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Wider bike shoes, Sim Works, 3-D printed titanium, and more at Oregon Handmade Bike Show

Posted by on August 15th, 2017 at 4:02 pm

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The 10th annual show was held in the old Columbia Sportswear headquarters in St. Johns.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Handmade Bike Show celebrated its 10th anniversary this past weekend. I was fortunate enough to be there on Saturday to meet a few of the exhibitors and see their latest creations.

Here’s what caught my eye…

Shoes by Venn Design

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Tyler Benner.

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A traditional shoe last on the left, Benner’s on the right.

Remember the name Tyler Benner. Benner and his Portland-based Venn Design are on the cusp of unleashing a new type of shoe that could revolutionize not just cycling but many other sports as well. The key to Benner’s approach is simple yet profound: His shoes give your feet — and especially your toes — more room to work their biomechanical magic.

Benner is a believer in the direct connection between healthy feet and toes and optimal athletic performance — a philosophy promoted by Portland-based podiatrist Ray McClanahan that has led to the development of his Correct Toes system. Benner studied physics in college and is a noted archery expert who trained at the Olympic Training Center and competed internationally. But he told me Saturday his research on the connections between feet and performance came from driving. “I drive a sportscar and I noticed I couldn’t use the clutch pedal with the dexterity I wanted.”

He soon realized his narrow cycling shoes were also limiting his physical abilities on the bike. Once he started using wider shoes, he says, “It caused a chain reaction up my whole body.”

Benner’s shoes use a bamboo sole and have a generously wide footbed. A small cushion in the arch area adds to the comfort. I tried them on and loved how they felt (disclaimer: I was already a big believer in the healthy toes thing ever since local bike fitter Michael Sylvester turned me on to it). Watch for these shoes to be available for sale on Benner’s website very soon.

Fat Chance settles into Oregon

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The versatile Chris Cross.
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Mark DiNucci (left) and Chris Chance. This was a very fun conversation to eavesdrop on!

Mountain bikes from builder Chris Chance were revered in the off-road glory days of the 1990s. After a hiatus from building, Chance is back with Fat Chance Cycles and has set up shop in the southern Oregon town of Ashland (along with other noted builders like Mike DeSalvo, Jeff Jones, John Slawta (Land Shark) and Fred Cuthbert (Wolfhound Cycles)). I wasn’t able to talk to Chance as much as I wanted, but his bikes speak for themselves.

Chance is particularly jazzed about his Chris Cross model. It looks like a cyclocross bike from afar; but it was displayed with 27.5-inch wheels and big 2.1-inch tires. You can quickly swap those for 700c wheels and have a much more svelte bike. Chance told me he loves the trend toward taking drop-bar bikes on off-road adventures because it gets more people into the sport.

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Jeffrey Bock’s beauties

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Bock started building Jeffrey Bock Custom Cycles in Ames, Iowa in 1975. He came to the show as a favor to his old friend Andy Newlands — a Portland-based builder and one of the founders of the Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association. Bock told me it was Oregon builders like Mark DiNucci and Newlands’ Strawberry Bicycles that led him to start building all those years ago. As we chatted, DiNucci was across the aisle at another booth and Bock said it was seeing his bikes at a shop in Ames Iowa in 1971 that inspired him to start building.

Bock specializes in lugged steel road bikes with a vintage aesthetic.

Tech from Ti Cycles

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On the other end of the aesthetic and technological spectrum from Jeffrey Bock is Dave Levy of Ti Cycles Fabrication. Levy displayed a road bike with a set of very cool 3-D printed titanium dropouts. Tubing giant Reynolds is working with Levy on the design.

The other show-stopper in the Ti Cycles booth was a road bike with an intriguing suspension system. Levy built the bike with an exaggeratingly ovalized top tube. Then he ran a standard round seat tube through it and filled the space between the two tubes with polyeurathane. This gives the seat tube about a 1/2″ of play to soften road bumps. The design hasn’t been ridden or tested much; but it continue the Ti Cycles tradition of experimentation that has made him one of the industry’s most closely watched builders.

Japan-based Sim Works finds niche in Portland

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Shige Ikeyama insisted on sharing this bottle of saké in every picture.

Portland builders have enjoyed years of fruitful commerce with a bike shop based in Nagoya Japan. As we reported in 2012, the Circles bike shop has purchased bikes made by local brands like Pereira (now Breadwinner), Cielo, and others. That relationship has grown over the years — so much that a new company called Sim Works was spun-off of Circles and has become a force in its own right.

Sim Works is a product design and distribution company that has set up a U.S. outpost at the King Cycle Group headquarters in Portland’s northwest industrial district. Sim Works is a major importer of King Cycle Group’s Chris King Precision Components (headsets and hubs) and Cielo Cycles (framesets), so the partnership makes sense.

