Last week I attended my second North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). It was the 12th edition of the show and attracted a whopping 179 exhibitors and 6,500 paid attendees – the largest NAHBS yet. Here’s the NAHBS website and NAHBS Facebook page: http://www.2016.handmadebicycleshow.com/ https://www.facebook.com/nahbs/
This week I’ll give you some background on the show and point you to some excellent coverage. And next week I’ll conclude with my highlights from the show. (Also, next week we’ll feature an Outspoken Cyclist podcast with 5 frame builders in a panel discussion from the show.)
The person we have to thank for coming up with the idea of NAHBS is founder, president and Kentucky frame builder Don Walker of Don Walker Cycles http://www.donwalkercycles.com/ https://www.facebook.com/DonWalkerCycles. Don has created a wonderful thing in NAHBS, a unique show that changes locations every year, is open to the public and designed for makers of custom bicycles, products and the suppliers who support them to display their wares (like tubing and frame building tool makers).
Also unique is that you can even place orders and buy products from many of the vendors, and I overheard some builders who were happily taking full advantage. Keep in mind that many work in small – almost secret – shops and mostly make sales online or via the phone.
This year the show took place in California’s capital city, Sacramento, at the Convention Center downtown. Along with its rich cycling history and famous bicycle club The Sacramento Wheelmen http://www.sacwheelmen.org/ – of which I am an honorary member (don’t miss their Sierra Century April 16th!) – Sacramento is where you can pick up the splendid 32-mile American River Bike Trail, also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail.
The convention center was an intimate setting very different from crowded bigger shows you’ve probably been to. I got a kick out of all the city cyclists riding to the show on all manner of machines from cargo and folding bikes to customized cruisers and even classic collectibles. And they didn’t have to risk parking their bikes outside where they could be stolen because NAHBS has indoor hat-check-style bike parking. If I’d had more time, it would have been fun just watching all the bikes and riders because there was such a variety.
It’s always exciting to walk into an entire hall full of bicycles, products and accessories, most of which are almost impossible to find at the retail level. That’s because so much of it is special order or custom built for consumers. And then there are the one-off eye-candy pieces made to win the best-of-show awards. You can follow the clusters of people forming to find the hottest stuff or avoid them to look for the harder-to-find goodies that a lot of show-goers may miss.
I was only able to attend the show on Saturday – nowhere near long enough to cover everything there. But, you can see lots of photos and read some excellent behind-the-scenes commentary on the bike judging by my friend Patrick Brady over at Red Kite Prayer. He did a wonderful 4-part story with lots more to enjoy.
I hope you get to go to one of these NAHBS sometime. Maybe next year when it travels to the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on March 10-12. If you do get to the show, I want to share a secret with you. Don’t spend all your time gawking at the bikes and products. Instead, find the bike builder whose booth it is and ask them to show you what’s cool. One of the awesome things about NAHBS is that the builder is usually in the booth, and if you just ask, you can meet them and they’re delighted to talk to you. That’s what I did this year.
Next week, I’ll continue with a report on some of the things that I saw and learned talking to the builders at NAHBS, including, in no particular order: a super-slick accessory from Silca; a lovely and functional noisemaker; to-die-for shoes that you probably can’t afford; titanium fenders; new info on wireless shifting; and a 9-pound bike that’s actually being raced on.
(And rounding out our coverage next week, we’ll feature an Outspoken Cyclist podcast with 5 frame builders in a panel discussion from the show.)
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.