Sunday, February 27, 2011

NAHBS - Who Impressed Me

The whole idea of a post about "who impressed me" at the NAHBS is a bit of a farce. There is so much sensory overload, so many things to impress, that this post is sadly inadequate...and frankly...indefensible. So here are a few qualifiers...

1. The folks who made this list were those I didn't know much about before going to the show. I might have heard of them, but didn't know of them like I do Richard Sachs, who was at the first NAHBS, and has such a long, celebrated reputation, that even I know about him.

2. The folks who made this list were not necessarily those with the most amazing craftsmanship. There are some very impressive "art bikes" that evidently have hours upon hours of work in them. These are included because they have MY optimal blend of art/craftsmanship/function. As you will see, even MY optimal blend moves around a bit.

3. I tended to not spend much time around carbon fiber bikes or mountain bikes. I'll admit that the folks over at Black Sheep Bikes had some pretty impressive machines, but I just couldn't picture myself with one. Again, plenty of excellent examples in these categories. Just not what I kept going back to a third or fourth time to admire.

4. Finally, these were the ones for which I tended to have more decent photos. Some of the other impressive stuff I might have only been able to get one (or zero) decent snap. So they were left out for practical reasons.

So with all that for introduction, let's take a look at a few impressive machines.


These guys push my limits of "art bike", but they touched an aesthetic nerve in me somewhere, so they made the list.

They're simple, clean, but appear to be reasonably functional.

I might not use one of these to run errands, and pick up groceries, but I might enjoy it as a Sunday afternoon urban cruiser.


I was not familiar with Bishop Bikes. Chris Bishop appears to be a young guy, but his frames appear to be very nicely made, have excellent paint, and a delightful selection of components.

This particular bike, had many cool details, like this tiny "wire" cable holder which I believe is custom. The front rack is also custom. The brazing and finish work were beautiful.

I'm not a brifter or white tape guy, but the two-tone grey paint spoke to me.


This guy had several amazingly clean bikes. I don't know how practical leather brake hoods are, but the craftsmanship was impressive.

This bike might appear a little boring in the photo, but its simplicity was startling. The headlight and tailight, painted fenders, and color combination made it appear as the perfect retro urban bike.

Unless his complimentary brother here is the perfect retro urban bike. Notice the amazingly clean cable routing through the seat tube. I don't know if it works well, but it looked awesome.

DiNucci's lug thinning was so beautiful, I spent a lot of time admiring these two machines. He just has a way of bringing the retro look to his work that I found delightful.


Doug, of MnBicycleCommuter fame and proud Ellis owner, offered strong encouragement to visit Dave Wages of Ellis Cycles. I had heard that Dave did great work, and that he was the "Best in Show" winner last year, so I was eager to drop by his booth.

And what I found was doubly impressive. Dave was a fantastically nice guy (just as Doug had said), and every frame he had in the booth was jaw-dropping gorgeous. The black and red bike above seemed like the perfect blend of beauty and function. It had every detail just right to be an ideal long distance machine. As I type this, I see this bike won this year's Best Road Bike Award. But since it was just my size, I give it the prestigious Pondero's 2011 Best in Show Award.

I've got a few more philosophical observations and ponderings that didn't quite fit here. So I'll probably throw up one more NAHBS post soon to wrap things up.

NAHBS - Correction and Update

I've got more photos from NAHBS from Saturday, but need make a correction from my last post where I described Jeremy Shlachter's Gallus Cycles cool rando bike as being "fixed, no brakes". I was mistaken. I didn't see the coaster brake lever tucked discretely behind the opposite chainstay. Now I'm pretty sure that he used the Sturmey Archer S2C hub. I really liked that bike with its dual headlights, handmade rack, and wooden fenders.

I also wanted to get back to Steve, who asked for details on the Pashley Clubman.

This bike was built using the Sturmey Archer S3X hub which is a 3-speed fixed wheel hub. Since I'm a bit of a fixed wheel fan, that hub attracts.

Steve asked about the shifter, and the apparent absence of a "travel agent" to help with cable travel issues. I believe this matter is addressed in this case because a SA brand bar end shifter was used. This is an elegant arrangement, and now I'm even more intrigued by the S3X hub.

More photos from my Saturday visit forthcoming.

Friday, February 25, 2011

NAHBS - Friday

My VO Polyvalent among many practical steeds

The weather in Austin on Friday was perfect. Some of the afternoon was spent indoors appreciating the fine art of bicycle building, and some of the afternoon was spent appreciating the function of the bicycle. When one attends a show intended to focus attention on details, and when one spends a few hours admiring thousands of those amazing details, one can be overwhelmed.

