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Headed to Sacramento for North American Handmade Bicycle Show

Posted by on February 29th, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Vanilla's kids bike-12

A scene from NAHBS in
Austin last year.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Tomorrow morning I’ll hop in a car with a friend and drive 600 or so miles to Sacramento for the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. NAHBS is the annual showcase of America’s budding handmade bike industry. I’m going down to document and support the 18 or so Oregon companies that will exhibit and to get a sense of where handmade bike making is headed.

Joining me as a contributor will be Ryan King (his blog). Ryan works as a mechanic at Weir’s Cyclery in St. Johns by day; and by night he works as a shop assistant with Portland-based builder Ira Ryan. Mr. King and I will be roaming the aisles of the Sacramento Convention Center to bring you images and stories about the people, products and bikes that define the handmade bike business in America.

To get a sense of how I’ve covered NAHBS in the past, browse the 50 or so stories and photos I’ve published over the years.

Last year in Austin I talked with many builders about not just their bikes, but how they approach the business of making bikes. I’ll continue those conversations this year as I try to go behind the shiny paint jobs to bring you a more in-depth sense of this exciting industry. (But don’t worry, I plan on publishing lots of gratuitous bike porn as well!)

On that note, I’m looking forward a panel discussion being hosted by Bicycling Magazine promising “a candid conversation” with “the industry’s top builders, business leaders, and retailers.” I’m always curious how many of the builders are actually making a good living and how many are just hobbyists. And further, what potential does this industry have to spur more high-volume bike manufacturing in the U.S.?

Are there specific things you’d like to know more about the handmade bike biz? What builders are you eager to see/hear about? Let us know and stay tuned for more NAHBS coverage.

— Learn more at the official 2012 NAHBS website.

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  • Nola Wilken February 29, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    How do builders address the price driven consumer who doesn’t know the difference between a crappy dept store bike and a handcrafted frame. How can bike manufacturing ever really return to the US? I see NO trends in that direction. The fact is that builders cater to a tiny segment of the population– bike geeks with money to spend. However component manufacturers are giving Shimano some competition. Paul, Chris King. Maybe there is hope… Where are the women bike builders? Being a builder seems like a labor of love and not very lucrative. Say I’m wrong and I’ll gladly switch careers!

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  • dwainedibbly February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    Look for cool little details, and take photos! I am always amazed by the little things that custom builders put into their products, things that escape a cursory glance or a photo from more than a couple of feet away.

    And how about if Mr King could write something about the show from his perspective as someone who is an insider, someone who really “gets” custom bikes? I’d love to hear/read his insights.

    Have a great trip!

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  • andy February 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    I hope the builders are making money. At a local bike shop they buy parts at cost in hopes of selling at retail prices. But there is no “retail” price when it comes to custom frames. In my opinion even when you factor in the hours put into building a frame, paint, assembling parts on bike, I don’t know how they cover the costs of the shop let alone earn a good wage. But I don’t create bikes I just ride them so what do i know….

    I do want to support this local industry and made a financial decision 2 years ago to save for one of these beauties. Now I cannot wait for Sunday to finally see a Portland, OR made bike it in all its glory.

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