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Our coverage of the 2011 NAHBS is supported by United Bicycle Institute.

A very rare pair of bikes for Mr. Horton

Posted by on February 25th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

NAHBS 2011- The Horton Pair-20
It all started with two old chainguards.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Brett Horton is one of the most well-known collectors of vintage bicycles and racing ephemera in the world. For the past 25 years he has amassed a unequaled collection of 15,000 objects and 20,000 photographs.

So, what happens when the owner of The Horton Collection wants a personal bike for him and his (equally bike-obsessed) wife Shelly? Today, NAHBS goers, and now the world, found out.

His.
Chris Bishop
Mr. Horton’s bike was made by Chris Bishop.
Hers.
Stephen Bilenky
Ms. Horton’s bike was made by Stephen Bilenky and his crew.

About a year ago Horton approached two builders whose work is as impressive as his collection: Stephen Bilenky of Bilenky Cycle Works and Chris Bishop of Bishop Bikes. The result of their collaboration are a pair of custom “constructeur” bicycles that have become the most talked about bikes of the show. Almost every part has been custom fabricated specifically for this project.

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I talked with both Bilenky and Bishop about the bikes. I can tell the many variables and the timeline made this project both technically difficult and mentally draining (“stressful” is how Bishop described it). “He [Horton] approached me last year,” recalled Bilenky, who made Shelly’s bike, “It seemed like an innocent at the time, like any other project.”

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Bishop, who made Brett’s bike, says the project was “stressful” but that he’s excited about how the bike turned out. “I put in two, 100-hour work weeks at one point,” he said. “It’s the little things that get you on a project like this.” Part of the huge time commitment for Bishop was a stunning, hand-forged aluminum stem. Inspired by legendary French constructeur Rene Herse, Bishop started with a single block of aluminum and then milled it out by hand to give it a rounded, finished look that’s rare for aluminum.

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Other custom touches on the Brett Horton bike include a Brooks saddle with spiral-wrapped steel springs and “Horton” laser cut into the pedals. The Shelly Horton features custom panniers made by Laplander Bags from Philadelphia. Both bikes feature a custom-drawn tubeset from Columbus, wooden rims, and exquisite paint schemes.

One of the most eye-popping features on both bikes are the custom Phil Wood hubshells that wrap a Rohloff hub in the rear and a dynamo front hub.

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When describing his bike, Bilenky, a builder known for meticulous details and artistic flair, used the word elegant. “I got the idea for the lug designs off an art deco train station door.”

Both men started with the vintage, 1930s chainguards that Horton brought to the project. Those chainguards sparked the aesthetic direction of the bikes. Whether the end result is your style or not, I hope we can all appreciate the technical prowess, aesthetic vision, and collaborative spirit that went into this project.

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NAHBS 2011- The Horton Pair-37

Stay tuned for more coverage of the 2011 NAHBS from Austin. See our latest images here.

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Comments
  • Sel February 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I would give my first born for the Shelley Horton. No lie. It is absolutely gorgeous.

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  • joel February 25, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    great to see pics of these – ive been hearing about them from brett since before builders were chosen, and its been a pretty insane project. both builders, and all the other manufacturers involved, have done utterly amazing work on these – and rest assured, people, theyre going to get ridden :)

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  • Douglas February 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Beautiful bikes…I believe the Brooks saddle on the Brett Horton is a B33. Ornate stranded coil springs, triple rails and a front loop, but a standard model: http://www.brooksengland.com/en/Shop_ProductPage.aspx?cat=saddles+-+city+%26+heavy+duty&prod=B33

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    • bob k. February 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm

      it was actually a modified b33 with non-standard hammered copper rivets

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    • Brett Horton March 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      Hi Douglas,

      You possess a very impressive knowledge of the Brooks line. While not clearly visible in the photos, the saddle is in fact stamped B33. While I liked the basic design of the standard B33, I asked Brooks to execute the following:

      hand selected hide –
      smooth finish rather than textured normally found on a B33. A smooth finish generally demands a high quality hide because any blemishes are very easy to spot.

      hand skived stripe along the side edges of the saddle -
      (standard saddle does not incorporate this feature)

      no bag loops -
      (loops are standard on the B33)

      hand hammered copper rivets –
      (smaller chrome rivets are standard on the B33)

      The saddles on Shelly’s bike had similar modifications and also include saddle laces.

      The saddles arrived to me only a few days before the show. Still to be done is modifications to the saddle frame fasteners and the addition of a very elegant seat post mount specially fabricated by Phil Wood to accommodate the triple rails of the B33.

      I’m guessing some of the other folks do not understand the functional rationale of using a modified saddle rather than one that is fully custom. Custom leather bodied “show” saddles look wonderful. However, the unfortunate reality is after 400-500 miles of actual use the shape of most “show” saddles is lost. To properly hold shape, the saddles need to be blocked and that requires very specific tooling.

