Last year, as I was wrapping up my coverage of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show I went to some length in describing my newfound love for the builder Chris Bishop. He runs a classic one-man shop, Bishop Bikes. Simple, straightforward, right? Not at all. Other than the fact that his business model is simple, nothing else he does is simple. Every bike he brought to the 2012 show wowed me on multiple levels. His eye for the line of a point was exquisite. His tendency to fill in the hard transitions of some lugs with brass fillets is an old-school California thing favored by guys like Brian Baylis, Tom Ritchey and Peter Johnson. And then there’s the fact that he never takes the easy way out. I’ve seen a number of builders do what was essentially a paint-by-numbers thing where they simply played plumber with a box of lugs and a bunch of tubes. What they did seemed an insult to the term “craft.” They certainly didn’t merit the title “frame builder,” not the way Bishop does.
I was scarecely back home before I’d sent him a deposit. I can’t tell you the last time I fell that hard for a builder. Good thing he’s not as cute as my wife.
And, no, Virginia, this doesn’t mean he has an 18-month wait. It means that we waited until I’d recovered from my crash and had a thorough fitting (that session with Steven Carre at Bike Effect), and then gotten through the crisis that was my second son’s birth before we even began talking about the bike and what size frame would be the appropriate response to the fitting I’d had. From first drawing to now, scarcely a month has passed. And we went from final drawing to the shots contained here in about a week.
We talked a fair amount about the bike I desired. The big thing for me, aside from being stiff enough to stand up to hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts, was that I wanted lug work that was gorgeous but didn’t call attention to itself. That meant no fancy windows, but points thinned enough to draw blood and brass fillets to make them curve to the gentle contours of an industrial designer’s eye. I wanted a bike that would be pretty to anyone, but would contain an extra layer of special for those who knew a thing or two about frame building.
I also wanted this to be a signature build for Chris, something that would stand as a calling card even without paint. That he cut the Bishop icon into the bottom bracket shell is too cool for words, says the word guy.
That he’s taken the time to not just show completed work but also place it alongside untreated pieces really helps show just how remarkable and subtle his work can be.
I told him, flat-out, “Go crazy.” I’ve sold off a few bikes that no longer fit, so to get one frame that should fit me for at least the next 10 to 15 years … well, I can make an investment in his time.
I don’t really want to imagine the amount of effort it took to remove the seat binder from that seat lug. But it sure looks cool.
An internally routed brake cable? Hell yes!
I really wish he didn’t have to paint the bike.
Those fillets at the dropouts are more than just beautiful; they’re harder to do than a quadratic equation.
Hiding the seat binder in the fastback seatstays is full-on ninja design.
When I saw this shot, all I could think was, “I’m going to get to ride that?”
An Anvil jig.
I’ve seen a lot of bikes over the years. I’ve seen a lot of great work. I’ve met plenty of builders who were capable of doing work of this quality. I’ve met maybe a half dozen who had the confidence/chutzpah/balls to do something like this. And until now, I was reasonably sure that all but one of them were California cats.
Learn more about Chris Bishop here. Do it! Click on that link. Srsly.
The second annual San Diego Custom Bicycle show took place this past weekend at the Town and Country Resort north of downtown San Diego. The show was a bit bigger this year, with more exhibitors overall and the organizers (builders Dave Ybarrola, Chuck Schlesinger and Brian Baylis) sold out the available booth spaces. All good things, but for the devoted, there was a detail that made the show much, much cooler this year. More builders.
The number of builders in attendance jumped noticeably and there were more builders who you couldn’t call local by any means. Brent Steelman, Sean Walling of Soulcraft, Mike DeSalvo and many others made the trek down from NorCal and Oregon. Mark Nobilette made it out from Colorado. Dave Bohm of Bohemian came in from Arizona and Serotta and Bilenky helped represent for the East Coast.
Dave Ybarrola says next year’s event will have to be held in a larger facility to accept its growth. No matter. This year’s show was terrific. It reminded me of the second year of NAHBS, when it was held in Palo Alto and the attendees were by and large custom bike fans.
In this and another post I’ll present some of the show’s highlights.
This shot and the one above are from a frame built by the super-talented and little-known builder Peter Johnson. He’s known for ultra-thin points and fillets that bring a gentle sweep to his lugs.
Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster showed this single-speed ‘cross bike with beautifully cut lugs and a killer head tube badge.
The rear triangle on this Rock Lobster features these very trick adjusters to make proper chain tension easy no matter what gear you run.
Sadoff is not without a sense of humor.
Funniest bike of the show award goes to Keith Anders for his satirical take on a classic Eddy Merckx.
Not the Cannibal, but the neighbor.
Anderson made this amazing boy’s bike with disc brakes, wood fenders and chain guard.
Yes, Virginia, that’s mother-of-pearl inlay.
Most furniture stores I go to don’t feature woodwork this nice.
Not everything was handmade bikes, though. This cabinet was stuffed with NOS parts, and plenty of it was Campy.
Custom, lugged stems are becoming more common and this chromed unit from Greg Townsend was one of the prettiest examples at the show.