Owing to the plethora of beautiful, handcrafted bikes that have filled various arenas across America for the last 16 years, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show has been the one heartstopper on the bike show circuit. People, we are talking about a discovering a varied collection of bikes that range from mild to wild and yet never disappoint in terms of creativity and ingenuity.
For every year that we have attended the shows – which annually crisscrosses the country so as to allow local builders a chance to be seen – we have never come away less than impressed with the range of inspiring stories about the passion and dedication that so many people have invested in their two-wheel artistry.
This year the show will find a weekend home Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas (NAHBS’ second stop in the Lone Star state since the show last visited in 2011 with a stop in Austin) on March 20-22. Anticipating another eye-popping experience, we shot some questions to show founder (and framebuilder himself) Don Walker for a sneak-peek of sorts on what to expect in just two months.
THE MAN HIMSELF
Q: Don, what was your original idea behind the show?
A: The initial concept was to get all the builders together to show our craft and invite the media and the public to the show so we could show our wares and talk to potential customers. Kind of the old “kill two birds with one stone” deal. I felt that by all of us convening at the same place, we could market ourselves on the cheap. I also felt that moving the show around the country would keep it from becoming stale and stagnant. It might be the one thing that’s kept us around as long as we have been going, which is into our 16th year, but Lordy, having to find a new location every year is a total pain in the ass. I kind of made it harder on myself, but it also keeps our exhibitors and attendees “fresh”.
A: I have a few. Indy in 2009 was amazing. Austin in 2011 was a total blast, but thats for a few reasons, especially the vibe and the local food scene. Sacramento in 2012 was awesome as well. Any Sacramento show seems to do well.
A: Dallas is kind of a “dark horse”. While people may not understand why we are headed there, its got so many plusses for making a case to be there. Its the largest city NAHBS has ever been to at 7.2 million people. The cost of living is lower than California, meaning that people have more expendable income to spend on their hobbies, including bikes. There’s about 30 Fortune 500 companies based in the area, and many of those executives ride bikes from the Lance era. Dallas also has 2 airports, making it one of the easiest and affordable locations to get to. We are also partnering with a race promoter and are hosting a Gravel Race on Saturday morning of the show. My friends in the area keep telling me that we will blow away all attendance records we ever had. Plus, the Dallas Auto Show is in the other halls at the Convention Center and we expect quite a few folks from them to crossover and check out bikes, too.
A: There’s so many that blow my mind through the years. Giving out the President’s Choice Award year after year is so difficult because of all the talent I see in every booth. The Japanese builder Cherubim always blows my mind. Shinichi is not only a great technical framebuilder, but he is an artist and designs some amazing works of art in his bicycles. Naked Bicycles haven’t been in quite a few years, but his bike from Portland (2008) was over the top. Dario Pegoretti used to blow my mind with his paint. While the company is still carrying on, Dario is definitely missed. Craig Calfee did some Bamboo bikes with Bull Horns. I mean actual cattle horns, not just upturned bars. Peacock Groove’s Power Trike was awesome as well. I miss seeing Erik at the show these days. There’s just so many bikes. This past years President’s Choice was a tie between Panasonic and Caren Hartley/Isen Workshop. They both had outstanding bikes.
A: Its almost like a dream factory for bicycles. If you can dream it, chances are its here on the show floor. The vibe on the show floor is not one of high pressure sales, but of people amazed at the work they are viewing. Its about passion, and you see it from everyone in the hall. Its the show where “big business” takes a break to admire what the little guys are doing. Or something like that.
Q: What is the reason for a handmade frame? What is the attraction?
A: There’s a myriad of reasons why one may choose a handmade frame, but the reasons I hear most are; appreciation of the craft, appreciation of the “finer things in life”, having a relationship with the person who actually makes your bike, hard to fit, have special needs for fit or geometry. There’s probably a thousand or more reasons, but the results are the same; A smiling, happy customer who loves their handmade bike.
A GALLERY OF GREATS