Monday, September 19, 2011

Handmade Bicycles at Interbike

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
Some say that Interbike and NAHBS (the North American Handmade Bicycle Show) have begun to overlap in the past couple of years, and that was certainly my impression last week. I saw lots of handbuilt bicycles at the show - some familiar, and others by builders whose work I had never seen in person before, which was pretty exciting. But the funny thing was that most of them were being used to display components and accessories, rather than shown off in their own right. I admired an unusual bike by Signal Cycles, only to learn that its purpose was to demonstrate a motorised lift. I examined an unfinished frame, and was grimly told it was used to demo polishing tools. Nonetheless, as a lover of handmade bicycles I took the opportunity to photograph the ones on display and would like to share my favourites.



Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
I could not believe my good fortune when I spotted the Shelly Horton mixte by Bilenky Cycles. Made for a collector, this mixte has an interesting story.

Phil Wood Crankset
The mixte was part of a Phil Wood display, featuring their stunning custom crankset, bottom bracket, hub shells (housing Rohloff guts in the rear and Schmidt dyno up front), cogs, toe cages, etc. - all made as one-offs especially for this bicycle.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
The custom Italian wheel rims feature actual wooden inlays. Pretty much every part of this bicycle is a one of a kind.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
And then, of course, there is the art-deco inspired lugwork.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
Though I would not choose this colour scheme for myself, it works well to set off the intricate lugs.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
Custom stem, lugged and painted to match the frame.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
Seat cluster. And notice the Columbus "Donna" decal.

Bilenky Cycles Shelly Horton Mixte
What do you think, would you ride this bike to the grocery store? Having read all about the Shelly Horton mixte, but never expecting to see it in person, finding it at Interbike was a wonderful surprise.

Sylvan Townaround
But now for something completely different, allow me to introduce "the pencil bike."

Sylvan Townaround
On display at the Kryptonite booth, this is a lugged wooden bicycle made by Sylvan Cycles. I cannot help but think of it as "the pencil bike," because - well, the faceted wooden tubes resemble pencils. It's a good thing; I think the bicycle looks friendly and approachable.

Sylvan Townaround
The Townaround is their hub-geared city bike model with upright handlebars.

Sylvan Townaround
Having briefly written about Sylvan Cycles earlier, it was a real treat to see one in person. It looks great and I understand the frames are very durable: One of their bikes was apparently ridden in the D2R2!

Sylvan Townaround
Close-up of the stainless lug sleeves. The tubes are maple.

Sylvan Townaround
One of the interesting things about this model is that it is a belt drive, which I would love to try in of itself.

Sylvan Townaround
The curved chainstays are elegant, almost delicate-looking.

Sylvan Townaround
And the socketed drop-outs are just beautiful as well.

Sylvan Townaround
Will it fit fenders?

Sylvan Townaround
From the faceted maple frame to the belt drivetrain, the Igleheart fork and the handlebar setup, I like everything about the way this bicycle is built up. Maybe some day a shop in Boston will carry a demo model. And I would love to see people riding them on the streets.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
Finally, I would like to tell you about this bicycle at the Ritte booth. It is a handbuilt trackbike by framebuilder Megan Dean (Moth Attack!), and she made it for her boyfriend, Jack Lindquist.

Megan Dean and Jack Lindquist
Megan and Jack are from LA and I met them at Cross Vegas the previous night (yes, I went to a cyclocross race!), where they were introduced to me as a framebuilder and a track racer. They are both so modest and low-key, that I was imagining something small scale (to be fair, half the cyclists I meet in Boston either race or build frames at least on occasion). In fact, Jack is a sprinter for Ritte Racing and Megan builds bicycles that crowds gather around in worshipful swarms.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
I mean jeez. When I heard that "Megan's frame is in the show, you should see it!" this was not what I pictured. This thing gave out a glow and energy that rendered spectators speechless. There were so many people gathered around the bicycle that getting a clear shot was almost impossible, but I didn't want to drag it away from the appreciative audience.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
The frame is fillet-brazed steel, with a carbon fork. The joints are so smooth, they look liquid.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
The process of making frames with tubing and angles like these is completely alien to me, and I had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that this was built by hand - especially since everything looks so flawless.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
According to Megan, the frame was not difficult to build overall, except for the tricky seat stay attachment.

Ritte Moth Attack Track Bike
Not difficult! My hat's off to you, Megan.

