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The craftsmen return

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John Murphy of Columbine Cycles

John Murphy of Columbine Cycles (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bruce Gordon pulled out the stops

Bruce Gordon pulled out the stops (Image credit: James Huang)
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In addition to being a master framebuilder

In addition to being a master framebuilder (Image credit: James Huang)
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Show organizer Don Walker

Show organizer Don Walker (Image credit: James Huang)
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Thomson doesn’t make a titanium seatpost

Thomson doesn’t make a titanium seatpost (Image credit: James Huang)
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Co-Motion built a one-off tandem

Co-Motion built a one-off tandem (Image credit: James Huang)
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Craig Calfee continues on his bamboo march

Craig Calfee continues on his bamboo march (Image credit: James Huang)
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Perennial player Waterford Precision Cycles

Perennial player Waterford Precision Cycles (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sachs had on display

Sachs had on display (Image credit: James Huang)
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Oswald showed off

Oswald showed off (Image credit: James Huang)
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Raised stainless steel logos

Raised stainless steel logos (Image credit: James Huang)
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The double chainstays

The double chainstays (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bruce Gordon pulled out the stops for this bike, featuring a custom lugged stem, custom titanium front and rear racks, titanium toe clips, and even a set of custom-built carbon fiber fenders!

Bruce Gordon pulled out the stops for this bike, featuring a custom lugged stem, custom titanium front and rear racks, titanium toe clips, and even a set of custom-built carbon fiber fenders! (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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For the ultra-chic paperboy Bruce Gordon offers this set of titanium baskets, requiring upwards of 500 individual welds per set. And yes, the whole thing is titanium: he used titanium welding rod to make the mesh sides.

For the ultra-chic paperboy Bruce Gordon offers this set of titanium baskets, requiring upwards of 500 individual welds per set. And yes, the whole thing is titanium: he used titanium welding rod to make the mesh sides. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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If you want a set of these titanium cantilever brakes, you’ll have to ask VERY nicely and tap into your kid’s college fund. Every bit was handmade, including the internals.

If you want a set of these titanium cantilever brakes, you’ll have to ask VERY nicely and tap into your kid’s college fund. Every bit was handmade, including the internals. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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John Murphy of Columbine Cycles displayed what was undoubtedly the shiniest bike in the show. I shudder to think how many hours were put into polishing every last bit of this stainless steel masterpiece.

John Murphy of Columbine Cycles displayed what was undoubtedly the shiniest bike in the show. I shudder to think how many hours were put into polishing every last bit of this stainless steel masterpiece. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Columbine is renowned for his jewelry-like lugwork, and this is a good example.

Columbine is renowned for his jewelry-like lugwork, and this is a good example. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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In addition to being staggering beautiful, Columbine also goes to great lengths to insure that each frame offers its owner excellent performance as well. One glance at this seat cluster, however, is enough to make you not care about it!

In addition to being staggering beautiful, Columbine also goes to great lengths to insure that each frame offers its owner excellent performance as well. One glance at this seat cluster, however, is enough to make you not care about it! (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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In addition to being a master framebuilder himself, Richard Sachs is now offering complete lugsets in his classic style to assist other builders.

In addition to being a master framebuilder himself, Richard Sachs is now offering complete lugsets in his classic style to assist other builders. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Sachs had on display a bit of a “before and after” arrangement, highlighting his pinned construction methods.

Sachs had on display a bit of a “before and after” arrangement, highlighting his pinned construction methods. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Perennial player Waterford Precision Cycles showed off some of their stainless lug handiwork with this frame. Waterford head Richard Schwinn referred to these lugs as “scratch” lugs, since each individual lug actually has to be fabricated in-house from welded and mitered stainless steel tubes.

Perennial player Waterford Precision Cycles showed off some of their stainless lug handiwork with this frame. Waterford head Richard Schwinn referred to these lugs as “scratch” lugs, since each individual lug actually has to be fabricated in-house from welded and mitered stainless steel tubes. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Show organizer Don Walker is no slouch when it comes to lugwork, either, as seen in this finished set of lugs ready to be brazed.

Show organizer Don Walker is no slouch when it comes to lugwork, either, as seen in this finished set of lugs ready to be brazed. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Just in case you always wanted to remember what your framebuilder looks like… Don Walker is apparently a fan of cigars!

Just in case you always wanted to remember what your framebuilder looks like… Don Walker is apparently a fan of cigars! (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Sacha White, of Vanilla Bicycles is undoubted among the best of the best. His attention to detail is arguably second-to-none, and his pleasant and humble demeanor belie the mind-blowing skill contained within.

Sacha White, of Vanilla Bicycles is undoubted among the best of the best. His attention to detail is arguably second-to-none, and his pleasant and humble demeanor belie the mind-blowing skill contained within. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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White’s personal Vanilla features a host of stainless steel ‘stripes’, along with a raised stainless steel downtube logo.

White’s personal Vanilla features a host of stainless steel ‘stripes’, along with a raised stainless steel downtube logo. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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This is not the same little plastic chainguard that you had on your BMX bike as a kid. Sacha White adds artistry to even the most utilitarian of components.

