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Portland builders take home two awards at NAHBS

Posted by on February 10th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

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Don Walker at the NAHBS awards ceremony.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Two Portland builders stood out among the country’s best bicycle craftsmen today at the awards ceremony at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS).

Aaron Hayes of Courage Cycles was voted “Best New Builder,” and Joseph Ahearne won “Best City Bike” for the second year in a row.

Aaron is a former product designer who started building frames just six months ago. When I visited his shop in Northeast Portland a few weeks ago he said he thought of his NAHBS debut as “a challenge”.

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Aaron Hayes
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Well Aaron, you not only met the challenge, you rose above it. Congratulations!

Last year, Joseph Ahearne took home the “Best City Bike” trophy for a mixte he made for his girlfriend. This year, the award went to his gorgeous orange bike I gave you a preview of last week.

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Joseph Ahearne
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His winning bike.

The day’s biggest winner was another name you’ll be familiar with — Sam Whittingham of Naked Cycles. His stunning single-speed that I drew your attention to yesterday took home three major awards today; “President’s Choice” (chosen by show founder Don Walker), “People’s Choice”, and “Best in Show”.

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Sam’s rig won big.
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Sam Whittingham

After accepting his awards the British Columbia-based builder told the assembled crowd that he built the bike, “to pay homage to the Portland scene.” “You guys have something really special going on here,” he said, “and I wanted to do something special to honor that.”

11 Comments
  • Barbara Kilts February 10, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Wow… still trying to absorb everything I saw today. The sheer number of people building beautiful machines is mindboggling. Our local builders shined brightly and everyone from out of town was swept by the Portland groove. I enjoyed seeing the creativity of new builders and the refined work of veterans. It was nice chatting with folks that knew Sam Braxton, the Montanan who built my bike 31 years ago.
    Also, Sam Wittingham, the \”Naked\” bike creator has another award in his collection – fastest human on the planet! He piloted a streamliner recumbent cycle to 81mph in the Human Powered Speed Championships held in Nevada (which may come to Oregon – another story!)

    A good way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

    B

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  • joel February 11, 2008 at 7:04 am

    sams bike was an incredible piece of work. a ton of time and talent went into it, and it was beautifully, *beautifully* done – but at the same time, i have to say that in the end, it honestly didnt do a whole lot for me – it seemed to be to be somewhat of a hodgepodge of bling-for-the-sake-of-bling show bike touches, something the portland show was (in my opinion, thankfully) short on.

    i had high hopes for the domination of the show by city, work, rando and touring bikes – bikes meant to be *used*, day in and day out, not so much \”just\” raced, or simply eye candy. overall, i have to say my hopes were rewarded, and the portland builders played no small part in this revised focus of the show. even some builders ive come to expect over-the-top work from were notably toned down, which surely must have been hard to do.

    not to be down on sams bike, though – but it was a bike designed, built, and presented to win best of show, and a show with a big focus on builders simply showing off the work they *do*, day in and day out, rather than the crazy insane detail theyre capable of doing, for me, it felt somewhat out of place.

    the one bit on that bike that did turn my head, though (outside of the \”hey whats that shiny thing over there?\” aspect), was those eccentric rear dropouts – maybe not an entirely novel solution to chain tension adjustment (yes, it has been done before… 🙂 ) but very nicely done.

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  • Joe February 11, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Thanks to all, clearly a great time.
    Sunday was nice and chill 🙂

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  • hanmade February 11, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    My only dissapointment with the show, there were no recumbent builders (ok, there was a half recumbent tandem). There is a lot of room for creativity in recumbents, just peruse Coventry Cylcles colection sometime. Maybe next time..

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  • Mike February 12, 2008 at 7:57 am

    I don\’t know what he was doing there, but as I was leaving Sunday, I passed Sho Dozono coming in. I\’d like to see him take a greater interest in bikes, even if it is just an economy thing.

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  • Mmann February 12, 2008 at 8:01 am

    The NAHBS show was truly amazing. Getting to see and touch bikes I’ve only seen in pictures was a treat, and getting to meet the builders even more so. My dream is to someday own a custom bike, and I realized more completely that my taste runs to the classics. There was some great innovative stuff and some cool bike art, but I found myself most drawn to the masters; guys like Mark Nobilette, Bill Davidson, Bruce Gordon, Richard Sachs, and our own Andy Newlands. These guys are beyond fads and true masters of the craft. For all the eye candy, if I were permitted one bike to walk out of there with, it probably would have been Sachs’ cross bike.

    And seeing the Rene Herse classics was an unexpected treat as well.

    As for the venue, I chose to take MAX only because I figured bike parking would be a hassle and I was right. That’s too bad because I would rather have ridden. One would think this could have been anticipated. National bike show + Portland doesn’t take a genius to figure out a lot of folks will show up, many on bikes. And then our city gets a black eye in the bike world with the whole lock-cutting thing. This comes full circle to the whole Portland bike infrastructure discussion. I think this can be viewed in a positive way as further evidence we need improvements. So many folks showed up that the fire marshal had to limit entry and the 500-capacity bike racks were filled. This is good news if you are promoting improved bike infrastructure. Further evidence we’re way beyond fringe: By my count from the brochure there were 18 Oregon frame builders there, from Ashland to Portland, plus Hufnagel (not in the brochure) makes 19. Add to that Chris King, Rapha, UBI (who else am I missing?) and the Oregon representation was, like 15-20 % of the entire show. I really hope the people in visitors + tourism, transportation, Portland business, etc. took notice.
    On that note, I ran into a couple Japanese guys there Saturday who flew here for the show. Awesome.

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  • Brian Wilson February 12, 2008 at 9:15 am

    Many communities routinely have bike valet parking for events a fraction of the size of this one. (Including farmer\’s markets, sporting events, etc not just national bike events)

    You just put out a tip jar and it becomes self-funded. I have a friend in San Francisco who makes a living at it.

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  • Spencer February 12, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Greatly enjoyed the show and was pretty excited to see the continual development of Randoneer and cargo style bikes. As these independents frame builders develop and tweak new frame design, the big guys are learning from them and integrating the new ideas into affordable every-man models. In this way, these boutique builders are affecting the world at large.

    My greatest point of concern is the development of a class of \”Orange County Chopper\” bike builders. There were a number of bikes at the show, including the show winner, that were beautifully crafted but totally impractical for the real world (wood rims?). I am concerned that the industry will become to focused on a rarified audience and loose touch with the practicality of purpose that has supported their development. I would have preferred that the awards focused more on a \”form fits function\” ethos that still rewarded beauty and craftsmanship, but prioritized practical innovation.

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  • Donna February 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I was very happy to see the Best City Bike award stay in Portland another year.

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  • joel February 12, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    spencer –

    thankfully, there is a difference between building a flashy impractical \”show bike\” to showcase what youre capable of, and building flashy impractical bikes as the mainstay of your business.

    fortunately, i havent yet seen any builders whove crossed that line into building nothing but art pieces in the form of bicycles.

    and for what its worth – wood, metal-clad wood, and wood core rims were practical for the first century of the bicycles existance. i see no reason they cannot still be practical in the correct application – builders are revisiting the 100+ year old idea of wood (whether in the form of hardwoods or bamboo) as the base material for frames – theres no reason not to revisit its viability for rims…

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  • Mmann February 13, 2008 at 8:49 am

    I\’m just speculating here, but seems to me the amazing properties of wood in regard to stiffness as well as it\’s ability to give might make it a better material for rims than alloy or carbon fiber for regular (street) riding where one good pothole can ruin a rim. I\’d be interested to hear from anyone with experience riding wood rims.

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