NAHBS 2019: Best Finish, Track, Cyclocross, Tandem

NAHBS 2019: Best Finish, Track, Cyclocross, Tandem

Best Finish is a category where we never really know what we are going to see. We know there will be pretty bikes, but how so is really unclear to us. While in the cyclocross category we know we will see a raceable ‘cross machine, we don’t know whether best finish will be a beautiful design, a lustrous paint job or a finish of a different sort entirely.

FiftyOne produced a beautiful flag motif paint scheme on this time trial bike.

That they didn’t go full white stars was really smart; it would have been too much. This stops just shy of obnoxious.

What makes this bike so compelling is that the paint design is executed perfectly. There are no bad masks.

Nor do any lines that are meant to be parallel accidentally merge. That’s notable because this isn’t the sort of thing you can map out with a straight edge.

The No. 22 road bike came back for consideration in Best Finish. People are going to wonder why this bike didn’t win; I will say that this year, as has happened in numerous other years, we got to a point where we had to discuss two bikes in great detail.

The sheer originality of the design made it noteworthy, but the fact that the finish combined both paint and anodization was a step well beyond what we usually see, though this bike wasn’t the only bike we saw this year that mixed media.

This is the most intricate anodized design I can recall seeing. Execution is Mozart symphony perfect.

I wish I could have taken this bike in the sun to see how it glows under real light. Fluorescent lighting is Miller light to the sun’s double IPA.

This is a bike whose owner will enjoy being seen on it. And I can imagine that if you own something with fenders this pretty, you’ll pray for rain.

Ioklin Frameworks (most properly: io̍klîn) is Iok Lin, who goes by Marc, and he hails from Taipei, Taiwan. This bike was a revelation. Its appearance was unlike anything any of us have seen.

Compounding our amazement was the fact that the builder in question also painted his bike.

The part that surprised me was that Tom Kellogg, who is an extremely skilled painter, didn’t immediately know how the finish was created.

So he went to ask. It turns out the gold paint was applied in a very thick coat. Before the paint completely dried, he took a wire brush and created the texture in the as-yet undried paint.

Of course, that wasn’t the end. Next came coat after coat of clear. He’s got dozens of hours just in this finish alone. Chicken dinner, kids.

Weis brought a really handsome and very raceable track bike. The logic behind the asymmetric seatstays continues to evade me, but this bike is well-built and race-ready.

The splatter paint job brought 1988 racing (haha) back.

Craig Gaulzetti of Gaulzetti Cicli always brings interesting bikes and this track creation was no different. The short, upturned stem will undoubtedly upset some purists who can’t deal with a 140 with no spacers. I commented on the surprising stem to the other judges; we were all happy to see that a bike was presented exactly as it fits the rider. Cheers to that.

It’s always nice to see a bike that is every bit as functional as it is beautiful. Seeing those two elements in balance helps us trust that the builder is paying attention to all the details, not just his favorite details.

I can’t imagine there are too many bikes this chainring would look good on, but this is definitely that bike.

One of the problems we run into with some track bikes is that in an effort to make them more aerodynamic or cool or … something, the builder doesn’t leave enough tire clearance, either fore-aft or side-to-side. This bike has plenty of adjustability for gear changes or pulling the rear wheel in if some extra maneuverability is called for.

The Italian builder T•Red always shows up with some terrific bikes. This track bike was notable because it has been raced on the Six Day circuit. I don’t know how much more legit a track bike can get than that. The use of a thru-axle design in the fork made terrific sense; it’s one of the reasons this bike won the track category.

This 3T bar remains one of the crazier things I’ve seen. I don’t know how to make each of the different positions work with a sane fit, but the bar is certainly eye-catching. Aero, too.

Putting the rider’s name on the aero flat of the bar top was a pretty choice touch.

The graphics on the T•Red were visually captivating, not something we see every day.

Making the graphics package work with the tubing shapes is a great touch, especially when the bike has some unusual shapes.

The combination of an SRM carbon power meter and a carbon fiber chainring telegraph that this bike is all business.

Paul Sadoff at Rock Lobster is a no-nonsense builder. His bikes are all function, delivered quickly and are affordable for anyone who wants custom but can’t spend the equivalent of a used car.

Build matters in all categories, but running Dugast tires on a ‘cross bike is full-scale legit.

The 46/39 chainring combo is also for someone who can produce plenty of power.

Internal Di2 routing is a nice touch for what seems like such a low-key bike, otherwise.

The dropouts may not be the prettiest, but they offer plenty of surface for a strong weld.

Enigma submitted one of the most gorgeous cyclocross bikes we’ve ever seen. Everything about the bike screamed function except for the gorgeous paint and polished ti rear triangle. I was surprised to note that there were other submissions that were more expensive than this bike and yet not as pretty. Neat trick.