Beyond importing high-quality U.S. products into Japan, Sim Works’ modus operandi is to partner with traditional Japanese manufacturers to create new products in their vision. They displayed Sim Works-designed tires made in collaboration with Panaracer and handlebars made with Nitto. Sim Works products are available in four Portland bike shops: Norther Cycles, Velo Cult, 21st Avenue Bicycles, and Rivelo.


Here are a few more photos and notes from the show:

Joseph Ahearne always draws a crowd…

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I was impressed with work of Mark Hall of Mahall Bikworks from Tri-Cities Washington.

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Ahearne has teamed with renowned builder and shop partner Christopher Igleheart on Page Street Cycles (a moniker that refers to the north Portland street where their shop is located). Their current specialty is a drop-bar adventure/touring road bike that’s ready to be loaded up and treated badly.

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Display by Portland-based Framebuilder Supply, a seller of lugs, tubing, and more.

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Dave Levy of Ti Cycles gave a cool brazing demonstration…

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The Klatch model from Eugene-based Co-Motion Cycles has a Pinion internal gearbox, Lauf suspension fork and a belt drive. I sooo want to try this thing.

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See the full photo gallery on our Facebook page.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Adam
Subscriber

Re: Shoes by Venn Design

If you’re having that many problems with cycling shoes, perhaps it’s time to switch to platform pedals. 😉

wsbob
Guest

Benner’s shoe last looks v-e-e-ry familiar. Somewhat similar to that of a certain maker of sandals and clogs noted for their cork footbed. Very comfortable with excellent heel to toe support. Unlike for walking, stiff soles work well for biking, which would likely be why Benner uses bamboo instead of cork. That’s unusual though, with carbon being the thing. His shoe ideas sound interesting.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

We asked him about the bamboo. He wanted something that was stiff and not too technically challenging for prototyping and early production. I infer that carbon has lots of ramp-up costs that make it unsuitable for early development, whereas sheets of bamboo ply can be had for comparative pennies. I didn’t see much in his shoe design that was “innovative”. Keen has already done something quite similar in terms of wider toe boxes:

https://www.universalcycles.com/shopping/product_details.php?id=58685

Granted they aren’t flat, but I’m not sure I buy Benner’s claims regarding the superiority of a flat sole over a slightly curved sole.

Stph

wsbob
Guest

Thanks! Room for toes makes sense to me. Flat soles? Don’t know if you’re meaning outsole or insole. I think one of my feet needs support, so I’ve been playing around, trying to improvise. There are orthopedic insoles, but a biking shoe with a contoured insole might be interesting. Bamboo, considered a renewable resource, can be made to any shape, and contoured, so it might work well as a sole for cycling shoes.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I rode for decades before I switched to clipless. I personally consider them a significant safety improvement and don’t like riding without them. I think they provide other benefits I won’t go into.

That aside, even if there is no quantifiable benefit, people will ride more if they simply like what they have and find comfortable. You spend (or should spend) too much time on your bike to use anything you don’t care for if you have a choice.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

That’s funny, I rode clipless for years and now I mainly run flats on every bike that isn’t a dedicated road bike. I consider them to be safer as they teach you to ride a bike properly. They also have other benefits – such as being able to ditch the bike mid-air, not scorpioning when you go otb and being able to put a foot out in the corners more easily.

wsbob
Guest

There’s some risk compared to no clips, of not being able to clip out of clipless in the event of an emergency. For me, road riding, that risk is worth it for the more continuous power transfer through the cranks’ revolution. I like clipless much better for city riding too. Helps me be quicker in traffic. I don’t have to worry about a foot slipping off the pedals when it’s time to hammer to catch a break in traffic.

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

Ironically, I have had my foot slip off worse in clipless than I have on flats. Also, the benefits to power are marginal at best.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I went on the Grant Peterson ride and cookout during pedalpalooza this year and not suprisingly , Grant Peterson is the arch bike curmudgeon who argues against special cycling clothing and cycling shoes, only one person arrived with clipless pedals and shoes. He had one of Grants Bikes ( Rivendale) but must not have read Grants Book. He sheepishly stayed at the back of the ride and tried to stay in the shadows when we made stops. I am not weighing in on this debate, but it was interesting to see the cycling peer pressure work opposite from normal.

wsbob
Guest

Grant Peterson…that guy is a character. Some of his ideas, like really wide drop bars, don’t appeal to me. Gearing either. But he’s like a cult figure. Some people are just nuts about his bike philosophy…they love him, borderline worship him. Whatever makes you happy.

Adam
Subscriber

Yeah, I mean going 100% the other way is a bit much too. I’m not about to go off and buy hemp bar tape any time soon.

