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North American Hand Made Bicycle Show -

San Jose, California, March 2-4, 2007

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Part 3 - Handbuilt for the road

By James Huang in San Jose, CA

Dario Pegoretti is best known for steel,
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Road bikes and their associated relatives (touring and randonneur) are arguably the most classic genres of the handbuilt bicycle world, and their rich history strikes a perfect fit with what is often the traditional aesthetic of the handbuilt industry. The timeless appearance of some of the works shown at the NAHBS conjures up images of days gone by; intricate lugwork, delicate pinstriping, and heaps of chrome and polished stainless steel marked example after example this year, especially from industry icons Bruce Gordon, Brian Baylis, and Sacha White.

That being said, 'old school' looks may be the stereotype of the handbuilt world, but it is far from the only type of bikes being built. Lugged construction was used on thoroughly modern machines as well that would not look horribly out of place among the most advanced carbon or titanium models. Also, a number of TIG-welded machines easily held their own amongst their esteemed colleagues with creatively curved tubes, deep lustrous paint, and other bits of brilliant design. As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and any number and variety of elements can add up to a spectacular bicycle.

Stunning lug and paint work by Peter Mooney.
Photo ©: James Huang
(Click for larger image)

Regardless, even classic-looking bikes don't have to be classic-feeling. Steel was still the predominant material at this year's NAHBS, but metallurgical advances from the likes of Reynolds, True Temper, Columbus, and Dedacciai have enabled ferrous bikes to remain competitive on a performance level. Builders such as Richard Sachs still utilize the material exclusively and sponsor racers with steel frames, and many will still argue that no other material can match its ride quality.

Will steel ever return to its former position of glory atop the frame material food chain? Not likely, but that won't necessarily stop me from owning another steel bike someday…


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

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