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North American Hand Made Bicycle Show
Portland, Oregon, USA, February 8 - 10, 2008
Part 2 - Showcase of talent moves into fourth year
By James Huang in Portland, Oregon
This year's North American Handmade Bicycle Show opened up with a first-ever industry/trade/media-only day before the doors open up to the public this weekend. The new venue offered up much more space, a more solid feel (the San Jose events were held in what was essentially a big tent), and better lighting to view what was on hand although the wet and cold weather outside the building left much to be desired.
Even with the significantly limited-access attendance, though, traffic through the halls of the Portland Convention Center was roughly on par with the opening Friday of last year which was open to anyone. Exhibitor attendance is at an all-time high and show organizer Don Walker is (probably justifiably) expecting a substantial increase in public traffic during the weekend days. As if the show needed another sign of validation, none other than Lance Armstrong himself sauntered into the halls towards the end of the first day to check out the scene for himself. We don't have any idea what he actually thought of what he saw, but even in retirement Armstrong isn't exactly rife with free time so just the fact that he took the time to wander in at all says something.
Classic designs and aesthetics were in plentiful supply as usual but they were far from the only things on the floor. With the show's increasing popularity has come an increasing presence of slightly more mainstream and modern machines with some of the 'bigger' companies making almost as much of a splash as the smaller guys.
Chris King hasn't strayed far from its roots in headsets and hubs and there isn't much to report other than a new 'sotto voce' trial aesthetic of which we're definitely quite fond. The shallow-etched graphics were first introduced on the company's 1.5" headsets and offer an arguably richer appearance that should also satisfy riders who aren't terribly keen on slapping a bunch of high-visibility logos on their bikes. Chris King hasn't made any final decision on the new look, but feel free to voice your opinion.
What is big news, though, is that King himself is jumping into the frame business with a new line called Cielo. Unbeknownst to many, Chris King the man has a background in frame building and showed off an unfinished lugged steel 'do all' classic road model late on day one.
Most of the frame is fairly standard stuff but the front end of the Reynolds 953-tubed frame bears a very unique construction: King lops the skirts off of his own Steelset headset and brazes the bare cups to the ends of a 1" head tube, thus allowing the use of a 1 1/8" steerer in a decidedly trim-looking housing. The fork crown itself is also a King creation, currently machined from a solid hunk of steel.
When will we see these? Company spokesperson Chris DiStefano was undeniably cagey on details but did say that King really wants to get back into frame building so we'll see where this goes. At the very least, though, this doesn't sound like it'll turn into vaporware like the storied Chris King bottom bracket.
Speaking of bottom brackets, Parlee Cycles has partnered with the folks at Zipp to come up with an integrated version of the latter's new VumaQuad crankset. Instead of Parlee's usual threaded titanium bottom bracket sleeve and standard threaded Zipp bottom bracket cups, Parlee will now bond in custom cups directly into the carbon shell for customers that want it.
The simplified system locks users into the VumaQuad system for now but it does shave 60g off of what was already a superlight system. Also, unlike Parlee's previous integrated system that was based on the THM-Carbones Clavicula crankset, the new system is fully supported by Zipp.
Parlee also showed off a prototype 'cross bike based on its proven Z1 road platform. The superlight machine bore the obvious 'cross-specific change, including more tire clearance around the chain stays and cantilever mounts, but it supposedly retains the Z1's ride characteristics. Gracing the front end was a new full carbon monocoque fork from Edge Composites. No word on when this will be officially launched but we can only hope it'll come in time for next fall's 'cross season.
Component giant FSA displayed its new BB30-compatible K-Force Light crankset complete with new red and white graphics that will apparently grace the entire K-Force Light line-up. The recently opened bottom bracket standard is undoubtedly gaining ground as FSA already has three road, three MTB, and one gravity-specific model completed and ready to go.
Cannondale, Van Dessel, and Specialized (unofficially) already use the oversized setup but FSA says it has sent sample BB30 cranksets to "at least five" major companies that are currently evaluating the system in prototype frames for possible future use. Word on the street is that SRAM has a BB30-compatible crankset on the horizon as well.
Yikes, a US$650 headset? That's exactly what the buzz was about in the Cane Creek booth for its undeniably chic 110 Reserve. Cane Creek replaces the anodized aluminum on the standard 110 model with highly polished machined titanium complete with matching titanium Interlok spacers. Putting the thing totally over the top, though, are the maple or mahogany inlays that are flush-fit around each cup.
Cane Creek has apparently only made fifty of the things and the exorbitant cost would suggest to most sane-minded consumers that it'd take quite a while to get rid of them all. In the decidedly no-hold-barred atmosphere of NAHBS, though, it should perhaps come as no surprise that Cane Creek's Japanese distributor snatched up ten for its home market right away and one retailer threw down for two without batting an eye... and that was only as of mid-day.
Sampson Sports debuts production version of new transmission
We're still awaiting the official launch of FSA's much-anticipated road and MTB shifters and derailleur's but Colorado-based Sampson Sports was ready at NAHBS with production versions of its Stratics drivetrain. As compared to the prototypes shown at this year's Interbike show (which were virtual twins of Sturmey Archer's new drivetrain), the new shifters' revised 'Intuishift' internals offered a noticeably crisper and more positive action along with a cold-forged aluminium shift paddle.
The system worked surprisingly well on the workstand with precise movement and fast action. The release paddle for shifting into harder gears is still a difficult reach from the drops but we'll get our hands on a test set for a real-world road test shortly nonetheless.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com