We didn’t give many nods for honorable mentions this year. It was somewhat by design. We really wanted to reserve the honorable mentions for bikes that could have won in other years, or in this year, were it not for the actual winner. They were bikes that when looked at on their own left us scratching our heads nearly second-guessing ourselves.
The first bike up was entered in the cyclocross category, but given the tire size (i.e. not UCI legal) we considered it mis-classified and moved it into the gravel/adventure category which we were in the midst of judging when this bike arrived. So it was an easy switch to make. Alas, it lost out to the Mosaic gravel bike with fenders.
This bike from Stinner Frameworks is made for gnarly terrain. The tires alone were unthinkable in 1989. The flared bar means it’s meant to allow great control in questionable circumstances and the dropper post makes descents that might be dicey on other gravel bikes doable on this. Just to make room for the rear tire the seat tube had to be curved and the chainstays lengthened, but in this design the bike should maintain great weight distribution front to rear, meaning it will fit well and handle with confidence on descents.
This is one of those bikes that can easily fly under the radar unless you’re paying attention. Sure, it’s a 1x system, and it’s Di2, which is pretty cool. So why is there a left, mechanical shifter?
All the easier to drop the post when in the drops, Virginia.
KS is one of the only companies making a 27.2mm dropper post, which saved this creation from looking like a Frankenframe with a 31.8mm seat tube.
All in all, this was a really cool bike.
This Seven from Velocolour is another one of those bikes that leaves me smacking my forehead. There were a number of really beautiful bikes at the show, stuff I’d be honored to have in my garage. However, this bike is another creation that looks great at a distance but gets mind blowing once you’re up close.
From a little way back it looks like a fairly traditional panel paint job, with additional panels of white and neon yellow.
But when you get close, you see that those panels have geometric pattern laced in them and that pattern allows the satin finish of the titanium to show through. The masking job on this bike would make house painters cringe.
Everything about this bike’s presentation is dialed. It’s the sort of build I’d expect from Radio Freddy at Velosmith Bicycle Studio. This is one of those bikes that, despite the fenders, you feel a little bad the first time you ride it in the rain.
The way the panels were done, leaving bare titanium near the drivetrain and to above the rear fender means that cleanup will be a relatively simple affair and as I noted on another bike, the bare metal will eliminate paint chips in an area known for being rough on paint jobs. Practical considerations aside, this is the most interesting transition from bare titanium to pain that I’ve ever seen.
Of the many paint schemes I’ve seen in my life, this is one that is unusual to the point of unique. This bike from Sycip Designs qualifies. So there’s an artist in Florida by the name of Ted Lincoln who does Star Wars inspired art. I’m going to say that again: he does art inspired by Star Wars. And his signature move is mother of pearl. He and Jeremy Sycip are friends from when Lincoln was in San Francisco and Sycip sent him a frame to be painted. What you see before you is Lincoln’s take on Luke Skywalker’s Speeder on Tatooine.
Yes, that’s mother of pearl.
Sycip told me of a phone call with Lincoln in which he was asked, “Are you a Rebel Alliance guy, or are you an Empire guy?” Sycip is not an Empire guy, he does not truck with the dark side of The Force.
You may have heard that Lucasfilm is only too ready to send out cease and desist letters to any organization or person who infringes their copyright. Yet this bike exists. How? Well, somehow Lincoln pinged on George Lucas’ radar and his work is officially approved by the mogul. So this bike has George Freakin’ Lucas’ blessing. Take that.
More mother of pearl inlay.
There are two different dimensions to this bike that are pretty remarkable. The first is Lincoln’s obvious technical skill. All the masking lines on this bike are ultra-crisp. Then there is the particular right-brain genius that allowed him to capture the look and feel of Skywalker’s speeder on a structure that has as much in common with that hovercraft thingy as a melon has in common with a motorcycle. I mean, really.
To cap the whole thing off, Lincoln created this brochure on the Landspeeder. Talk about a killer keepsake. It’s his interpretation of the sales piece you’d get from your local Landspeeder dealer, provided of course that you lived on Tatooine.
This is absolutely amazing to me. The marrying of three passions: bikes, art and a cultural touchstone in one bike is the perfect signifier for why we are truly in the golden age of frame building. It’s never been better. The skill has never been higher. The artistry is unparalleled. And that’s why when I wonder why this bike didn’t win best finish, I have to remind myself of how good Rudi Jung’s bike was and he did it fresh out of the hospital, effectively, with one hand tied behind his back.
If you’ve never been to NAHBS, and you dig custom bikes, I can’t encourage you in strong enough terms how amazing a trip to it is. While there’s nothing like seeing these bikes in person, the real treat is talking to builders who you know only from their work. In a word: go.
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