Tech feature - March 5, 2006

James Huang continues our coverage of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show with a look at the...

North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2006, part 2

Day Two - Details, details, details

Don't blink, or you might miss it

James Huang continues our coverage of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show with a look at the many fine details that artisan builders use to set their bikes apart - to the point where some of them are rolling works of art. Part 1 is here.

The halls of NAHBS are filled with bicycles that are utterly beautiful on a number of different levels, and a patient gaze and sharp eye are well-rewarded here. From a distance, the clean lines and flawless finish draw your attention but a closer inspection reveals the endless array of fine detail on these creations which is often what really sets these machines apart from your typical production bicycle.

As you would guess, this level of intricacy requires an inordinate amount of time and patience that simply can not be achieved with mass manufacturing, at least not with the degree of personal involvement that often accompanies these works of art. Handmade bicycles are just that; they are made by hand, one at a time. There is no assembly line, no time clock and no shift manager. The only 'robots' involved require regular food and drink, and some builders, such as Tom Oswald, even profess to using only hand-operated tools. Thankfully, the nature of the handmade industry, particularly the end consumers who are willing to pay the premiums and can appreciate the artistry, will generally accommodate however much time is required to achieve the end result.

These fine details not only require a patient and steady hand, but also the creativity and aesthetic sense to ensure that they are not only pleasing to the eye but also contribute to the overall package. Just as you can have too much makeup or jewelry, a little too much embellishment can come off as gaudy or ostentatious. Just the right amount of the proper pieces assembled in the right way, though, produces a whole that is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

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