Monday, May 4, 2009


Like A Visit To the NAHBS - But In A Book!

If you haven't heard of the NAHBS, it stands for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, a not-to-be-missed event that brings together the gifted artisans from around the world who build custom frames and bicycles. Ordinarily, you'd have to visit the framebuilders to view their work and learn about their philosphy of design and cycling background. But, this super show, gives you full access in one place, which is quite a treat.

A couple of years ago, the show was held in San Jose, California and I was there to see the phenomenal craftsmanship, innovation and beauty in person. Here are some photos. This year, however, the show was held in Indianapolis, which was too far away for me to attend. So I was delighted to discover this new book about framebuilders and their work called Custom Bicycles, A Passionate Pursuit by Christine Elliott and David Jablonka. Like attending the NAHBS, this hardcover, 240-page coffee-table book takes you into the workshops of 39 custom bike builders from the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, England and Australia.

Many of these builders are familiar to me, like Richard Sachs, Bruce Gordon, Jeff Jones, Bilenky Cycle Works, Cycles Alex Singer, Lynskey, Steve Potts Bicycles, Pegoretti and others. But there are new frames and faces too, like Atum22, Wolfhound Cycles and Crisp Titanium. And, all are lovingly depicted in 300 large color photographs that capture their wonderful work and spirit. It's truly like a bicycle show in a book. Plus, the focus of the writing is on what brought the builders to bicycles and what their design theories are, so you feel like you get to know each artist and understand the type of machine they'd build you.

I thoroughly enjoyed Custom Bicycles and recommend it highly. The only thing is that reading it is a lot like visiting the NAHBS. When you get done, you'll probably wonder how you're going to find the funds to buy all those dreambikes you now simply have to have. At least with the book, though, you can keep ogling the pages. I've been going back and forth between Columbine Cycle Works with their luscious lugwork, Richard Sachs' flawless finish work, Jeff Jones' delightful curving tubes and sweet head badge and Bruce Gordon's over-the-top custom components and accessories... I just need to win the lottery.

Custom Bicycles, A Passionate Pursuit is available online from Amazon for about $40.