Handbuilt Bicycle News

Opinion

North American Handmade Bicycle Show

Paul Skilbeck

Sunday 12 March 2017

NAHBS indicates much innovation and growth to come

Since its inception in 2005, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) has become a global proponent for the handmade industry, and its reach extends far beyond the North American continent.

NAHBS indicates much innovation and growth to come
Photo: Paul Skilbeck

Since its start in 2005, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show has been a place to see the latest, smartest, coolest, hippest, best-crafted, most sensible - whatever - objects in the world of artisan bicycles.

This is why the show has proven enduringly popular and has given rise to other large shows of similar nature in Philadelphia, Bristol, UK, a growing event in Berlin, and probably some others of which we are unaware.

The 2017 edition of NAHBS is showing some significant movements in the industry. By now NAHBS-goers expect and look forward to seeing Japanese exhibitors at the show. This year the Russian contingent has grown to three companies, as usual there are a handful of companies from across Europe, and southeast Asian builders Rookey and Loue have travelled from South Korea and Singapore, respectively, as well - showing that the demand for the close builder relationships and unique custom offerings that only the handbuilt industry can offer is growing in that region too.

Very significantly, more Italian companies are entering or returning to the handbuilt industry. Several single-person businesses are now in operation there and a much larger name, Battaglin, has committed to a future in custom lugged steel frames. It is impossible to ignore the sense that the ship is turning.

Some would argue that more companies coming into the market means fewer sales per company, but provided the new companies engage in effective promotional work, this need not be the case. With effective promotional tools more companies will make more noise in the market and attract high end customers who might otherwise have purchased a mass-produced bicycle.

For me one of the most significant statements at the show was when Craig Calfee, who with his pioneering work in carbon fiber and bamboo has a track record of predicting the future, pointed to a powerful electric-assisted bike in Kevin Maxwell’s stand and said, “this is the future,” which came across as wise irony since the bike’s design harkened back to a 1920s motorcycle board racer. Calfee launched his own e-bike/moped at the show.

Possibly the most significant developmental work was shown in the Reynolds Industries booth, where Keith Noronha displayed a level-headed approach to 3-D technology. His company is now in its third year of research and development and he is not only looking at special bike parts that can be made but also economic models that can make this expensive technology feasible for the small custom workshops.

Of course the classic artisanship with its timeless appeal was on display in abundance in several different forms as these agile frame builders and component makers keep pace of the demands of their customers and their own evolving experiences in the saddle.

It all seems almost too much to digest in a few short days, so we’re not even going to try. But in the coming weeks we will present a series of features addressing all of these subjects as well as an abundance of beautiful bikes.