Each year at NAHBS there are a number of bikes displayed that go home empty-handed, bikes of such obvious merit that many attendees question the judgment—if not the sanity—of the judges. In my final post on NAHBS, I want to address a few of these bikes.
The first of the bikes is a frame that Mark DiNucci displayed in his booth. This lugged beauty was built with the tubes and lugs he designed for Specialized for its revisited take on the Allez. You may recall my post on the run of 74 bikes that Specialized announce this past winter. DiNucci designed all new tube profiles, a new lug set, braze-ons and even asked Reynolds to take a fresh run at the heat treating on the fork blades.
What this frame represents is an achievement that we’ve never seen before and are unlikely to see again in steel frame building. Because DiNucci was able to follow this bike from initial design, right down to doing the CAD work himself, all the way through coping tubes and brazing them into a final frame, I can say I’ve never seen a builder’s fingerprints more deeply embedded in a frame.
Alas, this is not the frame that he entered for Best Lugged Frame, which he won with a creation no less notable. I considered this for Best in Show; his work here is so deep and so incredible it merits that kind of consideration. The one knock against it was that it was an unpainted frame and when viewed against the Groovy Cycles Surf Bike, the obvious appeal of that complete bikes was what shifted the conversation for me.
There’s an austerity to DiNucci’s work that makes it difficult to appreciate some of his skill because it doesn’t call attention to itself the way a bike from Brian Baylis does. For most builders who hope to produce in the neighborhood of 100 frames per year, it’s difficult to devote more than 20 hours to a frame. This level of work requires far more than 20 hours.
This mountain bike from Funk didn’t win Best Mountain Bike. However, in our final conversation, once we’d narrowed the field, it was a bike we discussed repeatedly. It’s a 100mm-travel 1×11 29er. I didn’t get a weight on it, but it was exceptionally light.
The anodized paw print was a great way to use anodizing without covering the whole frame, which might have ended up looking completely overdone, an all-pink Rapha kit.
The seatstays feature a brace between the chain stay and seatstay to prevent the suspension movement from being transmitted to the dropout, which would likely cause a failure at some point. Instead, the seatstays themselves flex at that section of flat plate. That it didn’t win an awards wasn’t because we didn’t dig it.
This multi-surface road bike from Todd Ingermanson of Black Cat wasn’t entered for any awards. And I’m still scratching my head why. In the past, many bikes that took an unadorned approach to their beauty got overlooked. What I appreciated about this bike was the way it was all-biz.
One of the more interesting features of bikes from Black Cat is that Ingermanson isn’t content to go with a single set of decals and one brand identity. Every bike I’ve seen from him has, I believe, used a different set of decals. It’s a big violation of Branding 101, but he has really made it work as part of his identity. Neat trick.
This multi-surface road bike, the Aithon, had me revisit their booth three or four times as I considered Best in Show. The bike was incredibly well thought-out, not just from a parts pick, but also in terms of finish.
This root beer finish allowed the carbon work to show through so you could get a reminder of just how skilled these guys are. Paired with the cream white, it was rather like a rolling root beer float. (Yum.)
Of course, the folks at Alchemy weren’t content to stop there. They made bottle cages and fenders (not to mention their own fork) and then gave them a complementary paint scheme to tie the whole bike together.
There are 585 individually hand-painted paper airplanes on this frame.The bike was a wedding present from a Shamrock owner, Josh, to his wife, Sarah. The 585 airplanes represented the number of days that passed from their meeting (at a ‘cross race, no less) to the day they were married.