NAHBS 2016, Part I, the Honorable Mentions

NAHBS 2016, Part I, the Honorable Mentions

I’m going to open my coverage of the 2016 North American Handmade Bicycle Show with the bikes that got honorable mentions. These are the bikes that very nearly won awards but for factors that were often vanishingly slim didn’t quite get the nod itself.

We began the day judging the road bikes and from the moment this nickel-plated Demon rolled in I had my eye on it. The tubing is extraordinarily oversized. As a result, in order to build this into a lugged creation, builder Tom Warmerdam had to fashion his own lugs. The customer for this bike is a big guy, both tall and of considerable heft. The overall presentation of the bike is as if one took a standard lugged frame and multiplied it by 1.5.


There was some discussion among the judges if perhaps the seatstay caps were just a bit too oversized, that while, yes, they needed to be larger than usual, they may have been a bit too oversized and that threw off the look of the frame ever so slightly, meaning it’s amazing rather than extraordinary. It was the only detail of the entire frame we could criticize.


The look of the of the lugs, from the slots carved into them to the shape of the points was carried well throughout the lug work and showed a clear vision for the bike’s overall look. Then there was the fact that the joinery was ultra clean. Because Tom chose to nickel plate the frame had his brazing not been precise and thorough and without big drips of brass or silver, this bike would have shown off any sloppiness in his work. This is a terrific creation and a bike I look forward to seeing on the show floor again.


The mountain bike category turned out to be terribly difficult to judge this year. There were a number of terrific bikes presented. We gave honorable mentions to two mountain bikes this year, and came close with a third (a full suspension, XTR Di2 with electronic suspension lockout from Eriksen. The bike above is from Moots; the main triangle back may be obscuring the decals some. This is a bike-packing rig that showed some terrific thought.


Plus size tires have shown their utility with hardtails. Except for the Leadville types who want ultra-light cross-country machines, everyone I know who is looking at hardtails is talking 27.5 Plus. And the reason is simple; the large air volume offers a much more comfortable ride while simultaneously boosting traction. Win, hi, I’d like you to meet win. That anyone might use a 27.5 Plus bike for bikepacking is no great mystery, but what Moots did here with their YBB was the managed to do something no one is doing for bikepacking—added workable rear suspension.IMG_1947The particular collection of bags employed on this Moots kept the load to something small enough, light enough and compact enough that this bike could be ridden capably on singletrack without concern that the extra load will ruin the ride. I know guys who’d kill to have this rig for their forays back into the nowhere of Mendocino.

IMG_1959We don’t see a lot of fat bikes with full suspension. It happens, but the 150mm-travel fat bike isn’t really a thing, at least, not yet. This Foes mountain bike could single-handedly change that, I suppose. This bike received an honorable mention less for the fact that it was somewhat original, than for the sheer fact of its fabrication. Sure, we want to see bikes that are built in-house. That’s the point, right?


What really wowed us with the Foes wasn’t the excellent fabrication work that was necessary to make this bike happen, though we certainly took note of that. What really got us was that all the tubing was hydroformed—in house.


So the combination of the fabrication work that went into this bike combined with the hydroformed tubing combined the fact that Foes has the production capability to build more than 1000 bikes a year meant that we had to give this thing a nod. That it didn’t win is an indication of just how good the bike that won was.


Rob English built this bike as a winter commuter for a customer in New Zealand who will be riding on rough roads and through a variety of conditions. It’s features 650B wheels on which run rather massive tires that didn’t leave much clearance for the fenders, unfortunately. The line created by running the top tube straight back to the rear rack/fender was original and gorgeous. And the choice to run an Alfine Di2 rear hub with the Di2 levers and hydraulic discs means it’s a bike that will stop in all conditions and despite the wet weather will be easy to maintain thanks to the belt.


Even though the rack is pretty minimal, there’s just enough to it to hang a pannier or two for the commute to or from work. Grabbing a few groceries won’t be a problem. We also thought the matte finish was pretty trick.


English’s work tends to be spare and minimal and this was no exception. After all, there’s no reason your commuter needs to be heavy is there? To a man, I think each of us judges coveted this bike.


To our surprise, Rob English nearly got the nod in the Artisan Category. This award is meant for bikes where there has been an unusual degree of in-house fabrication. The original intent of the award was for rando bikes and the like that feature custom racks and other touches that can’t be found in the Paragon Machine Works catalog.


We haven’t had a chance to ask English what the urge was to recreate Graeme Obree’s hour record bike (shoutout to Evelyn Stevens today, yo. Kick ass!), but when this got rolled into the judging paddock, I turned to judges Nick Legan and Jeff Archer and said, “You understand what we’re looking at, right?” I also got chills.


This bike isn’t a perfect recreation of Obree’s bike, but it is faithful in that it replicates the position and tiny front end. It doesn’t use a standard headset or bottom bracket, either.


English had to rework this hub in order to make it fit the 80mm spacing the Obree used. That this bike didn’t win the Artisan award suggests just how impressed we were by the bike that did win.


This Holland got the honorable mention within the Best Carbon Layup Category. Mike Lopez, who works hand-in-glove on this bike with Bill Holland, is a certified god within the world of carbon fiber bicycles. The Specialized Epic would never have existed without him, nor would any of Serotta’s work in composites. This bike takes work he’s been doing his entire life and has refined it.


Holland numbers each bike and in addition to this plate affixed to the top tube, the rear, non-drive-side dropout is laser-etched as well.


Every last part is produced in-house and Holland has worked with Lopez to make sure that each component can be tuned to offer the ride quality he wants his bikes to impart. Honestly, it killed us not to grant this bike the award, but that shows just how good the bike that won was.


The fact that the brake cable is routed through the top tube is cool, but using the seat tug as the exit guide is remarkable and makes perfect sense because it allows the top tube to remain uncompromised. I also love the appearance of the Holland head tube badge on the wishbone.


Maxwell Kullaway, the welder at 333Fab is a former welder for Seven and Merlin. There’s no other way to really say this: it shows.

The category of Best TIG Welding is rarely a contest and this year it was close. Kullaway’s work was clean and perfect in a way that many aspire to and few rarely achieve. With guys this good judging comes down to looking at each one of a bike’s welds and examining the end point for the weld. IMG_2048

Kullaway’s work on this bike would have been an easy winner in this category were it not for the category’s eventual winner. This stood out noticeably from a truly exceptional group of entrants. These welders are better than the guys working in aerospace.

If you’re not at NAHBS, you’re truly missing out.

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  1. michael

    Rob English continues to astound me with the sheer quality of his work. He built the first version of that belt drive commuter bike for himself a few years ago. I’ve been lusting after it ever since I saw it on his web site since that time. If I were to move back to the west coast/Pacific North Wet, this bike would be number one on my immediate purchase list.

    As it is, I live in a snowbound, frozen east coast apocolypse. Fat bike gets the win for the commute!

  2. phillipivan

    That Rob’s Obree inspired TT only merits an honourable mention blows my mind. It is exactly the kind of bike I would hope to see if I attended NAHBS.

  3. mjc

    So good to see Max Kullaway get some props. We’ve know for awhile, up here in the PNW, that Max has some skills that rival our friends in Bozeman, Steamboat and even Watertown. Guess that’s why the Brothers Hampsten had him on the payroll for so long. Thanks Padraig for pointing out these amazing honorable mentions.

  4. Pingback: 28 February 2016 | English Cycles

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