So much of what I’d like to present to you right now I’m not at liberty to share with you. Technically, I’m not under a media embargo, but as the chief judge for the awards, I’m not allowed to reveal what won anything today, and judging awards was essentially the entirety of my day.
My fellow judges for the day were Nick Legan of Dispatch Communications (and former VeloNews staffer) and Jeff Archer of First Flight Bicycles and MOMBAT. Jeff helped out last year, while this is Nick’s third tour of duty. Andrew Yee of Cyclocross Magazine helped with the cyclocross award and Maurice Tierney of Dirt Rag and Bicycle Times, who served as a judge in Sacramento, joined us for best mountain bike, road bike, tandem, experimental, city/utility, finish and artisan awards. Having a foursome is dangerous because it leaves open the possibility of a tie, but that never happened, which is in part a testament to the way the conversations went, but also the way some builders really pulled out all the stops to offer something distinctive.
There’s no way to hide the fact that exhibitor numbers are off from other years; they’re down and everyone I’ve talked to has attributed it to the fact that the show is in Louisville, Kentucky, rather than a community more notable for an indigenous cycling population. Despite the reduced numbers, the quality of work being show is extraordinary.
I can say with some conviction that this is the year of the all-road bike. Austin was the year of the rando bike, but this year, the some of the most interesting bikes in the ‘cross category and road category were bikes meant for more than asphalt. If it seems odd that some of these bikes got filed under ‘cross and others got filed under road, don’t worry. Rather than create a whole new category (with yet another award to judge), we left it to builders to decide just what sort of bike they’d built.
One of the neat things we saw from some of the builders was a terrific level of attention to detail, especially where spec was concerned. Things like gearing, bar selection and tire choice made an impression.
Shimano is present to promote their new Steps bike system. There are a number of builders showing bikes built with the system and we saw some truly creative approaches to adding an electric assist. This bike from Peacock Groove was not only gorgeous, but did a terrific job of evoking an old dirt-track motorcycle. Who wouldn’t dig this bike?
The “gas tank” you see is where the battery is housed and builder Erik Noren left a small window so you can see the battery indicator, plus added a button extension so that it is easy to turn on and off.
Let’s pray that the Internet works better tomorrow so I can upload more photos.
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