NAHBS 2017: Part IX

NAHBS 2017: Part IX

Dave Levy at Ti Cycles is one of those builders who turns out bike after bike dialed to his customer’s needs. Whenever I talk with him I can’t help but remark at his clarity of vision. He’s also got such a disciplined manner that conversations with him are remarkably to the point. Focus. What he’s doing isn’t art and yet he produces bikes that are utterly artful.

This steel fork is a great example of how he cut to the need and made this stunning double-plate steel fork and polished it to the brilliance of chrome. I never get enough time to talk to Levy, but I love it when I do. Direct and clear, he reminds me a bit of Carl Strong. I’d like to get the two of them out for beers and see what ensues.

Last year’s Best New Builder, Kevin Fickling of Cryptic Cycles was back with several bikes. He’s been taking orders and delivering to customers so he’s making a real go of this. I see mad determination in this Millenial.

This bike, the Tricolore Omaggio is an homage to his very favorite supercar, the Pagani Zonda Tricolore. It’s a car unacquainted with subtlety or restraint. The same, I’m pleased to report, should not be said about Fickling. His work is unusual among carbon builders in that all his bikes are completely custom and he lays them up in their entirety in house, from tubes to finished frame.

His finishes are also rich and intriguing.

This bike with Shimano Pro components painted to match was striking. I wish I’d had a chance to see it in the sun.

Vari-Wall is a tubing manufacturer new to me, but they’ve been a sophisticated manufacturer of butted tubing to the automotive and aerospace industries for decades. They also make tubing for baseball bats and lacrosse. They hold a number of patents on processes for manipulating tubing. So while supplying all of Huffy’s tubing wasn’t enough to impress most of the NAHBS attendees (I thought it was pretty impressive given how much tubing they must buy), a truer measure of their abilities can be assessed by the fact that Mark DiNucci introduced me to them; he plans to do business with them. And the fact that they can do individual custom tubes is reason enough to pay attention to this company.

United Bicycle Institute continues to be the best possible education available in the frame building arts. Ron Sutphin was on hand to discuss courses as well as building techniques.

As much as I dig looking at Challenge Tires many offerings, I geeked out pretty hard over this open tubular casing. I’ve got clothing that isn’t this well made.

Allied Cycle Works was on hand to show their bikes. This bare frame in a jig was impressive. It’s a shame this isn’t the frame we looked at for Best Layup. I didn’t know this was on display until long after the judging was over. Dang.

This is a layup kit for an entire frame from Argonaut Cycles. I spent some time just looking at all the different cuts and shapes. No wonder this stuff needs to be cut by laser, or a plotter with an extremely sharp blade. It also helps illustrate just how important it is to be ultra-precise in the actual layup and why mylar bladders are a dying technology.

Arguably the most unusual bike at the show was this ebike “replica” of an old board track racer from the early 20th Century. Kevin Ostrom of Maxwell Cycles is the former R&D lab manager at Camelbak and now has a shop that does a broad arrange of fabrication and frame building. Among his current projects is to recreate the frame of a 1960s go-kart. His knowledge of the old board track racers is amazing and that he would even want to try to emulate that in an ebike is delicious ambition. With those old “bikes” you had to pedal them up to speed and then kick the motor in and you were off and heading to your possible death. That the Petaluma-based Ostrom has been able to assemble components so that the batteries help replicate the look of the engine is a variety of creativity we don’t usually see at NAHBS. I’m curious to see what he does next.

We’re still seeing some builders braze on logos and other decorative touches well outside the butted zones of tubing. While it’s possible to braze in bottle bosses and rack mounts without causing distortion in a tube, that’s not true for these logos. It wasn’t too many years ago this was all the rage and builders were winning awards for it. Anyone who has examined alignment carefully will tell you that these ferrous flourishes cause distortion in the tube, decreasing the likelihood that you’ll have a straight frame, but also weaken the tube, which isn’t really something you want in a down tube.

I could have spent hours in the Velocolour booth. They had so many samples of the interesting work they do it was hard to focus on any one thing, from paint samples to their bags and head tube badges. This one caught my eye. Imagine rolling something out of the garage with that on the front.

North St. Bags was on hand to show a diverse array of what they offer. While panniers are an easy way to get my attention, the incredible selection they offer contains something for everyone from fanny pack-wearing engineers to busy moms and even surfers. And all their stuff is handmade in Portland.

The funniest, most playful bottles I’ve seen in ages.


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1 comment

  1. Hautacam

    Dave Levy is great. He did the fit for my Columbus slx/Cinelli lugged Rodriguez back in …. 1989 (!). Still my favorite bike. His Ti work is excellent too. He made a super clean Ti quill stem for me back in the 1.25 oversize Evolution headset days, so that should tell you how long he has been at this game.

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