35 year-old builder Sam Whittingham of British Columbia-based Naked Bicycles, exhibited at NAHBS last year. He displayed several of his Naked Bicycles, got a few orders, but he failed to wow the crowds.
This year, he thought he would do something different. He brought only one bike — but he made it count.
The result, of what he said took him about eight weeks to complete, is a bicycle that many folks say is the odds-on favorite for “Best of Show”.
It’s a bike that blends an appreciation of a centuries-old tradition and aesthetic with new ideas and features that Whittingham says “are what handmade bikes are all about.”
Whittingham told me the bike was inspired in part by Sacha White’s stunning tricycle from the 2006 NAHBS, but mostly from the grass track and six-day racing that used to pack venues like the Madison Square Garden nearly 100 years ago.
The bike’s aggressive yet agile lines might also have come from Whittingham’s intimate experience with speed. According to Wikipedia, he currently holds five world speed records for recumbents and human powered vehicles.
But the story of this bike is more about the execution than the inspiration.
As I walked around the bike, Whittingham listed off all the bike’s impressive touches: the tied-and-sautered spokes; the silver pinstriping on the wooden rims; the eccentric rear-axle dropouts; the hole through the head tube lug for a U-Lock; the front disc-brake cable that enters at the fork crown and runs the entire length of the fork leg; the custom handlebars with finger impressions; and the vintage Dia-Compe MX brake lever.
One interesting feature that really stood out came by accident. When peering down at the shiny silver rear hub body, an optical illusion from the wooden rim makes it appear like the hub is transparent. Take a look…
Taken all together, Whittingham’s bike is a true piece de resistance that demonstrates what can happen when a talented bike builder combines his personal passion with an appreciation of history and a creative, bold vision that pushes the boundaries of bike design.
Nice work Sam.