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By Karen Kefauver
March 2, 2012
Link to Sentinel article

Craig Calfee of Calfee Design is one of only six frame builders... (Karen Kefauver Karen Kefauver )You don’t have to go to the dusty desert of Burning Man to see bikes that are works of art. Instead, you can see hundreds of beautifully crafted bicycles at the 8th annual North American Handmade Bike Show, today through Sunday at the Sacramento Convention Center.

While you probably won’t see bikes decorated with flowers and frills, as you might at Burning Man, you will notice exquisite attention to detail on the lovingly constructed bike frames and have a chance to meet the colorful and sometimes quirky frame builders who take great pride in their work.

When I last visited the NAHBS in San Jose in 2006, I was amazed at the variety of bicycles and their artistry. I admired road, track, touring, mountain, downhill and cruiser bikes, made out of steel, aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber and bamboo. I was also delighted to witness some wild and wacky bike creations that defied naming.

Fortunately, being a bike geek is not a requirement to enjoy this show. Even though I love bike riding, racing and writing about cycling, I can’t talk at length about gears, tire treads and disc brakes, hallmarks of true bike geekdom. As someone who appreciates craftsmanship and bicycles, I found myself deeply engaged and wanting to spend more than half a day I had allocated to browsing at the show — and that was in 2006.

When I return to NAHBS this weekend, I plan to spend more time there and thank Don Walker, Founder and President of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, for bringing back the show to Northern California for the first time in half a dozen years.

John Caletti of Caletti Cycles builds a bike frame in his Santa Cruz design... (Caletti Cycles )“This is a big opportunity for people to see totally unique bikes,” said John Caletti of Caletti Cycles in Santa Cruz, who is one of six local frame builders headed to the show. “And it will be a chance to spotlight Northern California frame builders.

“It’s a good way to connect with potential customers, meet the media and hang out with the other builders and talk to them,” added Caletti, who has attended NAHBS for the past five years. “There’s a community feel to it. It’s not sales oriented and it’s not competitive. It is more of a camaraderie amongst
builders and other people who are excited about art, craft, and bicycle tradition.”

From 2005 to 2011, the bike show has been held in
Houston, twice in San Jose, Portland, Ore., Indianapolis, Richmond, Va., and Austin, Texas.

Having the show in different cities is part
of Don Walker’s mission: He wants everyone to know what a handmade bicycle is. And he hopes this will make people think twice before buying
their next bikes.

“As long as there are people in the market for a new bicycle, they should know about what a handmade bike is. I want
people to know who we are and what we do,” said Walker, the owner of Don Walker Cycles who has been building bicycle frames since 1991 and was a road bike racer a decade prior to that.

John Caletti of Caletti Cycles builds a bike frame in his Santa Cruz design... (Caletti Cycles )This weekend, in its eighth year, the show, which offers seminars in addition to an expo, has registered 172 exhibitors — including six from Santa Cruz County: Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster Cycles, Josh Muir of Frances Cycles, Todd Ingermanson of Black Cat Bicycles, Rick Hunter of Rick Hunter Cycles, and Craig Calfee, who will host two booths: Calfee Design and Bamboosero.

In addition to the chance to display his work, Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster Cycles, said, “The best thing about this show is I get to see all the frame builders in one place. That is really rare. It doesn’t happen at Interbike, [North America’s largest bicycle trade event] or smaller shows. It’s just this one that has the buzz and where the international media shows up.”

Sadoff, who launched Rock Lobster in 1984, and works out of his shop on the Westside of Santa Cruz, has an ambitious display planned for the expo.

Another seasoned frame builder who lives and works in south Santa Cruz County, Craig Calfee, will haul at least 12 bikes to the show for his two company booths, Calfee Design, established in 1987, and Bamboosero, launched in 2008.

“The North American Handmade Bike Show provides great exposure,” said Calfee, who is best known as a leader of using carbon fiber for building bike frames.

One of the bikes Calfee will display is a family tandem, which originates as a two-seater has the capability to include more seats for more riders.

So what is a handmade bike? Typically, it’s a bike that is built and designed by a bicycle frame builder that is specifically made for a single customer — as opposed to a bike that has been made by mass production. While bike shops may carry a few custom bikes, typically, someone in the market for a handmade bike will need to contact the frame builder directly.

As Don Walker continues his mission to showcase the talents of the best builders of handmade bicycle frames in the world, his attitude is: “The
people are here for the bikes, not the hype.”

Karen Kefauver www.karenkefauver.com is a freelance writer who covers sports and travel and is based in Santa Cruz.

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