This is not the same little plastic chainguard that you had on your BMX bike as a kid. Sacha White adds artistry to even the most utilitarian of components. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Thomson doesn’t make a titanium seatpost - but Sacha White can build you one!

Thomson doesn’t make a titanium seatpost - but Sacha White can build you one! (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Tom Oswald is another star among the ‘new breed’ of builders and displayed his skills at the NAHBS on his personal 29er rig.

Tom Oswald is another star among the ‘new breed’ of builders and displayed his skills at the NAHBS on his personal 29er rig. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Oswald showed off his own lug finishing skills with this intricate head tube assembly.

Oswald showed off his own lug finishing skills with this intricate head tube assembly. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Raised stainless steel logos are all the rage at NAHBS. A simple sticker this ain’t.

Raised stainless steel logos are all the rage at NAHBS. A simple sticker this ain’t. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ahearne Cycles displayed this clean-looking 29er singlespeed with a unique double chainstay arrangement.

Ahearne Cycles displayed this clean-looking 29er singlespeed with a unique double chainstay arrangement. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The double chainstays serve on this Aherne Cycles 29er offer the rigidity of oversized single stays but with greater mud clearance and far more style.

The double chainstays serve on this Aherne Cycles 29er offer the rigidity of oversized single stays but with greater mud clearance and far more style. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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I’ll know I’ve hit the big time when I see my face on one of these custom flasks from Ahearne.

I’ll know I’ve hit the big time when I see my face on one of these custom flasks from Ahearne. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Co-Motion built a one-off tandem with an assortment of leftover steel tubing from one of their suppliers. According to Co-Motion, this frame features “Exclusive multi-shape tubing technology; It’s Knobular; Yes, it’s rideable; and No, you can’t have one!”

Co-Motion built a one-off tandem with an assortment of leftover steel tubing from one of their suppliers. According to Co-Motion, this frame features “Exclusive multi-shape tubing technology; It’s Knobular; Yes, it’s rideable; and No, you can’t have one!” (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Craig Calfee continues on his bamboo march with this unique 29er hardtail, complete with built-in rear rack.

Craig Calfee continues on his bamboo march with this unique 29er hardtail, complete with built-in rear rack. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Tech feature - March 4, 2006

North American Handmade Bicycle Show 2006, part 1

It's easy to get the idea that bike manufacturing is dominated by cookie-cutter makers of soulless production line aluminium and carbon bikes. But there are plenty of small builders still flying the flag for the personal, artistic touch that only comes with very small production, hand-made machines. This weekend, many of them gathered in San Jose, California for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. James Huang reports from the floor.

Welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2006 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, where some of the world's finest artisan bicycle craftsmen have gathered in the halls of the San Jose Convention Center in downtown San Jose, CA to show off their skills. In contrast to the tech-heavy wares of Interbike and Eurobike, form often takes precedence over function here as the emphasis is not so much on what it is but rather how it is done. As in years past, exquisite lugwork, perfectly radiused fillet brazing, and steel tubes still dominate this arena, but function has caught up with form as new steel technology and even the use of carbon fiber and other non-ferrous materials by select builders make some of these rolling masterpieces as high-performance as they are fine-art. Stay tuned for day by day reports from the show floor as well as more in-depth features to come.

Day One - lugs, lugs everywhere

After just one year, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show has grown since its humble beginnings with just 23 exhibitors in its inaugural event to over 100 of the world's greatest handmade bicycle builders, tubing manufacturers, and associated component companies here in San Jose, CA. At a time when some segments of the bicycle industry are showing flat, or even declining, sales figures, the handmade market seems hotter than ever. According to the show organizer, and a frame builder himself, Don Walker, "Right now, I'm ecstatic. We've got people coming in the door, and the handmade craze is coming back."

Perennial handmade framebuilder legends like Brian Baylis, John Murphy of Columbine Cycles, Bruce Gordon, Richard Sachs, and J. Peter Weigle continue to demonstrate why they've earned their status as the icons in the industry, while relatively recent players such as Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles, Tom Oswald, and Sycip show why they've been able to rise to prominence so quickly. Ornate lugwork and unrivalled attention to the smallest detail are classic hallmarks of the business, but the reach of some builders' creative arm can extend to just about every aspect of the bike, from ancillary parts such as seatposts and stems to accessories such as racks and baskets.

Some of these builders command waiting lists of up to several years and complete bicycles can easily command upwards of US$10,000. Does this make any sense? From an outsider's point of view, the idea of paying exorbitant premiums and enduring massive waitlists for a handmade bike may seem a bit insane, but for the end user, the decision is often more an emotional one than a logical one. "People want the one-on-one relationship that they establish with the person that's building their bike", says Walker, and White explains the phenomenon as "an undeniable urge. People either have to have it, or they don't have to have it."

When presented with one of these bikes in person (or rows of them, as the case may be), it's easy to find yourself losing giant chunks of time just staring in awe and the fantasy of having one of these built just for you can quickly take hold. Logic goes out the window and a couple of years suddenly sound like a brief moment in time as compared to the experience of owning one of these for the rest of your life. At that point, these masterpieces become more than 'just a bicycle' and the time and money involved make all the sense in the world, if only to you.

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