Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 25th, 2012 at 8:06 pm
Friday night, scores of handmade bike lovers squeezed into the Ace Hotel Cleaners for the inaugural 'Show Me Yours' event. The idea was to give local bike builders a proper sendoff before packing up their bikes for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) which starts this coming Friday in Sacramento.
By all measures, the night was a huge success. The hometown crowd got a chance to see some amazing handcrafted bikes (while enjoying drinks and a prize raffle) and the builders were able to relax and exchange notes with peers in a setting much more intimate and relaxing than the dizzying crowds and glare of the Sacramento Convention Center they can expect next week.
I spent some quality time with two bikes in particular — Ira Ryan and Ben Leonard's "Ned Ludd Market Bike" and Joseph Ahearne's fat/snow/sand bike. I share more about each of them (including notes from a chat with Ned Ludd restaurant owner Jason French) below. But first here are a few other bikes that caught my eye...
Mitch Pryor (MAP Cycles) nailed this homage to a classic Masi road bike...
A handmade hub made by San Diego-based Curtis Odom mated to the Mitch Pryor fork...
Mark Dinucci's luscious red road bike with a ton of classic highlights including: a Brooks saddled custom modified in the early 1960s by famed Italian "saddle butcher" Ottusi; an ALE watter bottle from the 1950s; "bulge-formed" Tange lugs, and more...
Dave Levy's titanium singlespeed, belt-drive speedster...
Matt Cardinal and Nate Meschke of Signal Cycles debuted this svelte, swoopy, yet stout step-through...
And then there was the Ned Ludd Market Bike.
The way Ryan tells it, the inspiration for the bike emanated from a conversation with French outside Ned Ludd over a year ago. As Ryan and Leonard unlocked their bikes following an "amazing meal" at the restaurant, French followed them out. "He comes out in a t-shirt in the pouring rain," Ryan recalled, "telling us how he wants a bike he can take to the market." Ryan said at first they listened and were interested, but they didn't exactly drop everything and start on the project. It was French's enthusiasm that put them over the top.
Ryan says he, French and Leonard really hit it off in the subsequent months thanks in large part because he sees French as the, "foodie equivalent of handmade bike builders."
French bills his restaurant as an "American craft kitchen." Everything is wood-fired and made by hand. The axe in his logo is replicated on the bike, in wooden panels on the main triangle, and inlaid on the front rack and bed of the trailer.
Jeremy French was at the show Friday, along with his four-year-old daughter Viola and wife C.J. French. Jeremy said he could have just went out and bought a stock bike and trailer; but he loved the collaboration process and now he's a got a bike with that already has a life of its own. "Like a restaurant, this thing is a living, breathing, organism... It's going to propel me more than I propel it." He also says the bike will inspire him to ride more. "This is my 'no-excuses bike'," he said, grabbing his midsection. "I have to deal with my 40-30 [the 30 pounds he's gained in recent years]."
The trailer is the most ambitious work yet from Ben Leonard and his Trucker company.
Leonard has quietly made cargo and pannier racks for Ryan and other builders for years, but this trailer just might launch his brand into the limelight. It's a stunning piece of work...
Leonard , who used to work in a bike shop in the trailer mecca of Eugene (where Burley calls home), says his Ned Ludd trailer is based on a design by BOB Trailers. Leonard liked how a single-wheel BOB trailer he once owned tracked behind his rear wheel. During testing for this project he used a BOB hitch attached to a Burley trailer.
To allow the trailer to "roll" behind the rear wheel, Leonard added a lateral joint that utilizes a Chris King headset. It's one of two King headsets on the trailer. In total, Leonard has built in three bearing surfaces: One via an extended rear hub axle, one for main side-to-side movement of the trailer, and the other for the "roll" effect. "Between these three bearings," explains Leonard, "It's a universal joint, but by spreading them out, you solve a lot of problems."
Another nifty feature of the trailer is the thumb-shift lever that engages a disc-brake to make parking easier.
Leonard currently does Trucker racks on the side (he's also a landscaper and stay-at-home dad). He says if there's enough interest in the trailer, he'd consider a production run. Retail price would be about $1,500 to $2,000.
Another bike at the show that pushes the boundaries of utilitarianism was Joseph Ahearne's eye-catching fat bike. This is Ahearne's first-ever attempt at making a bike on this platform made popular recently by Surly and adventurous tourers.
Ahearne says he built this for himself and plans a tour on the sand down the Oregon Coast this summer. The inspiration for the bike came after meeting a pair of fat bike tourers while he was on a multi-day bike trip of his in the Vancouver Islands last summer. As usual, Ahearne has added quite a bit of whimsical flair to this bike.
After a test-ride, he realized the huge tires, "Threw up tons of mud," so he created a custom set of fenders by pulling inner tube material over a web of steel tubing. The see-through, plexi-glass rack tops are another fun touch. Since this is an adventure machine, Ahearne has equipped it with five bottle cages, a special tent/sleeping bag holster on each side of the front fork and a total of three flask holsters.
This is just a taste of what's to come! Later this week I'm headed to Sacramento for the annual NAHBS show. Stay tuned for photos and stories.