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‘Naked’ bike draws attention

Posted by on February 9th, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Naked Bike at NAHBS-7.jpg

There’s more than meets the eye
in Sam Whittingham’s booth.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

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”.

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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.

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Now that’s convenient.

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…

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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.

[More photos of this bike.]

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  • David Dean February 9, 2008 at 1:49 pm


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  • Russell February 9, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    Amazing bit of bike porn… I almost feel dirty staring.

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  • a.O February 9, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Totally bike porn.

    Question for the aficionados: Is this the kind of thing that would actually get sold and ridden, or \”just\” art?

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  • BURR February 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    sautered = soldered ?

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  • Elliot February 9, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    Now that\’s the bike that makes admission worth the $18 ticket, am I right?

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  • John February 9, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    THAT Sam Whittingham!!? (fifth result from the bottom) Amazing where a career will take someone. One day, the fastest self propelled man on earth, the next he\’s quietly assembling pretty bicycles. Some people just can\’t go wrong, it seems. That\’s a beautiful bike!

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  • joel February 9, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    one and the same. he been building for a while now, i think

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  • hanmade February 9, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    It is by far the \’best of show\’ bike, and I didn\’t realise who it was I was talking to. He has done a beautiful job.
    But you are right, a.O, I would just want to hang it on my wall and look at it or just ride a little it in good weather!

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  • Opus the Poet February 9, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Sam makes beautiful bikes, with an outstanding eye for details. By comparison my bikes deserve their TrashBike moniker.

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  • jimbo February 10, 2008 at 10:13 am

    To a.O

    I am by no means an \”aficionado\” but my guess, if Sam Whittingham has been inspired by Sacha White in the least bit, then the bike is not only art, it is bullet proof and can be peddeled anywhere, anytime. I like going to roadster shows too, but knowing most those cars never see a street unless its at least 70 degs and no rain, its nice to believe that the bikes at the show can be seen in most weather conditions, and perform just fine.

    It was my favorite bike for sure. And thats no knock against any other builders at the show what so ever!! Nothing but eye candy at every turn.

    Did you see the Ruegamer carbon track bike??? It looked like it was doing 60 mph just sitting there!! Then there was that other bike………..and that other one..and oh ya…did you see….?????? Ohhhhh baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • mmann February 10, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I will be surprised if that doesn\’t win best of show. There were some stunning bikes and some that I\’d be afraid to ride – seemed more for display than use. My taste lean to the bikes where every detail is thought out to enhance the ride. This bike was spectacular to look at, but the more I looked the more I realized it was all purposeful. Wow.

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  • Jon February 10, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    This was one of my least favorite bikes there. The only way it could be more gaudy is if it was made of gold and encrusted in diamonds. Each one of the accoutrements is neat, but put them all together and it makes me want to barf. I hope they give best in show to a bike that someone will actually ride.

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  • Jeff Wills February 10, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    FWIW: Sam\’s bike won \”People\’s Choice\”, while the lugged titanium (!) bike built by Bruce Gordon and painted \”Monkey Vomit Green\” (!!!) by took home \”Best of Show\”

    Sam\’s a genuinely nice guy- it\’s sometimes tough to believe he\’s the World\’s Fastest Self-Powered Human. He\’s got another record: fastest human-powered crash:


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  • Gordo February 10, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    actually sam\’s bike did get best of show, as well as people\’s choice, as well as the president\’s choice award. We\’re very proud of him.

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  • mmann February 11, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    Rumor is Lance himself purchased it for 15K.

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  • rev February 20, 2008 at 11:19 am