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March 21, 2006

Singletrack Magazine


The North American Handmade Bicycle Show concluded its run earlier this month in San Jose, California. The second annual event showcased 103 exhibitors, with the spotlight squarely upon the 63 frame builders from around the United States and Canada.

Housed in a massive blue tent, the show was well attended and the mood relaxed as visitors wandered from booth to booth to view the builders’ latest innovations. Frames for road, track, touring, mountain, downhill, cruisers, built with steel, aluminium, titanium, and carbon fibre and most featuring exquisite attention to detail – there was something for everyone.

“To be able to meet all these builders and actually have a chance to talk with them is awesome. They are very generous with their time, whether they are superstars or novices,” said John Caletti, of Santa Cruz, California, who is launching his own frame building business ( www.cloudnine-design.com ). “I think the goal of the show is to grow this segment of the bike industry. Here, I get to see things that I don’t even see in the magazines.”

“Our mission for the show was simple: Showcase the talents of the best builders of handmade bicycle frames in the world,” said the event organizer, Don Walker ( www. donwalkercycles.com ) of Hewitt, Texas. The strategy worked well on the central coast of California: more than 3,000 visitors filled the convention from Friday through Sunday to meet and talk with novice and veteran builders alike and to attend a variety of seminars hosted during the event. “The people are here for the bikes, not the hype,” said Walker, who noted that the event had quadrupled in size since the first show, held in Houston, Texas, in 2005.

Judging by the attendance at the show, perhaps Jan Heine, editor of Vintage Bicycle Quarterly and co-author of “The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles,” (Vintage Bicycle Press), who spoke at a seminar on “The Future of Handmade Bicycles in North America” is correct when noted: “The future of the handcrafted bicycle lies in the non-racers, the enthusiast riders who are educated and looking for the best bicycle. Now it is our job to redefine what the best bicycle is .”

In a show packed with talented builders, here is a snapshot of the man behind the bikes: Two minutes with Three Frame Builders:

Vanilla Bicycles
Sacha White
Portland, Oregon
Sacha White, 29, started building frames six and a half years ago. His original interest was in classic scooter restoration, working on Vespas. But after four years as a bike messenger, his interest shifted to road and cross-country riding and racing. Favorite bike: “I am a big fan of the rigid 29er,” he says of the larger mountain bike wheel size.” Specialty: “My passion is cyclocross. I sponsor a ‘cross team.” Being a bike messenger: “I was the fittest I have ever been in my life. I rode like 60 miles a day.” Family: “My family is car-free. My wife and two kids walk or bike where we need to go. It is awesome.”

Vicious Cycles
Carl Schlemowitz
New Paltz, NY
Inspired by his dad’s metal sculpture work and his mum’s artistic influence, Carl, 37, started building bikes in 1988. He enjoys the technical challenge of bike building and enjoys making bikes with an artistic flare, like his Kissy Lips frame. About Kissy Lips: The mountain bike, painted white with a red lipstick imprint pattern, is a labor of love. “It’s very whimsical,” said Carl, who admitted it was not built for any woman in his life in particular. Why Vicious? “The company’s name is a positive thing,” said Carl, who has been asked about it many times. “On one hand, the bike helps carry you away from the vicious cycle of life’s stress, but it also means you need a bike vicious enough to handle tough terrain.” First bike building workshop: A barn on a horse farm in rural New York state. “I was nervous about burning it down, so I moved,” said Carl.

Retrotec/Curtis Inglis
Curtis Inglis
Napa, California
“I am a mountain biker at heart, ” said Curtis, 37, of Napa, California. He has been building bicycles since 1993, first for Bob Seals at Retrotec in Chico, CA the in 1996 he began building under his own name in San Francisco. After relaunching the Retrotec line in 2001, he now works on two lines – Inglis Cycles and Retrotec. Passion: 29ers. Two-thirds of my business is mountain bikes, said Inglis. 29ers are a growing niche, with the big tire volume, they ride really nicely and roll over things smoothly. On “curvy bikes”: The retro look, with the curves “either appeals to you or makes no sense at all. At shows, people either walk right by or are magnetically drawn to them. First love: For me, the curvy bikes remind me of my first 20-inch Stingray I had as a kid.”

Stay tuned to www.handmadebicycleshow.com to see where the 2007 event will be held. Thanks to Karen Kefauver www.karenkefauver.com for the words and Norman Field for the pics.


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