Stephen Keller
Guest
Stephen Keller

For grins I tried on those shoes. They were comfy enough just standing there, but absent a n extended ride there’s no way to judge them. At $300 a pair, I’d want a lot more history behind them before leaping in.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Bont has been making wide toe shoes for cycling for several years. So while I see these as innovative, they aren’t blazing the wide toe cycling shoe path before others. For me, this makes total sense. It has already happened in the running world and cycling is no different. Having toes splayed out is simply logical.

Champs
Guest
Champs

I know Chris King is dropping the Cielo brand. Maybe Sim Works is picking it up?

Champs
Guest
Champs

More accurately, CKPC is suspending production of Cielo to “[focus] attention and resources on… core product families (headsets, bottom brackets, and hubs).”

mran1984
Guest

I am not surprised that Chris is “bored” with Cielo. Wonder if he made any money on ’em?

Jon
Guest
Jon

That is probably a good idea. I like the King hubs I own but they have fallen behind when it comes to one of the key metrics when it comes to wheels: weight. You used to be able to count on great reliability, service and weight from King. Now if you really want to build the lightest wheels there are significantly lighter options from mainstream companies. I know not everyone cares about how light their bike is but all things being equal it is a lot better to drag a lighter bike over the west hills on a ride. When I’m spending a lot of money to put together a set of wheels it is tough to choose heavier.

rick
Guest
rick

I thought the Jeffrey Bock bikes were the coolest, but Chris Chance had the best mountain bikes.

Al
Guest
Al

Thanks for the photos. Good job in what was a difficult lighting environment.

I liked the HiFi wheels but that could be because I’m looking into new wheels and their hub design appealed to me.

Mike Quigley
Guest
Mike Quigley

Okay. Great show. Now, why can’t someone come up with a truly lightweight and puncture proof bicycle tire?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’ve had good luck with Conti GP 4000 S II. Only time I’ve had a puncture over the lifespan of 4 tires was when I ran over a contractor’s razor blade they left in the street.

Adam
Subscriber

Gatorskins are decent – I ran them though Chicago winters. They don’t last long though.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Those are brutal. Heavy, high rolling resistance, and abysmal wet grip. Good resistance to regular and side cuts though. It’s a very popular tire though. Specialized Armadillos are also popular, but it’s the worst riding and gripping tire I’ve tried. Good flat and cut protection though

The closest to punctureproof that I’ve tried is the Schwalbe Marathon Plus. Excellent durability and broken glass resistance but super heavy and like riding in sand.

Portland streets are pretty decent so you don’t need tires for goathead country. There are a number of training tires that do a good job of balancing performance, reliability, and durability. The Contis Dan likes are decent.

Rather than trying to avoid all flats, it’s much more fun to ride tires you like and expect to change/repair a tube once in awhile.

Adam
Subscriber

Yeah the Marathon Pluses are great. I run a pair in my folder and have only gotten one flat and that was when I rode over a two-inch nail. I won’t buy any other tire at this point.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The other catch with the MP is that while flats are rare, they’re especially hard to mount — quality levers are a must.

Traction and ride are decent for a flat resistant tire. I use them on my trike in the winter, but have Stelvios on at the moment.

Adam
Subscriber

They are a pain to mount, but luckily you don’t have to do that very often.

hotrodder
Guest
hotrodder

The beauty of the MP’s is, they force you to learn the correct way to mount a tire, thus making it much easier to mount all tires. Not to brag, 🙂 but If I can’t change a rear flat on any of my bikes in less than 4 minutes from dismount to clipped back in, then something went sideways.

Adam
Subscriber

Hah! Usually takes me about 45 minutes. 😛

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Completely agree on all points.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

I really like the maxxis re-fuse and haven’t had any flats but they roll way easier than marathon plus.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’ve used lots of Gatorskins, but didn’t like the sidewall issues, and the GPs feel a lot nicer on the road.

Adam
Subscriber

Yeah I didn’t love how quickly the sidewalls broke down. I’d say that they are (probably) faster than marathons, but I’m probably not the best person to ask about speed. 😛

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I’ve had good experiences with the GP 4000s. While sidewalls are not an area of strength, they seemed adequate.

Out of curiosity, what pressures/sizes do you run? Wondering if underinflation might be a factor.

Adam
Subscriber

I usually just inflate to halfway between whatever range is printed on the sidewall. Not really sure how wide the folding bike tires are, maybe 37?

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

If you’re running relatively wide tires in the middle of he range, it’s not a pressure. Maybe a bit of rim damage that’s not obvious? Or you could have received defective tires.

