The bikes on display at the 2018 North American Hand Made Bike Show, recently completed in Hartford, CT, are inspirational works of art, beautifully constructed and painted, ready to hit the road or trail. As a life-long biker, I’ve been to many rides and festivals that feature a few booths and vendors selling accessories, but this was my first time at a proper bike builder show, so I was like a kid in a candy store.
The show was big enough that it took us a bit more than 4 hours to walk the floor, but not so big that you got overwhelmed and desensitized to the beautiful creations on display. The material of choice was steel, with plenty of carbon fiber and titanium on display as well. A few builders showed bikes made with bamboo tubes, with a particularly interesting bamboo project on display from the Cyclolab at the University of Kansas.
The attention paid to each machine is truly impressive. Gleaming paint jobs, exquisitely crafted welds, beautiful head badges, polished chrome bits and matching seat/tape and cranks/rims are all standard offerings. I have a hard enough time keeping the tires matched on my personal bikes. Coordinating the color scheme as tastefully as the pro builders do it is no easy task, proving once again how important the details are.
In addition to the bike builders showing their wares, the show included displays from several of the big parts manufacturers, tube producers, wheel builders and vendors selling other accessories. I was surprised that there were not more bag makers participating, since many of the bikes shown were bikepacking and adventure-touring rigs.
Overall, for a bike enthusiast it is a great way to spend an afternoon. For a design fan, or someone who appreciates hand crafted, analog technology, its a rare collection of people and objects literally exemplifying the state of the art. I’m happy to report that the custom build bike industry is thriving. Now I just have to figure out how to get one myself.