      Neither of these bikes are wall queens. The only “wall queens” I own are those that have actual historical racing significance. Even then, there is not a single one of them that is NOS or even close. All of them were the actual bikes ridden to victory by such unknown, minor riders as Freddy Maertens, Lance Armstrong, Mario Cipollini, Greg LeMond, Jean Alavoine, Rik Van Steenbergen, Bernard Hinault, and others.

      Every bike I have ever owned that is not of historical race significance (ie including these two town bikes) is ultimately rode into the ground. From my perspective, an unridden bike has no soul!

      Warm regards,
      Brett Horton

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  • Paul Hanrahan February 25, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    Horton hears a who? Nice bikes!

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  • dp February 25, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Wow. Incredible details!

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  • Jim Lee February 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    I do not know what to think.

    Wretched excess?

    Profoundly ugly?

    Edsel cycles?

    All details, no design?

    As least Jay Leno admits he has more money than brains.

    Sarcasm, much, but I cannot stand such worthless rubbish.

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    • CaptainKarma February 25, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      This is ‘merica, where everything is taken to extremes.

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    • joel February 26, 2011 at 6:42 am

      to each their own, i suppose. for me, as far as no-holds-barred nahbs showstoppers, the two bikes the hortons had built, while absolutely chock-full of one-off parts, blow the doors off some of the other blinged-out nahbs bikes ive seen over the years in terms of usability and practicality.

      they may not be to your taste, but worthless rubbish they are not. the project grew from a fairly simple one when conceived, and snowballed as the companies involved in supplying componentry jumped in enthusiastically, desirous of making one-off parts for this special project. the sheer amount of not-your-ordinary custom work on these is mind-boggling, and not entirely due to bretts desire for a unique pair of bikes.

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    • wsbob February 26, 2011 at 9:42 pm

      “…Profoundly ugly? …” Jim Lee

      Be specific: what do you think is ugly about those bikes.

      The basic design of each bike is tried and true traditional, both the diamond frame of the men’s bike and the mixte frame. That particular mixte frame variant with its slightly swoopy and recurved top tubes was apparently very popular across the pond in past decades and produced in great numbers.

      Classic and vintage bike enthusiasts love that style bike frame, and the sculpted chainguard. Seeing more bikes like that on the street seems like a good thing to me.

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  • Harald February 26, 2011 at 4:25 am

    Nice bike. What’s the point of the hub generator when you don’t have lights? Oh well, these probably won’t be ridden much anyway. Bikes belong on the roads, not in museums.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 26, 2011 at 6:02 am

      Harald, I failed to mention it in the article, but these bikes are not yet complete. There are still several details that were not done in time for the show… one of which are the lights. Thanks.

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      • Harald February 26, 2011 at 6:23 am

        I see. That makes more sense. I’m sure an Edelux would look nice on those bikes.

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        • joel February 26, 2011 at 6:33 am

          the guts would be nice, but aesthetically you may as well ziptie a flashlight to the handlebars. lights are on the way, trust me.

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          • Greg February 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

            While you may enjoy the technical excess, from the pics, the “his” bike is already aesthetically ugly. The colors clash, the textures clash, it’s just a big jumbled mess.

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        • bob k. February 28, 2011 at 5:38 pm

          they are getting supernova head and taillights with custom machined housings from phil wood

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    • joel February 26, 2011 at 6:44 am

      i know for an absolute fact that these bikes will be ridden. there are bikes in bretts collection that dont get ridden – but the ones that hes had built for him are not they.

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  • Alexis February 26, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Beautiful photos of beautifully-made bikes! Can’t say I love the look myself, but they are obviously lovingly crafted and I admire that about them.

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  • TheCowabungaDude February 27, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Those are two of the most beautiful bikes. Congratulations to the Hortons and to the builders. Wow.

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  • kww February 27, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Are those Ghisallo wood rims? Yes! More here:
    http://wheelfanatyk.blogspot.com/2011/02/upcoming-2011-handbuilt.html

    ps to the haters, you sound jealous

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  • craig February 28, 2011 at 10:18 am

    That beautiful bi-plane fork crown echoes the 1982 mtb crown design that Tom Ritchey pioneered, that were revived one-time only by Ritchey in 1993 for top-end Bridgestone road and mountain bikes. Real works of sculptural beauty.

    http://prollyisnotprobably.com/2010/02/tom_ritchey_unicrown_fork_pion.php

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  • beth h March 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    The Hortons and their constructeur-collaborators have just set the bar for the objectification-of-bicycles-as-sex-objects impossibly high. Any bike maker will be hard pressed to come close to the INSANE beauty of these two bikes.
    Zowie.
    Get me my lobster bib.

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