NAHBS…aka Cool Bicycles & Their Geeks

NAHBS, the great North American Handmade Bicycle Show finally hit Colorado this year. Well, this past weekend in fact. NAHBS is one of those things that I’d never heard of before meeting Kovas, but since then have heard about nonstop right around this time of year. It’s been his great dream to attend one of these mystical shows, and this year not only did he get to attend, he got to be a presenter with FUNK Cycles and 38 Frameworks. Will wonders never cease?

I had the privilege of attending as well – I had to see what all the hype was about. Here are a few highlights of my first NAHBS experience:

1. Where are all the women?  The other females I did glimpse walking around this show of about 200 custom bicycle builders (and components) were either enjoying the show with their boyfriends/husbands/brothers, or were way more hardcore than I could ever hope to be.  And not one single female builder, save for Kent Eriksen’s wife, but she’s not exactly the builder in that relationship.

2.  If you’re not building a Fat Bike, then go home.  Fat Bikes are IT!  They were everywhere – carbon, aluminum, titanium, 29er, 26er, 69er, super fat, medium fat, tandem…  I have never seen so many uber-fat tires in one building.  Craziness, considering the season is pretty short and almost over until November/December roll around again.

3.  The bigger booth does not necessarily have the coolest bicycle.  Kent Eriksen and Black Sheep Bikes both had massive booths with all kinds of bicycles and cool ornaments, and don’t get me wrong, they had awesome bicycles.  I especially loved Black Sheep’s titanium fat bike with all kinds of swoopy titanium going on:

Cool swoopy titanium tandem fat bike by Black Sheep Bikes

Cool swoopy titanium tandem fat bike by Black Sheep Bikes

But my favorite bike of the show?  It was by far the most unique and most innovative in my humble and non-technical opinion.  Check it out:

Owen Cycles - Wooden Bicycle.  Isn't it beautiful???

Owen Cycles – Wooden Bicycle. Isn’t it beautiful???

4.  Unless you’re filthy rich (or a total geek enthusiast), don’t even think about trying to buy any of those super awesome bikes.  That was the hardest part.  Some of those bicycles were so darn amazing and so unique, you just wanted to have them so you could ride around and have people stop you and ask what kind of bicycle was that and where do you get it?  Then you could answer with, “Well, I have the only one ever made, so ha!”

Actually, the above bullet isn’t quite right – there are definitely approachable bicycles at NAHBS that are not only amazing-looking, but amazing-performing as well (like 38 Frameworks’ Jackalope, of course).  I understood the purpose of NAHBS to be a showcase, a place to put forward your best pieces, draw people in, and really get the cycling community excited about cycling, the upcoming season, the possibilities for new designs and new technology, and plant the seed that yes, you DO need a new bicycle this year.

As I was leaving, I overheard a funny (to me) conversation in the bike valet where everyone who rode their bikes to the show got to keep their bikes for free (totally awesome!).  Two guys were looking at someone’s commuter bike and analyzing the upgrades and customizations the owner had painstakingly taken to make his bike exactly what he wanted it to be: 

“Yeah, he removed the chainstays and replaced the blah blah blah.”

“Totally, I love how he yadda yadda yadda’ed the seat post.”  (Ok, so part of their conversation may have blown over my head.)

All in all, I enjoyed myself.  It was fun to see all these enthusiastic designers, builders, presenters, and attendees.  It was obvious that Kovas was like a kid in a candy store and that he was truly in his element.  I think that was the best part!


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