NAHBS, the annual traveling circus of kooks, craftsmen, and all things bike, is quite the scene. Frame builders of all sorts congregate from across the globe to share their latest creations. With the show's return to Sacramento, just a hop skip and throw from our headquarters, we of course had to make it out and see the latest in the world of hand built bikes.
From one man operations building lugged steel cruiser bikes in their garage to large scale outfits with a team of builders turning out high performance race bikes. Custom paint, spray paint, no paint. Gravel bikes, tandem bikes, steel full suspension mountain bikes... if you can dream it and it rolls on two wheels, chances are you'd find it it at NAHBS. While we could post for weeks on all the oddities we discovered at the show, we've distilled it down to things most interesting our own niche of performance hand built.
With Dario's passing last year, it left many wondering how the brand would be carried on. His workshop crew has been working very hard to carry on the legacy of the brand and they made that clear at the show. In addition to a strong showing of bikes, Pietro Petricola, Dario's long time apprentice, came over from Italy to show off their latest creations. Pietro has been working with Dario since the early 2000's and over the last several years has been the primary builder in the shop. His craftsmanship is proven and he was proud to stand behind the work.
They had a selection of frames on hand, showing off the iconic paint work synonymous with the brand, but there were two special builds prominently displayed. The first was this cream bike shown below. This bike was tribute to Dario, honoring the past history of the brand. It features color blocks hit with an air compressor, a familiar touch to how Dario painted many of his Ciavete bikes. The red circles are inspired by rings left by wine glasses, with the names of Dario's favorite wines inscribed within.
The second bike was this darker one. This paint was meant to express the cloudiness, grief, and confusion the crew was left in after Dario's death. This come across in the dark, clouded red base blurred, dissonant black and white stripes.
Both bikes were painted by Andrea. A young man, still in his 20s, who Dario saw an incredible talent in. He took him under his wing, entrusting only him with the the most challenging paint jobs.
Since removing the Turanti cyclocross bike from the line up, we have long been missing a proper gravel bike from the Baum line up. The wait finally ended this weekend when they unveiled their Orbis+. The magic piece to create clearance for both a standard double crankset and a massive tire is a 3D printed yoke like component, connecting the drive side chainstay to the BB shell. From there, it shares all the beauty and craftsmanship we've known and loved about all Baum bikes. It was on display at the Sram booth, so naturally it was kitted out with a Red AXS group and Zipp wheels and cockpit.
Very few vendors went as big as Mosaic. Aaron Barcheck and his crew from Boulder have been busy, both expanding their line up of bikes (particularly gravel models) and building up their relatively new paint program. Both were on heavy display at the show.
Name a wheel and tire size combo and Mosaic has a GT-1 model made specifically for it. A racey cross bike that fits 32c tubulars? They got it. A fat tire backcountry drop bar monster truck? They got it. An all weather cruiser with full fenders and 27.5" slicks? They got it. For any deep cut niche of gravel you're into, Mosaic has a bike built specifically for it. Their fully equipped bike-camping MTB even took the award for best mountain bike.
Don't forget, they make incredible road bikes, and had a similar showing of options for them too. Disc brakes, caliper brakes, fittings for external mechanical cable routing, or fully internal electronic/hydraulic set ups, they can do it all.
While they have long been know for their raw Ti frames with various iterations of etched graphics, paint has been a huge focus of their production. Their booth was a full on color explosion, fully showing off their paint gun and masking prowess.
Of course, frame builders weren't the only people with things on display. Handbuilt frames have always gone hand in hand with boutique, small batch components, and component companies were aplenty, showing off new thing.
White Industries, our neighbors just a few miles up the highway, were on hand releasing their brand new gravel rims. An alloy rim, built specifically for big tires (38c and up), available in 700c and 650b sized, and manufactured right here in California. They're still finishing up their testing and wont have any available to ride for another couple months, but we certainly can't wait to test a set out.
Naturally, they had all of their other beautifully crafted products on display. Hubs, bottom brackets, headset... all the necessary things to top off a custom bike.
Adding to the color smorgasbord was Industry 9. Their recently released Hydra hub is pretty impressive. Possibly the fastest engaging freehub design on the market and available in all cassette standards, including Shimano's new Microspline. For the mountain bikers, their A35 stem is on of the nicest looking ones out there and can be ordered in nearly any anodized color combo you can imagine.
Remember when you couldn't say handbuilt wheels without saying Open Pro? Yes, they fell off the radar at the rise wide rims, but as of this weekend they've back with a vengeance. At the show they launched their new line of carbon rims. The Open Pro carbon and CXP carbon, modern interpretations of their legendary rims. Both options are available in rim and disc brake options, all are tubeless ready, and feature contemporary widths and profiles. Will these new offerings help Mavic take back the crown of hand built wheel royalty? We're excited to see how they perform once the production models come out.
Best of all, going to NAHBS left assurance that the world of frame builders and custom bikes is alive, it's well, and is endlessly growing. Not only are there more and more builders popping up and able to leave their own mark in the industry, but the component and accessories manufactures, big and small, seem to be showing a greater awareness to the importance of custom builders have in the market relative the big box brands. It's an exciting time for bikes, and we're proud to work day in and day out with the best handcrafted bike builders in the world.