Over-the-top showstoppers from the floor of NAHBS 2011
Cherubim offers up its vision of what a track bike could look like
Japanese outfit Cherubim has consistently brought some wild machines to NAHBS over the past years and the Austin edition was certainly no different. Highlighting the booth was a wild red and chrome machine that Cherubim says is its vision of what a track bike could look like were it not for the restrictive UCI technical guidelines (pictured right).
Indeed, the bike was visually stunning, with a single member joining the seat tube and head tube stub, tall seat stays that meet up with the seat tube just below the saddle, no chain stays whatsoever, and minimal grips sprouting right from the fork blades.
We might question Cherubim's claims about the bike's aerodynamics but its aesthetic appeal was undeniable.
Sitting right behind it was a somewhat more conventional-looking machine that was Cherubim's interpretation of a modern-day club racer. Slender dual top tubes arc down to the dropouts to supposedly lend a cushy ride and disc brakes are fitted front and rear. Capping things off was a custom lugged stem, an integrated seatmast, and a handy little handlebar bag to hold the essentials.
Kimori's function-over-form trussed bikes
Truss-type bicycle frames aren't anything new but Japanese builder Kimori is among the few to still continue using them in the modern day. Claimed benefits include stiffer frames with less material – the distinctive look comes free.
Kimori also uses the truss members to help support its small-wheeled bikes' front and rear suspension. The front end uses a parallelogram linkage and an air/oil shock that doubles as the steerer tube while the rear is a simpler modified single-pivot arrangement supported by a stack of elastomers.
KirkLee rethinks the kid's bike
Months ago a photo of a certain well-off junior went viral on account of his ultralight custom carbon fibre frameset, 650c CarbonSports Lightweight carbon tubulars, Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 group and yes, even an aero helmet. Turns out that was the creation of Austin, Texas builder KirkLee who was directed to simply build the best bike they could – and not surprisingly, money was no object.
KirkLee started with a particularly light hand-wrapped carbon tube-to-tube frame and dressed it up with some of the best parts it could find to fit the pint-sized proportions. The Odyssey BMX seat and basic forged aluminum crankarms are obvious concessions but KirkLee's Brad Cason did manage to get CarbonSports to reopen its old 650c mold for one last run of Lightweight wheels.
Dare we say there may be an arms race heating up in the Texas junior ranks – good thing CarbonSports made extras.
KirkLee's custom paint jobs also nabbed the company its first NAHBS award for "Best Paint". Darin Wheeler of 2 Wheeler Customs redid Vincent Van Gogh's classic "Starry Night" using one of KirkLee's carbon frames as a canvas and there was some amazing detail – the closer you looked, the more there was to see.
Wheeler also painted KirkLee's wood-look bike with a similar degree of expertise. Made to look like mahogany, the end result was apparently more than a little convincing to some onlookers.
"Someone put the wood bike on a show blog along with the bamboo frames under 'Alternative Materials'," said Cason. "We are still laughing about that."
French builder Krencker looks to bring the luxury back into bicycles
Phanuel Krencker's stunning chrome and carbon fiber cyclosportive bike was one of the most thoroughly custom complete bikes at NAHBS with not just a bespoke frameset but also a collection of other parts that were anything but off-the-shelf.
Cyfac built the frame for Krencker using fillet brazed steel "lugs" and bonded-in carbon fibre tubes to provide a distinctive look, a lighter weight, and a smoother ride. All of the metal bits were polished to a mirror-like finish and even the carbon fiber fork was finished in chrome paint for an impressively matched appearance.
An eccentric bottom bracket allowed tension adjustment for the Rohloff-equipped chain-driven transmission and the shifter cables were run internally – fed into the frame at the bulbous head tube and then diverted around the 1 1/8" steerer. Front and rear disc brakes were by German company Tr!ckstuff.
Krencker's "luxury" theme could also be found in the custom aluminum Rohloff shifter body, the Baccarat crystal head tube badge, the custom calfskin and alligator hide coverings on the saddle and lever hoods, and tastefully understated paint job on the frameset and tubeless-compatible Corima carbon clincher rims.
Krencker says the price is available "upon request" – meaning that if you have to ask…
Massachusetts builder Maietta adds just the right amount of embellishment to its anniversary machine
Maietta's fifth-anniversary Columbus Life-tubed road bike didn't go over-the-top with its decorations but what it did do was very noteworthy. Abalone inlays were used for the gorgeous down tube logo and proud "Made in Massachusetts" badge on the top tube while most of the rest of the bike was finished in a deep black paint.
The one major exception was the bamboo-look seat tube, a convincing replica of the real thing augmented with more abalone inserts and realistic shaping. Finishing things off were the painted-to-match Enve Composites seatpost, stem, and handlebar.
Sam Whittingham steals the show yet again
Naked's Sam Whittingham has earned a reputation for thoroughly over-the-top dedicated showpieces at past NAHBS editions but took a subtler approach this time around. Whittingham says that his primary design goal for 2011 was simplicity.
"How clean could a bike be?" he asked of himself on his blog. "Take away as many nuts and bolts as possible – what is the result?"
The result took home the "People's Choice" award for its incredibly streamlined profile. There's a constant diameter from the stem all the way through the head tube and fork steerer base – with almost zero gap in between – and the custom front hub is held in place with blind fork tips and hidden set screws.
Chain tension on the singlespeed drivetrain is adjusted via neatly integrated eccentric rear dropouts, the saddle rails are welded directly to the top of the truly integrated seatmast, and necked-down sections on the top tube and handlebars yield a constant diameter when the stitched-on leather covers are added in.
All told, Whittingham's bike was a bold statement to what's needed and what isn't, and we're hoping to see this machine brought into limited production as he did with the "Baby Ganoush" – a toned-down version of the bike that not only won the top three NAHBS awards in 2008 but was later purchased by Lance Armstrong for display in his Mellow Johnny's shop.
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North American Handmade Bicycle Show