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

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

Tyler Benner.
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

The versatile Chris Cross.
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.


Jeffrey Bock’s beauties

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

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

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…

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

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.

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

Dave Levy of Ti Cycles gave a cool brazing demonstration…

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.

See the full photo gallery on our Facebook page.

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

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