At a trade show such as this, there are so many things to see, so many stories to hear, and so much to soak in. This must be the psychology behind casino design, because once you enter a bike show, you lose all concept of time. I wish I had more time to spend with the 2009 NAHBS. Period.
So many beautiful bikes, so much rolling art. Wow-moment innovation in seemingly every other booth. And so many up and comers mixed with founding fathers, there were great stories to tell. All I can do, short of really dumping a ton of data on you, is give a glimpse of some of the cool stuff I saw. So in no particular order, let's take a swim through NAHBS 2009...
It Only Looks Old
ANT Bicycles – classic lines and lacquered black frames of the tube diameter associated more with turn of the century parisienne cruisers will trick your subconscious into relegating the bike to "before your time." But like a well done resto-mod, this one-off custom bike gives you tons of clues to the technology it holds, not just in the frame design, but in the componentry. Like everyone else, ANT is employing the Shimano powered hub/internal eight speed rear hub, so all your junk is internal (no weird generators and derailleur cages to get bent and broken) and the lines all the cleaner. About the only clear giveaway from distance are the dual disc brakes, which kinda give it a meaner look akin to putting a set of Chip Foose rims on a lowered but otherwise stock musclecar. You see it, it registers, and then you begin to wonder what’s under the hood.
I loved this bike. Some of the most pleasing angles I've seen on a commuter, they speak to reason and thought, and maybe they just appeal to my right-angle sensibility, a perfect bike of OCD angles and lines and proportions oh my. It looked like the visual equivalent of a Delahaye or Talbot (though perhaps not quite as aero), but with all the latest goodies. Just an all around visually pleasing bike that also was a customer's regular commuter.
God is in the Details
Map Bicycles – their line of commuters are an excellent example of how easy it is to judge from a distance. Their pannier-laden bike this year sported some of the most ornate lugging around, a 60’s era Masi builder would be jealous. Another nice touch was the braze-ons for the rubber “trampoline” chain guard, a tasteful if not excessive bit of functionality that set it apart from the crowd. And never mind the paint…
Kimori continues to blend suspension-bridge, eye-crossing mini tubing with small wheelsets and insane chainrings to give us compact bikes that still move. The fact that these bikes are actually “full suspension” by way of elastomer stacks further boggles the engineering mind.
Peacock Groove Bikes would win the “Holy Cow Lugs” award for the rear stays alone. Waterjet anyone?
To be filed under “The Cycling Sommelier Wants…”, I give you this simply awesome display of welding and engineering (and a perfect metaphor for the mash-up of my two worlds of interest) in the form of a two-bottle front pannier rack from Signal Cycles in Portland Oregon. Made me smile gameshow big when I first laid eyes on it. Must. Have. A simple yet ingenious closed loop of nylon cord and some strategically placed leather straps protect the wine bottles from the wood and stainless that make up the unique rack. And about the wine, Commuter Cuvee from Grochau Cellars - if ever there was a good cause, this bottle supports it. We will do a full story on the wine in a future article, but for now all you need to know is that this Pinot supports a great cause in the Brett Jarolimek Memorial Fund.
Bilenky gives us a headache when we dare to break down the man-hours in creating a formidable tandem that actually breaks down itself. Look closely and you will see the lock joints in the frame, and if that isn’t enough, each cable has a miniaturized version as well, so the whole thing can be chopped into thirds, and I guess boxed up. I don’t think I’d ever want to break it down, but I guess it’s great to know I could. And the third brake (via an outboard braze-on shifter) not only operates the rear drum, (which in tandem – sorry, had to do it – with the regular canti’s will bring the behemoth to a stop) acts as a parking brake as well thanks to the shifter’s ratcheting mechanism.
Velo Orange a manufacturer, custom builder, and importer – also brings us some ingenious components. The most intriguing yet deceptively simple thing in the show has to be the super-light cnc’d aluminum cantilever brakes – if you look closely, you will see a nut just on the outside of the brake pad post. That nut, when loosened, frees up an internal ball joint that allows for perfect toe-in alignment of the pad, and once tightened, locks that setting in place. That, my friends, is awesome.