HBG's tips for NAHBS 2019
The longest-running custom bicycle show starts on Friday, March 15, in Sacramento. With another vintage year in prospect, here are some of the exhibitors and seminars we'll be taking a look at during the three-day event.
Sacramento March 15-17, is the third time the great roving bicycle spectacular of NAHBS has set up in the convention center of California’s capital city, and the fifth time total in the Golden State.
According to show information, 190 companies from 12 countries will exhibit at the event. Among these, show-goers will find around 90 bicycle makers, some 80 of which, coming from nine countries, produce frames with custom geometry. The foreign contingent numbers 16 companies.
One of the most notable shifts among veteran exhibitors is Carl Strong with his successful new Pursuit Cycles brand. Strong is understandably excited about these new bikes, into which considerable talent and resources have flowed in recent years, but if you’re hoping to see his titanium Strong Frames bikes at NAHBS, you’ll have to contact him separately about those, because this year he’s all about Pursuit carbon fiber.
The Pursuit Leadout is offered in limited numbers for 2019. Photo courtesy of Pursuit Cycles
Calfee will be showing the latest refinement of the Manta, a bike with rear suspension offered for both road racing and adventure cycling. A single 12mm coil suspension inside the wishbone seatstay makes this is easily the most comfortable road bike we at HBG have ridden, and according to Calfee it is among the most efficient at converting leg work into forward motion. With Trek and Pinarello also pursuing the idea that road bikes with rear suspension roll more efficiently than those without, some Tour de France competitors are taking up this new technology. One of the most enduringly innovative bicycle manufacturers in the world, Calfee is keeping ahead of the game.
Calfee's Manta Pro road racing bike with rear suspension is a game changer. It comes with adventure geometry too. Photo courtesy Calfee Design
Another company working on advancing bicycle technology is Italian brand T-Red. Their award-winning track frame, shown at last year’s NAHBS, deserved more publicity than it got. Reports from pro riders at the velodrome are that this rear end tracks straighter under maximum pedal force than does a conventional frame.
Erica Marson (l) and Romolo Stanco of T°RED with their award-winning track bike in 2018. Photo courtesy of NAHBS/Brad Quartuccio
Of all the foreign countries exhibiting at NAHBS, Italy leads the pack with five frame builders. This indicates a significant re-growth in the Italian artisan bike market. The late Dario Pegoretti told us at the San Jose show back in 2007 that the Italian frame builder scene had been reduced down to only a small handful. By now it is back to a healthier state, and there are many more custom builders in Italy in addition to those making the trip to NAHBS this year.
Colombia. We all know how big cycling is in Colombia, right? But what about Colombian frame builders? This year, Bicicletas Duarte, a Bogota frame builder, will be exhibiting at NAHBS
On the subject of getting to the show, way back in 2012, the first time NAHBS visited Sacramento, Sam Whittingham, of Naked Bicycles, and his apprentice Iolo ran a Road to NAHBS campaign, making the statement that elegant looking bikes with unorthodox, purpose-built, designs may look good hanging on a wall but their place is on the road. To this end they called Ortlieb for some panniers, packed up, and rode the show bikes to the show, starting from British Columbia. This year, Brooklyn-based builder Tom Porter is planning to ride his show bike 3500+ miles home from NAHBS. The frame will be displayed in the Black Magic Paint booth, and Porter is understandably interested to see how it looks at the end of his trip. Porter, who displayed the beautiful Winged Victory bike at the New England Builder’s Ball last year, says this new touring frame has the most expensive paint on any bike he’s yet made.
Tom Porter's Winged Victory bicycle was a crowd favourite at the 2018 New England Builder's Ball. Photo courtesy Velo Orange
Those looking for the one-stop shop will want to visit the Blacksmith Cycles booth. This Toronto, Canada, bike shop is a retail outlet for more than 20 different custom builder in four continents. If you’d like to know how that works out, we’re on the same page as you.
Dragging ourselves away from the gay abundance of custom bicycles on the show floor, and heading to the rooms of enlightenment, the Friday and Saturday seminars include, among many, several leading frame builders. Our experience with these sessions over the years is golden. Frame building legend Tom Ritchey, talks about tubing diameters, Steve Potts discusses building titanium bikes, TIG welding grand master Brad Bingham talks TIG - from footwear to inverter TIG machines - and John Caletti brings his broad experience to a general talk about custom frame design. And delving back into the early years, Stephen Wright, descendent of the Wright Brothers, relates stories about his great grand-uncles and their bicycle workshop.
Cyclists looking to enjoy the long-awaited good weather in Sacramento may meet a local group that usually includes a few of the frame builders leaving at 7 a.m. from the Starbucks at 13th/J St. The ride is sponsored by Boyd Cycling.
Finally, Bay Area cyclists looking to ride to the event may join a group leaving from the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station at 9 a.m. on March 16.
All show information is at www.nahbs.com
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