I took a lot more photos than this, but I don't even have the time to describe these few adequately. There were a lot more cool bikes that I didn't spend much time with, or photograph. So, as I said in my previous post, let's just say these are a few things that caught my interest and attention.

Brakeless, fixed gear, rando bike

I think easy travel was the motivation for this design

ANT had several clever designs present

I'm a sucker for retro

Richard Sachs cyclocross bikes, complete with mud

Lovely wooden fenders

Do I need these? No, but I want them anyway

Comfortable, functional, light

No BCD problems here, flexible design

My favorite Ellis bike, 23.4 pounds with racks, fenders, and lights

Bilenky beauty

Chainguard closeup

If I still used foot restraints...

Bishop beauty (matches Bilenky mixte)

There were all kinds

As one guy said, there's another show outside

February sunshine, warm in Texas

Austin skyline across Lady Bird Lake

Nice day, looking forward to Saturday...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NAHBS Send Off

I'll be heading from my little house out here on the prairie down to Austin, Texas for the 2011 version of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The plan is to drive down Friday morning, spend Friday afternoon and Saturday morning at the show, and return sometime on Saturday afternoon. I'll probably bring one of my bikes and try to ride around town a little sometime during my stay. My plan also is to post some photos here of a few things that catch my interest.

I've read a few blog posts from some of you folks saying that you'd be there. Although we might not have met in person, maybe we've exchanged a few blog comments or email messages. It would be great to put a more complete personality and a face with your blog presence. Unfortunately, I might not immediately recognize you. I probably know your bicycle better than I know you, especially in street clothes. So to help minimize missed opportunities, I've devised a scheme, and it is quite simple.

The appropriate thing to say when you see my hat walking around is, "Howdy, Pondero!"

Safe travels, ya'll.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Horse County Loop

I'm calling this new route the Horse Country Loop, and I'm pleased that I had enough time on Saturday to get out and explore it. Because, with a little advance planning, a new route means new gravel.

I left early and headed southeast to Aubrey, Texas. The forecast called for a stiff wind from the southeast, and I wanted to stretch the mileage a bit. Since winter has eroded my fitness significantly, I knew I'd need a little help on the return.

The first refreshment stop was at the FM 428 Greenbelt Trail access. I parked ol' Homer by a picnic table and unpacked the goodies.

But the wind had picked up considerably, so I found a spot to enjoy my coffee in peace. As I sat there, I pondered how I preferred 5% climbs with a tailwind over descents with a headwind, and I pondered the crazy whitecaps I saw on stock ponds. Unfortunately it wasn't time to turn around just yet. I had more wind to face.

There were a few more new gravel roads to explore.

After a cloudy, grey start, the sun finally appeared, and it was tailwind time!

Since I was enjoying the tailwind and scenery so much, I didn't stop often for horse farm photos, but I will testify that there has been some serious money spent on the horse business in the vicinity of Aubrey, Texas.

I began to lose my energy as I returned to more familiar roads. When I came over a ridge, and finally had Sanger in sight, I spotted a pleasant little hillside for rest stop number two. How pleasant it is to sit back and enjoy warm 75 degree sunshine, refuel, and refresh.

I had just enough in me to finish the route and add the Horse Country Loop to my quiver of excellent north Texas country routes.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Had to Wear Shades

After a couple brutal (for Texas) cold blasts, the weather returned to something resembling normal...where normal means the occasional February day high temperature in the 60s. It was about 65 when I got away this afternoon, and it had that "school's out for summer" feeling.

The sky was deep blue. Layers of wool, which had been constantly within reach, were left laying around the house. Birds were singing, and my wife's furry rascals were out in the yard napping in the sun. It was such a contrast to the last couple of weeks, I was startled with memories of the smell of freshly cut grass, and I wondered when it would be time for pitchers and catchers to report.

And my exposed skinny legs were so winter white, I had to wear shades.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Big Thaw Watching

By the time I ventured out, the Great Storm of February '11 Thaw was well underway. Mostly the roads were as clear as the skies, the wind was slight, and the temperatures had climbed back in the happy zone.

Still, there remained a few patches of ice and slushy spots. Even with the quite helpful fixed wheel and fenders, I felt like a winter cycling amateur at times.

But overall it was simply a delight to be back outdoors and enjoying the countryside. Under certain circumstances, that fluffy white stuff can be pleasing to the eye.

Hopefully weird winter is behind us now, and we can get back to something more typical for Texas.