While the North American Handmade Bicycle Show is primarily a showcase for some of the world's finest bespoke bicycles – and their builders - it's also about the accompanying industry that support them, from the component manufacturers and tubing suppliers to the jig makers and lug distributors.
Several companies arguably even owe their very existing to the growing cottage bike business. Once knee-deep in the CNC-machined mountain bike componentry craze of the 1990s, Paul Component Engineering and White Industries have both reinvented themselves to cater to the singlespeed, fixie and handbuilt markets.
Being very small volume outfits, they can not only adapt their range of offerings more quickly than bigger corporations but their primarily CNC-machined manufacturing methods can also be retasked without generating massive retooling costs.
Paul's range of new wares at NAHBS include a bottom bracket-mounted variant of its neat single-ring chain keeper to better suit frames without round seat tubes, a medium-reach version of its retro-inspired Racer center-pull road brake to allow for bigger tire sizes, and a nifty do-it-yourself hub kit that easily adjusts for different dropout spacings depending on the application.
White Industries' new crank system was decidedly more unconventional with keyed stainless steel pedal inserts that quickly and easily insert into a quick-release socket in the proprietary arm.
According to White Industries, this setup turns any pedal into a quick-release bit that's ideally suited for travel bikes or other applications that require instant pedal removal.
Speaking of pedals, Sampson Sports' new Stratics road pedal was a particularly promising-looking design. Based on Look's popular KéO (and using a compatible cleat), the Stratics look to possibly do them one better with its partially recessed and replaceable stainless steel upper plate that fully supports the cleat on its outer edges to eliminate off-axis rocking.
Lightweight alloy bodies and optional titanium spindles bring the weight down to just 99g apiece, too, and Sampson hasn't even skimped on the axle system with three cartridge bearings per pedal and no bushings whatsoever.
Pricing is very appealing at US$139 for the steel-axled s5 version and US$239 for the titanium s6. We've already begun road testing of these and been very impressed thus far. Stay tuned.
Leather specialist Brooks always arrives at NAHBS with a full load of gear and this year's edition was no different. Among the new offerings is the Cornwall handlebar bag and Devon rear pannier, both exquisitely crafted of treated cotton canvas and thick leather.
Brooks has also brought back the classic Colt leather saddle shape and is making a return to outerwear with its Oxford roll-up rain cape.
US distributor/importer Cantitoe Road was also in attendance with its range of Wippermann chains, Cole wheels, and Effetto Mariposa accessories but what really caught our eye is its upcoming Biofloat seatpost.
A tunable elastomer insert isolates the saddle rail clamps from the rest of the head and allows it to pivot and translate just a tiny bit to promote a more natural pedaling action, reduce the occurrence of saddle sores, and provide a little more isolation from the road.
Though not a suspension seatpost in the sense that it doesn't provide any real vertical travel, the Biofloat design still looks to offer real comfort improvements over rough roads or trails. We're keeping our eye on this as well.
Other high-end goodies spotted on the NAHBS show floor include Stan's NoTubes' upcoming ZTR Alpha 340 aluminum clincher road rim with a feathery claimed 340g weight and trademark rim cavity shaping for easy tubeless compatibility.
Target weight for complete wheelsets is around 1,140g with American Classic hubs and DT Swiss Aerolite spokes and NoTubes says it's likely to use 2:1 lacing on the rear for more balanced spoke tensions.
Want more? Industry Nine showed off its redesigned road wheels, which now use conventional straight-pull stainless steel spokes instead of the old alloy ones and HED arrived with a prototype carbon road bar with an appealing-looking semi-anatomic bend.
The off-road crowd can also look forward to Scrub Components' upcoming metal matrix disc brake rotor with cast magnesium carrier and insane 50g weight (for a 160mm size) while White Brothers showed off its tweaked Rock Solid carbon rigid mountain bike fork with new post mount tabs and increased offset.
And with that, we wrap up this year's coverage of the Shimano North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Next year's event will be held February 25-27 and moves to Austin, Texas, and with anticipated collaboration with Lance Armstrong's Mellow Johnny's bike shop and the man himself, we expect the 2011 edition to be simply massive.
Hope to see you there and in the meantime, here's the list of this year's award winners:
Best in show: Ellis Cycles
Best road frame: Bilenky Cycle Works
Best track frame: Richard Sachs
Best carbon fibre: Crumpton Cycles
Best titanium: Kent Eriksen Cycles
Best fillet brazing: Kirk Frameworks
Best city bike: YiPsan Bicycles
Rookie of the year: Aaron Dykstra, Six-Eleven Bicycle Co.
Best off-road: Engin Cycles
Best tandem: Calfee Design
Best steel frame: Spectrum Cycles
Best lugged frame: DiNucci Cycles
Best TIG-welded frame: DeSalvo Custom Cycles
Best paint: Llewellyn Custom Bicycles
President's choice: Cherubim
People's choice: YiPsan Bicycles