The prismatic effect of the paint was really striking on the fork due to its angular features.

The polished rear triangle was beautiful and will be easy to clean and did nothing to distract from the beautiful welding.

Fabrication on the bike was superlative at every turn.

The carbon fiber ‘cross bike from Chris McGovern won the category, which suggests that we may be suckers for submissions that have already been raced at an elite level. It may be that there’s not a better way to make a case that a bike has nailed its function that having it raced at an elite level. If there are problems with a bike, the rider’s performance will suffer.

Lesson one of a great ‘cross bike: give the frame and fork adequate mud clearance.

A scraped up top tube isn’t what anyone would call pretty, but it is an obvious demonstration that the bike has been shouldered plenty.

McGovern’s work is simple and straightforward, and because he works in carbon, it’s not that hard for him to create a short-wheelbase ‘cross bike with mud clearance.

Rear disc mounts can get chunky and ugly. These had a nice, organic look to them.

Rob English’s submission in the tandem category (it is possible he entered more categories than any other builder), was classic English: fast, creative and light. The ti top and boom tubes for the stoker are clamped in place and feature a custom stoker stem that can be adjusted fore-aft as necessary.

The ti seatposts are ovalized and fit the frame perfectly. You can see the two bolts that secure the top tube behind the seat tube. The tubes are mitered to fit snug against the seat tubes to keep them from twisting.

English can adjust the stoker stem both horizontally as well as vertically to preserve the stoker’s fit.

English also took a creative approach to the timing chain by using a triple crank to keep the timing chain on the drive side.

Even the seat tube cutout was perfectly concentric with the rear tire.

Paul Sadoff submitted this Rock Lobster for the tandem category. It’s a gravel bike with clearance for 40mm tires.

The fabrication of the bike was first-rate and his turnaround time is among the shortest in the industry.

Gearing was appropriate for unpaved use and routing the rear derailleur cable down the seatstay makes good sense.

Ultimately, it was Brad Bingham’s ti tandem that won the category. We were curious why on a travel tandem the frame had only two titanium couplers and were amazed to learn that Bingham designed it to fit in an Evoc case. One case, not two.

Like English, Bingham decided to run the time chain on the drive side of the bike and used a triple in order to still offer the captain two chainrings to choose between with the Di2 drivetrain.

The drive-side timing chain allowed Bingham to use a high-quality carbon fiber crank with a hollow BB spindle.

Welding throughout the bike was typical Bingham—immaculate.

In inspecting one of Bingham’s bikes, it’s easy to get caught up in looking at the welds.

Bingham’s choice to go with a cable-actuated disc brake may seem surprising, but it makes sense considering the travel function of the bike.

This is a great example of what makes for a winner: impeccable fabrication, intelligent parts pick, proper assembly.

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2 comments

  1. Craig Gaulzetti

    Patrick:
    This means more to me than you could ever know:

    “The short, upturned stem will undoubtedly upset some purists who can’t deal with a 140 with no spacers. I commented on the surprising stem to the other judges; we were all happy to see that a bike was presented exactly as it fits the rider.”

    I struggled with even showing this bike in the same way I imagine Marc Jacobs would struggle to show what he knows is a completely revolutionary, epoch defining dress at Paris when he only has it in a size 9. Honestly- it’s easy to make a bike look good and work with positionals that require 13cm of drop and a 140mm stem- it’s a lot more of a challenge for me to take challenging positionals and still deliver a bike that is world beater. I also have control issue and the fact that we built this bike up in the booth on Friday morning, with the client’s parts was also stressful. I’d have never thought I’d display a bike with old Zipp wheels on it, and I had no freaking idea who the heck Raketa was before I was handed what I assumed was Liberace’s chainring…….

    But as I complained about how no one took pictures or cared about any of the other bikes in my booth- all of which I literally obsessed over every detail on for ours- I realized that track bike was the best bike i brought to the show because it more than any other, showed what we do. Gaulzetti is all about working with our client athletes to design and produce the very best sporting good possible for the sport of cycling. Without the client and their positionals, their equipment preferences, their morphology, and their communication- there really isn’t a Gaulzetti. There might be a few bikes I made for myself- or some examples of my idea of an ultimate race bike- but its the athletes who actually give me to tools to build great race bikes- and that thing IS a great race bike. Thank you Patrick and all the other judges for recognizing that. I am truly honored.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      You’re welcome Craig. One of the things I was adamant about when I became chief judges was that we needed to celebrate bikes that are made to fit, rather than praise bikes that adhere to some crazy style dictum that doesn’t benefit the client in the real world. Ultimately, I think when someone makes a bike that fits well and handles well, other riders will take note. I’m not sure there’s a better way to sell a bike.

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