, and perhaps our personal favourite of the lot, a ‘cross bike covered in deep fire engine red paint.

Engin Cycles had its usually diverse range of bikes on display at this year's NAHBS such as this dedicated 'cross racer built for Denny Yunk of Hayes Bicycle Group.

Engin proprietor Drew Guldanian kept the embellishment to a minimum here as its owner, Denny Yunk of Hayes Bicycle Group, plans to use it as a full-blown racer. Still, an elegant pointed sleeve on the top tube extends just below the top tube and the semi-integrated mast terminates in a sweet cast head of Guldanian’s own design. 

This Engin road bike was perhaps the most eye-catching of the booth.

The front brake is routed straight through the matching custom stem and the slim steel fork sports surprisingly tight clearances around the crown.   Guldanian says this was by intent though: according to him, most of the ‘cross bike he sees in muddy conditions have a build-up of mud behind the crown no matter how much clearance is there and the shorter blades of his fork stiffen things up and minimise brake chatter.

Though fairly traditional in appearance, the full-suspension mountain bike actually incorporated a number of thoroughly up-to-date features. The Reynolds 953 front triangle uses a BB30 bottom bracket shell, an oversize head tube fitted with a Chris King InSet, and the aluminium rear end is borrowed from Ventana. 

Engin built this full-suspension machine with a Reynolds 953 main triangle and a rear end borrowed from Ventana.

Guldanian squeezes in plenty of classic aesthetic, too, courtesy of the pointed sleeves and partial lugs, the nifty plate-style lower shock mount with twin reinforcing cross-tubes, and masked windows in the main triangle allowing the natural stainless steel to shine through.  All in all, the look is stunning from any angle.

It’s still winter in the Inglis and Retrotec booth

The star of Curtis Inglis’ joint Inglis-Retrotec booth was undoubtedly a custom snow bike built for a customer that intended to use it for everything from trail riding on both snow and dirt (Inglis sized the clearances to also work with standard 29” wheels) to heading off for errands thanks to the sizeable front rack.

Curtis Inglis brought along this beautiful snow bike, built for a customer to fulfill a wide range of purposes.

In spite of the eponymous badging, the bike drew some obvious design cues from Inglis’ Retrotec line, notably the uninterrupted arc of the down tube and seat stays and the style of the peach-and-cream paint.  Fitted out back is a Rohloff 14-speed internally geared hub.

Parts kit and finishing work aside though, one of the most striking aspects of the bike were the custom-made wooden fenders. Spanning the full width of the massive snow tyres, they also provided a uniquely expansive canvas for some neat artwork by their builder, Jeff Hantman of Halfwheel Fenders. 

Intricate transfers were applied on the outer surfaces (even wrapping around the sides of the fenders!) and one of the Inglis mascots was even slapped on the inside of the rear fender. Hantman sealed all of the details beneath a thick coat of lacquer so hopefully it’ll all last a while, too.

KirkLee and Dave Sem team up for a unique job

Texas painter Dave Sem’s work is well known in the industry but he outdid himself for a special KirkLee carbon road frame at NAHBS.  According to company founder – and frame builder – Brad Cason, the owner wanted a finish that mimicked an oil painting made by her mother, who is unfortunately succumbing to Alzheimer’s. 

This paint job has a very special meaning to this owner.

Sem recreated the style of the painting based on provided digital images, even down to the unique textures usually unattainable with conventional frame painting methods. The paint also had to cure longer than usual before applying clearcoat to avoid smearing but the result of the extra time and effort is one of the most unique looking frames we’ve seen.

Lying beneath it all is KirkLee’s all-carbon frame with custom tubing by Edge Composites and smoothly blended carbon lugs.

‘Anyone up for another glass?’ asks Signal Cycles

Custom racks are always a big part of NAHBS and if such a category existed, Portland builder Signal Cycles would probably have taken the prize with its superbly brazed wine bottle carrier.  

Signal Cycles has you all set just in case you're planning to attend a party by bike and need to bring some wine.

Two bottles are securely housed in perfectly fitted receptacles, bracketed by a wooden shelf below, leather padding at the edges, and looped elastic straps to hold it all down. In case some cheese is also involved, there’s also a small wooden shelf up top. 

Before you pigeonhole Signal as a rack company, though, the company also displayed complete bikes such as an elegant randonneur machine and a sweet yellow townie. The randonneur bike also sported rather unique fender mounts and a neat rear brake housing stop, and both bikes were fitted with gorgeous dropouts. 

But yes, both also had custom front racks, too.

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