Adam
Subscriber

I only used them in Chicago and the winters tend to be pretty harsh on bikes. However, I didn’t seem to have any problems with Marathon Pluses in Chicago winters on the same bike, so I’m chalking it up to a tire-specific problem. Sidewall breakdown is a well-documented issue with the Gatorskins, but since they’re intended to be winter training tires, it doesn’t seem to be a huge deal for most people who switch out for summer tires.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Because physics.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

This year’s show felt a bit weak but there were a few highlights. Davy Levy’s brazing demo was excellent. Jeffrey Bock’s workmanship is exceptional.

Matthew in Portsmouth
Guest
Matthew in Portsmouth

Lake make wider sizes. In my current pair of Bontrager ($60 on sale at Bike Gallery) I find that if I don’t tight strap the shoes, I have plenty of room to move. I am way too mean to pay $300 for a pair of shoes.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

What I want to know is where Dave Levy got those cool steampunk brazing glasses?

Eric U.
Guest
Eric U.

those are clip-ons on top of some safety glasses

drosser
Guest
drosser

LOVED the show this year and hope the attendance numbers got much higher than what I saw Saturday morning. In general, I was thumbs-up on the venue, although the lighting was a bit dim.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Columbia really needs to lose the space shuttle promotion. Am I the only one that finds that horribly inappropriate and tasteless?

Mick O
Guest
Mick O

That garage is full of Columbia ads that are probably close to 20 years old, the building used to be Columbia’s headquarters, but has not been for about 15 years. It;s almost a museum at this point. So I will send your comment back in time and I hope they get it.

Justin M
Guest
Justin M

How embarrassing for all these people that none of their bikes have been covered in cobra and alligator skin.

Veen
Guest
Veen

Tyler is a friend of mine and let me try out this latest iteration of his shoe design last week. When you really mash with them, you can feel your toes just naturally spread out, which really reduces fatigue and stress compared to my narrow-toe-box Specialized cycling shoes, and far more comfortable. I can’t wait to get hold of some of these things. Just need them in all black.

oregonframebuilders.org
Guest

Thanks to Bike Portland for the excellent coverage and for all those who attended the 2017 Oregon Handmade Bike Show!

The Bike+Beer setup was great during our years partnering with Hopworks Urban Brewery at their location, but that space/facility is unfortunately no longer part of the brewery grounds and as such not an option. 🙁

We are very excited about our new relationship with Cathedral Park Place, where the show will be hosted going forward, and we continue to have support from our friends in the craft brewing industry. Attendance numbers this year were great on Sunday and solid for much of the day Saturday.

The new venue at CPP will allow the show to retain the laid back, more intimate atmosphere the OHBS is known for and have room to grow and expand as necessary without increasing costs for vendors or attendees. Exhibiting at or attending the OHBS is less than half the cost of similar, convention center based shows, and we would like to maintain that as long as possible. 🙂

Thanks again to Cathedral Park Place, Point West Credit Union, Velo Cult, Hopworks Urban Brewery, Barelic Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, Widmer Brothers Brewing, Community Cycling Center, Bike Index, PDXTI, Venn Design, Klum House and all the vendors and volunteers who helped make this year’s event a success.

Thank you!

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Wasn’t billed as a Bike and Beer show last year ( 2016) when it was at the North Warehouse? , after it was no longer at Hopworks.

oregonframebuilders.org
Guest

Yes that show was with the Brewers Guild and was in the spirit of continuing the great tradition started at Hopworks.
We will always have breweries involved with the show as many of them are owned and operated by great people and business leaders who are also avid cyclists.
But in general the bike show is a bike show and the bike industry will be the primary focus going forward.
Hope to see you at Cathedral Park Place next year — there WILL be beer!!
🙂

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Any word on which bike/builder won best of show?

oregonframebuilders.org
Guest

Since the idea of “best” in a group of builders like that is absurd, we have a People’s Choice Award voted on by attendees… and this year’s winner was Jeffrey Bock and his beautiful, classic bikes.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Adam
Nah, there are plenty of companies that market their (always expensive) products as if they are the best thing since sliced bread and how it’s going to revolutionize the industry. Very few of them are right. I mean, if I can’t laugh as a $300 wool bean bag chair, then what can I laugh at?
Recommended 2

your insufferable intolerance.

Adam
Subscriber

I think “intolerance” is a bit harsh. Since when is it intolerant to think overpriced niche products are silly?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Did you prove that something is overpriced? Maybe I missed it.

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

Those shoes have definitely caught my interest. I’ve got Keens (rode a 600k wearing them), but now they are too soft. I’ve killed any number of PI MTB shoes. Can’t wear Sidis, toe box is too narrow and the instep too tight. My Shimano sandals are too soft. Currently wearing Lakes (both the not-quite-winter boot and the shoes); still get hotfoot, and my cleats are shoved back as far as they’ll go. I HATE having my toes and ball of my foot squashed; the majority of cycling shoe manufacturers just don’t go there, especially for women’s sized shoes.