Less is More
Speedvagen stood apart from the crowd in a show full of fixies. Why? First off was the minimalist, almost Eastern-Bloc look of the paint scheme. The olive with the subtle sky blue and red pinstripes just made you smile. The offset head logo (which was a cutout backed by a piece of carbon fiber – the only CF on the bike) was another of those details you were happy to discover upon closer inspection. The integrated stem/bar setup was minimalist personified, which, when joined to the rest of the bike in symphony, made the whole thing look fast while just sitting there. This is NOT a fixie you lock up on a streetlamp… but it is one you want to ride.
Need the ultimate bike accessory for handling those drivers with their false sense of entitlement? Nothing levels the playing field and broadcasts attitude like a color-matched set of knuckles to wear while riding your Speedvagen.
Carbon Is Not Evil
You know going into this that steel is king, but with Parlee showing a booth full of what has to be some of the most incredible (in price and in design) frames on the planet, steel will not own the show outright.
Nick Crumpton gave us a unique finish on a totally handcrafted carbon frame. If you look into the matte finish of the olive-dyed frame, you see huge flakes of carbon that call to mind images of mica, or enormous fish scales. Photos do not serve justice to these, but suffice it to say, in person, they are beautiful. Nick simply takes a few of the leftover pieces of carbon and lays them over the more traditional woven tubing, and while it does add a modicum of rigidity, the aesthetic is what sets it apart from other carbon frames.
Speaking of which, have you ever seen a carbon lugged frame? Sure, you say, all the time. Carbon tubes mated to Ti or Aluminum lugs, even some carbon lugs that are fitted with carbon tubes. Well now for something completely different: the frames of RRVelo. Freddy Markham explains the process, where a carbon framed is then reinforced with additional layers of carbon at all junctures. Then the fun happens: they cut into the over-wrapped carbon and epoxy mass to give you the appearance of lugs, a cool trick that gives you a specific design goal while maintaining a very strong and rigid 13 pound bike. Yeah, 13 pounds – take that steel.
Point and Click
Shimano was here in what some saw as a miscue of targeting your audience, but everyone else saw as a golden opportunity to test out the new Dura Ace electronic gruppo aka the “Di2” that was being punished concurrently on a few pro bikes in Cali this week. Wayne Stetina himself was on hand to walk us through the paces and keep order in the queue that formed for the test bike we were all allowed to ride.
This has to be the first example of bomb-proof electronic shifting I have seen. Mavic tried dearly and failed miserably. Shimano has been hatching this egg for years now, and not only did they succeed in getting it right (very right) they got the whole group to just 68 grams heavier than the new 7900 series manual shifting setup. 68 grams (all in the battery, by the way) between effortless, utterly forgetful (in the best definition of the word) shifting and the previous cable regime (though we have to admit the non-powered 7900 series is telegraphic in its responsiveness). So they removed the weight argument. A 1500 mile LIon battery life between charges removed the range argument. And the sheer perfection of the programmed servos removed everything else. Every one of us to person, grinned like a kid when we slammed the back cog up and down the full range of gears with Halo-esque finger tapping, and while the show on the back cog was fun, the automatic trimming of the front derailleur to compensate for the rear cog placement was absolute happiness. No manual trim. None. While you were pedaling and you went from big to small and back again trying your best to cross it up, all you heard was a little “vvvvvvip” of the servo atop the front derailleur, and the thing moved a couple of millimeters. Very nice.
Ergonomics were of course thoughtfully addressed. The lever is very customizable in terms of reach, angle of the levers, etc… and the buttons, when the lever is set to a close-to-the-bar setting, can enable you to “knuckle shift” while still staying in the drops. Yeah, you don’t even have to lift the proverbial finger, as these shifters require no effort to move, merely activating a switch versus moving a spring-loaded cable. These will be F-U-N to race with.
Lest you think NAHBS is only about HB’s –
CCP of Tokyo produced one of the coolest jacket’s we’ve seen in a long time. First off, all your typical “cycling jacket” tells are pretty well hidden, the typical scotchguard was reduced to some undercover edge piping that was functional but didn’t immediately tag you as “off your bike” were you to wear it out and about. The thumbloops were gusseted and recessed so when not needed, they weren’t just hanging around your wrists. Additional vents for forward-riding positions were on the back of each sleeve, again, hidden. All of course wrapped in the latest techno-wicking-breathable-fabric.
But what was the one thing that did it? On the collar, barely visible, was a second little patch of fabric that wrapped the right collar edge for about two inches in length, and a half inch in depth. No hole for headphones, no RFID chip inside. Why was it there? So while riding, when you instinctively bite the collar and pull the zipper with your free hand (the other course remaining on the bars) you will have reinforced fabric that will survive your repeated bites and protect the integrity of the coat, think of it as a reinforced elbow patch, but for the collar of the jacket. Awesome attention to detail.
This was my first bicycle trade show. I’ve been to a few in the IT sector, TONS of them in the wine trade, and now I can add North American Handmade Bicycle Show to my list. Next year, wherever it will be, you can rest assured I will be there. So much pre-release tech, so much fresh art, so much feel-good cycling permeating the air – I only wish I had more time.