This year's second annual Rocky Mountain Bicycle Show saw a change in time frame – from November to August – and a new venue with its new home in the National Western Complex in Denver, Colorado. Though the quaint atmosphere of last year's University of Colorado at Boulder ballroom setting is gone, taking its place was a deeper collection of builders and other exhibitors, not to mention a lot more people walking through the door.
Snow bikes in August?
Small builders seem to love snow bikes for whatever reason and RMBS 2009 was no exception. Local builder James Bleakley of Black Sheep Bikes showed up with his rendition, a typically swoopy titanium singlespeed creation complete with his own take on the small-tubed titanium truss fork. Instead of the usual sliding dropouts or eccentric bottom bracket, Bleakley also chose to go his own route with a pair of telescoping chain stays to tension the chain.
Unlike the Moots snow bike (which also made another appearance at this year's show), Bleakley's bike looked to be more utilitarian with its capacious front rack and yes, a cupholder. As is usually the case for this segment, both the front and rear wheels use identically spaced hubs in case something goes wrong with one of the freehub drivers.
Upstart builder Sendero Cycles also brought its own version, outfitted in more of an expedition style with front and rear racks, a Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension seatpost and five bottle mounts – two specifically sized for fuel canisters. Save for the dual top tubes, the steel frame was otherwise fairly traditional in appearance and construction.
Haven't heard of Sendero? Neither had we before the show, seeing as how they've only been around since December. But one of its key members certainly has plenty of experience: none other than mountain biking legend Joe Murray. Keep an eye on these guys.
Townies abound in bicycle-friendly Denver
RMBS' host city may contain roughly half a million inhabitants but its extensive array of dedicated bike paths and lanes and mostly aware drivers still make Denver an official bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. Not surprisingly, townies and commuters still occupied much of the show floor this year.
Portland-based builder Aaron Hayes of Courage Bicycles tossed the gamut of small builder tricks into an understated brown townie he built for his girlfriend. A Schlumpf crank neatly provides two gear ratios but with the clean look of a singlespeed, the Schmidt front hub dynamo powers neatly integrated front and rear E3 LED lights, and just in case some more intensive travel is in store, the lugged steel frame includes a pair of S&S couplings for quick disassembly. Fellow Portland builder Tyson Hart of Civilian Bicycle Company showed off his own townie, too, built with a step-through lugged and TIG-welded steel frame and Shimano Nexus internally geared hub.
Likewise, Argonaut Cycles builder Ben Farver also brought along a townie he built for his significant other. The steel step-through frame features both lugged and fillet brazed joints along with leather details and a trick stainless steel brace joining the top tube and seat tube. Naturally, there's a Schmidt dynamo front hub here as well.
One of the most unusual townies on hand, though, was the laminated bamboo Panda from Renovo. Unlike Calfee's natural bamboo creations, Renovo first builds up blocks of bamboo, whose inner and outer surfaces are then machined like with their hardwood bikes (yes, wood – as in Paul Bunyan) and bonded together to form the final structure.
According to Renovo, the natural composite materials (wood and bamboo are actually quite similar in principle to carbon fiber composites) offer an ultra-smooth ride, carbon-like durability and are also environmentally sustainable – not to mention recyclable.
Sendero's commuter was also rather unique. Built on an extended wheelbase measuring somewhere in between an ultra-long Xtracycle and a standard single frame, the 'Station Wagon' was commissioned for a customer who wanted to haul a lot of gear but also the occasional passenger. Footpegs are integrated into the chain stays just ahead of the rear dropouts and the rear rack is reinforced with extra-beefy hardware. Anyone need a lift?
High-end options for the discerning tandem rider(s)
Three tandems also caught our eye at this year's RMBS. As always, DaVinci's unique drivetrain is compelling for its ability to let the captain and stoker pedal at different cadences – or even coast completely while the other rider does all the work. The system is decidedly more complex looking than typical tandem transmissions but its independent pedaling benefits and extra-wide gearing range still makes its more than worthwhile for many potential customers.
Situated right next door was a Rohloff hub-equipped tandem from Bilenky Cycle Works. In contrast to the DaVinci, the Bilenky drivetrain was decidedly more simplistic in appearance, sporting just two chains, no visible derailleurs and both chains on the right-hand side of the bike. S&S couplings on the frame also make for reasonably easy transport as well.
Oh, but where to put the Rohloff shifter? Since the proprietary twister is intended only for use on mountain bike bars, Bilenky built a short extension into an extra-tall headset spacer. Though not quite as ergonomic as having the shifter underhand at all times, it's admittedly functional.
Paketa's road tandem definitely slotted in at the more performance-oriented end of the scale with a feathery magnesium frame that the company claims is lighter, stiffer and smoother than an aluminum equivalent – all without the usual supplementary tube between the captain and stoker compartments.
According to Paketa's JP Burow, the V2 tandem can be built up around 11kg (24lb) and the show display bike was likely even lighter given its Gates Carbon Belt Drive standing in for the usual timing chain.
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