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 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.
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 expects the Aithon to be available around May.
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 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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Adding the finishing touch were custom bar end plugs with IF's unmistakable crown logo.
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.
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.
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.
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.