We despatched our pal Cass Gilbert to the North American Hand Built Show to see what goodies he could dig up. Even though the show was a couple of weeks ago, these bikes aren’t going to be dating any time soon…
Its Fox RP23, along with some squish in the chainstays, promised 1.5in of travel. Finishing kit includes custom ti handlebars and stem.
The Rohloff Speedhub is mated to the newer Center Track Carbon Drive Belt, designed to stop the belt from sliding over to one side. Makers Gates claim the belt will outlast a conventional chain twice of three times over, though costs are much higher too.
How much cush do you really need? This ti softtail fat bike was an crowd pleaser. It weighs in at 33 lbs, saving a good deal of heft with its tubeless tyres. Don’t let the lack of snow in Arizona, where Form are based, put you off. Apparently their bikes are being bought by those exploring the dry riverbed trails of the Sonoran Desert, out on the Mexican border.
The integrated seat mast is adjustable by 20mm, using a butchered Thomson seat post to create an internal wedge.
Long time Titanium master Steve Potts picked up the Best Titanium Construction award. Simple, understated and beautifully executed, this compact 29er included custom ti stem and bars. The steel fork is rigid-specific, updated from a Charlie Cunningham, straight-bladed, crowned design first unleashed some 30 years back.
Amongst the most interesting of the Fat Bikes on show was this Bamboosero cargo bike. An offshoot from Calfee, Bamboosero is an ambitious project aiming to provide affordable, locally built omniterras for the African market – the frames on show were made by framebuilders in Ghana from local bamboo. Craig Calfee hopes to offer them both as low cost, reliable rental bikes for harvesting times, and to be rented out to tourists on bike trips promoting tourism in the area. The Nuvinci hub claims five years of maintenance-free service, while the fat tyres were chosen to protect rims over difficult terrain. Bamboo spokes can also be used to bolster strength. As many materials and components as possible will be sourced from the region. For example, the platform and chain guard are made from a local tree bark, once exported up the Nile to the Egyptians to embalm mummies…
Talking about fancy finishes – Independent Fabrications went all out on this ti big wheeler.
A button on a customised Chris King headset turns the light on and off, while the guts of the electronics are hidden in the steerer tube.
Fancy finishes are the name of the game at the show, as on this Groovy Cycles 29er. The story goes it’s a fortieth birthday present for a lucky father. The deal? His daughter got to choose the finish…
Echoing the Ritcheys and Bridgestones of yesteryear, this filet crazed Gallus 650B had a timeless feel to it. A blast from the past, it was finished with ‘new old stock’, including Sugino cranks, Suntour thumbies and finned cantilever brakes.
The real McCoy was at the show too. The moustachioed man himself,Tom Ritchey, is building a limited run of 40 frames to celebrate 40 years of building frames, each fillet brazed and finished with nostalgia graphics.
Rick’s Hunter High Plains Drifter was built for camping trips into the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. It sports a Ritchey Break-Away style sleeve and an S&S for overseas travel. Even the drop bars, 60cm at their widest, can be split.
Swing dropouts seemed popular this year, such as this Hunter designed version for single speed and derailleur compatibility.
Also geared for overnighters was this Black Cat. Its finely crafted, suspension compatible front rack harks back to the platform designs of old randonneurs bikes.
The aptly named Alcohauler, seen here in the workshop in which it was made, was inspired but the barge-like Dutch cargo bikes. Built by car-free living Josh Boisclar to haul 3 kegs of beer, it was ridden a hundred miles to the show.
And lastly… Also from the realms of the bizarre was this 36er Brobdingnagian single speed, seen here with 6ft 4in Black Sheep employee Tod Heath for a sense of scale. The whole ti rig weighs in at 33 lbs. 20lbs of that are in the wheels. 10lbs of which are in the tyres alone… Weight penalties and tyre availability aside, Black Sheep say it will ride up stairs and descend down trails like a demon. Aptly, it won the Best Experimental award.