Megan Dean, Ritte Moth Attack
Although Interbike was not about handbuilt bicycles, the ones on display undoubtedly stood out against the backdrop of mass produced wares, and I felt it only right to honor them. Handbuilt bicycles inform industry trends down the line, and the influence of custom randonneurs, mixtes, and other unique creations exhbited at NAHBS earlier could be readily observed in booth after booth at Interbike. Should we expect a line of "pencil bikes" from one of the big manufacturers in the near future? Time will tell.

28 comments:

  1. If I owned that Shelly Horton, I would ride it just like any other bike. Can you imagine how gorgeous it would look with a nice, weathered patina? Oh man. It looks great all bright and shiny, but it would look even better after 10 years of good use. That crankset is amazing, and the chainguard too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for thoughts and stories on Interbike! What were your impressions of Vegas Cross? I really enjoy reading your thoughts on bikes and cycling an interesting read I think you like is Embrocation Cycling Journal their also a good read. Glenn in the Norhtwest

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh Vegas Cross! I don't like cyclocross and wasn't planning on going, so I didn't take my camera - which I now bitterly regret. I had no idea of its magnitude and just thought it was some Interbike promotional event. Anyway I ended up going and it was unbelievably exciting from the pov of a spectator (I still have no interest in riding!). I'm trying to figure out how to write about it without photos -might have to borrow someone else's!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I knew you'd appreciate cyclocross if you attended a race. You should head up to Gloucester Oct. 1st or 2nd for the Grand Prix of Gloucester(one of only three UCI sanctioned races in the Northeast). If you liked Cross Vegas you'll love this race.

    Great write-up on the Vegas show.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Rittes are hot and are true race bikes.
    Contrast that with the Horton, made to be fetishized.
    Cross Vegas featured top-tier talent from Europe and domestically, so a rare occurrence on our soil.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I didn't know : (
    Feel stupid for having missed the women's race, too. Andrea Smith whom I know from the Ride Studio Cafe was there and did pretty well, but I only saw here afterward.

    ReplyDelete
  7. But FWIW I think the Horton mixte was meant to be used. According to the story, it was actually intended as a commuter bike.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm soooooo jealous you went to the show, I would love to see everything. Maybe I will wish and try to make it to the next NAHBS.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Dave - What's to be jealous about: start a blog about bicycles, take lots of photos, and in your third year of that you'll get to go : )

    But seriously, I am very thankful for the opportunity to have gone and I have gotten a lot out of it. It's like seeing the entire industry in one go.

    ReplyDelete
  10. LOL you go to interbike and write about the handmade bikes on display, love it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Beautiful bicycles!

    That mixte - meow! I would take her grocery shopping and then into my bed at night. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Darius - glad you like!

    Dottie - I think there is a website somewhere that collects pictures of women in bed with bikes. Vaguely remember seeing it on Bike Snob...

    ReplyDelete
  13. Though my taste in bicycles is catholic, I do not believe in the Immaculate Contraption.

    Handmade bikes can be beautiful things, but I have to agree with Portlandize that the Horton should be ridden in all sorts of weather so it can acquire some personality.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I want the wooden bike!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Looks like the Sylvan has eyelets for fenders. But I want to see one after a year or two of use.

    ReplyDelete
  16. The pencil bike is adorable. Every artist should have one!!

    Maybe next a paint brush bike?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anon - see the comment here. Seems like it can take some wear, but yes I'd like to see a used one as well.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I wonder if this the same Ritte bike before paint?

    http://www.culturecycles.com/2011/06/ritte-moth-attack-track

    ReplyDelete
  19. I wouldn't be afraid to give a one-of bike some use, but I might be afraid to park it!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Looks like the Sylvan has eyelets for fenders.

    Perfect for woody fenders!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You don't think it would be too much with wooden fenders? I was thinking plain aluminum.

    Also, I don't have good photos of this, but this bike is fitted with an Igleheart fork, which I thought was just great.

    ReplyDelete
  22. It is the same Ritte x Moth Attack track bike that was photographed raw. I was in need of a new race bike before I went to Trinidad to represent the US contingent in their Southern Games, and we didn't have a chance to paint the bike before now. With some new parts, thanks to Rotor and 3t it is definately show worthy. Thanks for all the press and feedback

    ReplyDelete
  23. Jack - my pleasure and thank you for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  24. It's awesome to see Megan & Jack here on LB! Such a talented bikey couple :-)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Very nice review. I've read so many good things about Interbike, now I'm curious about going!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well played Megan, well played! It's been two years and Jack's bike still makes an impression on me. When i was at the show he was walking around with it and every aspect seems to be perfect, the balance of the tubes' sizes, profiles, the braces, the logos, to the st bar and especially the bb for the rotor, which was stainless iirc, and nobody thought to photgraph it. oh well

    ReplyDelete