By Madelyn Tomasi
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is the world’s largest and most innovative show for handmade bicycles and was built on the foundation of bringing consumers, creators, and media together on an annual basis.
Arundel Bike described it this way: “It’s the bicycle equivalent of going to an art exhibition and having the chance to chat it up with Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso about their work; and when you went for a lunch hot dog, Monet asked you to pass the mustard.”
NAHBS has kept itself fresh by traveling to a different city each year, recently making appearances in Sacramento, Hartford, and Salt Lake City. Not only do they connect bike-lovers in the states, they purposefully operate with a global nature, including exhibitors from around the world. At their 2019 show, NAHBS represented bicycle builders from 8 different countries.
Despite the complexities of planning a show of this scale, they have formed long lasting relationships with exhibitors, partners, and attendees by valuing their feedback and remaining attentive to relevant trends in the cycling community. NAHBS is proud to offer a space for sustainability, innovation, and adventure to be discussed – whether those goals be achieved through e-bikes or bikepacking!
This year, NAHBS is proud to announce the inaugural International Grand Prix of Gravel bike race, taking place on Saturday March 21st. Working with Spinistry, a promoter of off-pavement and ultra endurance cycling events based out of Texas. It’s a gravel race that takes place right in the heart of Dallas, along the banks of the Trinity River.
During the show, they’ll also be hosting a Test Ride Outdoor Pavilion located just outside of the convention center. NAHBS attendees and builders will be invited to demo and test ride the latest and greatest handmade bikes from around the world.
Dallas might not come to mind when you think of cities big on cycling. However, with the ever expanding trail systems, locals have deemed it a little slice of cycling heaven. “The Loop” will soon be finished, connecting Dallas’ urban areas to Ft. Worth via 50 miles of glorious trail. NAHBS puts a lot of effort into fostering partnerships with local businesses and organizations, and has said they’re, “Excited to showcase the creativity and craftsmanship that fuels the DFW cycling community!”
This March will be 16th NAHBS show — and no one is more excited for the gathering than Don Walker himself, who started the show back in 2005. He’s been building bikes since 1991, and specializes in high performance bikes for road, track, cross, tandem and MTB. Ultimately, he saw the need for a space for builders and bike lovers to interact, and created NAHBS. We’ve had the opportunity to get his perspective on how the show, and the bike market, have evolved over the years.
QUESTION: What kind of bikes people are buying when they buy something hand built. Is it going in the direction of gravel? All-road? Road? Bikepacking?
Don Walker: The building and purchasing trends of NAHBS vary from year to year. Fatbikes were premiered at the show several years ago and now they are a normal find at bicycle shops worldwide. The latest “in thing” has been gravel / allroad and adventure bikes. We’re thrilled that NAHBS is The Place where trends are set.
QUESTION: Is hand built growing in general as part of the bike market?
Don Walker: I haven’t looked at the metrics within the last year, but it seems there are more handmade companies than there were 5 years ago. If they are all producing bikes at a regular rate, I would say that we are an increasing part of the market share. As more folks desire either a better fitting bike, a more personalized bike with color or bikes that aren’t available in a store, they come to the handmade sector of the industry.
QUESTION: What kind of cyclist buys a hand built bike?
Don Walker: It’s usually a cyclist who has been riding longer than 4 years, unless they have specific fit issues. There’s a myriad of reasons to go handmade, but at the end of the day, it results in a smiling cyclist on a handmade bike.
QUESTION: And how has the show itself developed over the past few years?
Don Walker: Until this year, we had been solely focused on promoting the handmade builders of the world. We’ve loosened up over 15 years and are welcoming some “heritage” and “legacy” brands. We’ve realized that there’s power in numbers and our goal is to have more people on bikes, period. We’ve always allowed component companies to exhibit with us and even some other fringe bike industry folks, but they have to offer something unique. And when you have this much unique-ness in one expo hall, you have a lot of magic happening.