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North American Hand Made Bicycle Show

San Jose, California, March 2-4, 2007

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Part 2 - No velodromes in sight, but lots of track bikes anyway

By James Huang in San Jose, CA

Where is Don Walker's family from?
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Grassroots cycling culture is brimming with track bikes these days, and there was perhaps no better venue for their resurgence than in the halls of the San Jose Convention Center this weekend. Along with the high-end commuter bikes also seen here at the NAHBS, the fixed gear/track bike phenomenon is an interesting one that flies somewhat under the radar of most mass manufacturers. While many of those companies are just recently beginning to offer entry-level, or even mid-level, models, the high-end is still a decidedly cottage industry that the handbuilt crowd serves in eminently competent fashion.

Unlike those commuter bikes, however, there isn't any immediately obvious reason for the proliferation of the segment. After all, track bikes have little real purpose outside of their intended velodromes, and they are decidedly less utilitarian than their rack and fender equipped brethren. NAHBS show organizer Don Walker is an established frame builder himself and specializes in track bikes, yet even he is awestruck at the current trend.

Pereira Cycles displayed a beautiful track bike.
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

"Right now there's this big fixed gear/track bike culture. It amazes me. I remember when I used to train on a track bike on the road as a junior and, you know, that was training. These guys aren't training; they're just riding around, or maybe working if they're a messenger. I don't know. For whatever reason, someone started this trend of getting Japanese keirin track bikes over here, whether they're new, used, or whatever, and it's all about style points. I'm not sure how it happened, but the US builders are now saying, 'well, wait a second, we build track bikes, too,' and everyone's upped the ante as we're trying to show that we compete with the Japanese keirin builders. Everyone just thinks track bikes are cool. They're clean and you don't see a lot of cables and stuff hanging off of them. They're elegant and simple at the same time."

Whatever the reason, few can argue with Walker that track bikes are simply flat-out cool, and they were noticeably rampant this year. Stripped of the distractions of additional parts and accessories, the fixed gear/track bike genre is perhaps the prime showcase for a frame builder's capabilities and many examples displayed here deftly found that middle ground between showy embellishment and elegantly functional simplicity in brilliant fashion.


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Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com