The North American Handmade Show is a cool rush of air in the bicycle industry. The purpose of this show, while not 100% apparent from the outside, becomes quite clear after spending some time with a few of the builders. While the designs, styles and directions vary greatly from builder to builder, there seems to be a unified voice in stating that the greatest value in custom bike building is about the interaction with the customer.
NAHBS does a better job of distilling and presenting the essence of bicycle designed for long term everyday use more than any other event or publication. The glamor of the show does not distract and lead you into empty corners, but rather draws you into the center of what matters, as Eric Estlund of Winter Bicycles put it succinctly, “User Specific Design”.
The integral nature of the customer focus of custom builders results in every decision about bicycle setup being scrutinized. I’ve realized that custom builders are some of the best people to talk to about both bicycle design and bicycle setup because this relationship dictates that their choices are solid and reliable. When a customer spends thousands of dollars on a bicycle they expect a nearly perfect setup.
Whether or not you can afford to work with a custom builder, the insight that they bring into the industry is invaluable. What they distill in their workshops with their customers is perhaps better R&D than any large player in the cycling industry can offer. It makes me wonder why more of the large players in the cycling industry do not have an custom division of their business’s in order to curate this style of development.
Perhaps, their plundering of designs and trends initiated by the custom builders is sufficient enough for their business models. But if this works so well, I wonder why bringing this interaction in-house hasn’t been done more often.
Having distilled my initial impressions on the show, I’m raring to get off of the computer and back to the show floor to find some more bike commuting bacon.
We’ve been enjoying capturing images of integrated bike rack designs. The work by Shamrock Cycles of an integrated rack, fender and rear light was quite phenomenal. The design includes Shamrock emblazoned hand knobs to quickly detach the rack when it is not in use.
Stu was very excited about the original style of the orange commuter/cargo bike from Gallus Handmade Bicycles. The bike has 16-inch wheels with low and easy cargo capacity options and S & S couplers offering up quite the unique blend of features for both function and what I’m guessing is a whole lot of fun.