Friday, April 8, 2011

Excuse my drool, I have been to San Diego...

for the custom bike show. But before I get to the good stuff, let me clarify that nothing you see here does justice to the bikes you can see in person through the weekend. You can't believe how difficult it is to select highlights, when practically everything in view is highlight quality. I shall try:

As I was coming into the downtown area I found myself behind this guy. I took it as a good sign.
There is a sticker across the top of the rear windshield that says Race Across The West.

Bina Bilenky taking a moment to rest. Sorry for the closed eyes photo.

In-the-lobby bike corral, if you ride to the show.

 Tim Massengill has been building since the 1980s. It shows; his custom road bikes are some sweet machines. The one pictured here is carbon, but he also does steel, and he had one (we would probably call it a commuter), an example of what he is building for the Ukraine Bicycle Project; you can see it in the photo catalog link at end of post.

 I love pretty much everything about this classic-look Townsend, the steel, lugs, wood rims. It's just fabulous.

Matt Appleman of Appleman Bicycles with his DNA project bike. He is a relatively young framebuilder, but is doing some very interesting carbon work. He does sweat the details; there are little bits of them all over, just ask him. Check out the track bike he brought to the show (see photo catalog).

 Brian Baylis talking about his craft. He had some of his early creations on display. Timeless; probably look as good today, as they did when they left the shop. He was talking about "doing what you know", and what he knows is steel road bikes. But, he was also enthused about the young builders in the business, and the new creativity they are bringing to it. The Wizard, on the left, I think he said was like the third bike he built - early anyway.

These are the Kitchunsync by Dave Lieberman, of Liebo Bicycles, two bikes with identical geometries, but able to be built for different purposes. The one on the left is built as a more typical road bike, the other is a light touring style, or even commuter with rear rack and panniers. I think it would make a sweet cyclocross bike as well.

 Calfee is one of, I believe, four bamboo and wood bicycle makers in attendance at the show. Ever since I first saw these I have been intrigued. But they brought more than bamboo; in fact they had a large stable to drool over. I was especially taken by their Adventure model (see catalog).

 Another bamboo / hardwood maker is Renovo. For either road or mountain, these are honestly the most artistically beautiful bikes I have ever seen. The wood work is amazing. We tend to think of wood as a very basic material, but here is has been put to a purpose most people would not expect. Combined with more modern, high tech materials and components creates quite a contrast. More than any bike at the show, I would like to try one of these.

 If I ever buy another mountain bike, I am pretty sure it will be a Wolfhound. From the designs, to attention to detail, and final paint and build, they are just superb creations. Check out the unique camouflage paint job on the Buffalo Soldier, or the extra details of the other models on display.

 Lyle Harlow, of Muse Cycles brought a few incredible examples of his work. I was especially taken with this one. Obviously built rigid, a slight geometry change at the time of manufacture, and it will accommodate front suspension. I am also partial to those swooping top tubes - classic look on a modern bike.

 This is Lou Tortola's Round Tail design, the most unique bike, to my limited manufacturing knowledge anyway, at the show. Didn't get to ask about it, advantages, etc., but the brochure notes that the design results in greater vibration absorption, and lessens back fatigue of the rider. No question it is interesting, and I will look forward to them further developing their website.

Alright, the Aussie Bastard cross bike. If I were to buy any one bike at the show, on the spot, this would be it. Likely not the most valuable there, not the most unique, not necessarily the most versatile. But, there is just something about it that I really liked. Too bad, it was the personal bike of the guy I talked to. Fair enough, they are available.

This is a creation of Dave Hill, of Victoria Cycles. Remember what I said up above about Wolfhound, well these bikes would run a close second. These are beautiful bikes, even the mud and grass covered one. He had a cool cross bike on show as well. And I dig that dragonfly head badge. For a quality steel lugged frame I image these are hard to beat.

 Eric Estlund (left) and Stephen Bilenky discussing the trade at Estlund's Winter Bicycles booth. Fabulous stuff to see there, including that silver commuter beauty in the foreground.

 If this isn't beauty contest winner material, I don't know what is. This Shelly Horton, a creation of Stephen Bilenky is a stunner, best-of-show quality. I may not be into the mixte thing, but I can recognize a beautiful bike when I see one, no matter the style. Stephen has a cool blog also, and is worth checking out.

 Stephen Bilenky with another of his commuter-style creations.

This was at the Serotta booth. It is a strange thing, a sign of the times, built in the 1970s. That naked woman figurine on the headtube and another one reclining atop the bottom bracket certainly don't do anything to save weight. I am guessing this bike was built purely for looks and attention.

Electric guitars and bicycles at the Ahearne booth.

So there you have it, the highlights as I saw them. There were many more exhibitors showing creations that I would gladly ride, and be proud to own. Among these were the vintage road bike, or the stunning black mountain frame by David Bohm, of Bohemian Bicycles; the classic Italian styling of Formigli; Garrett Clark's Vendetta Cycles road and track bikes; the road and mountain frames at the combined Porter and Matthews booth; the carbon and titanium bikes of Holland Cycles (sorry, no website, they really are beautiful and fast; and the tandems of Santana. And there are many more, with enough variety so that everyone can have a favorite. Super stuff. If I were only rich, I would own one from each. That is just the bike builders, there are also the components by Paul Component Engineering, the tool manufacturers, the tubing, the clothing (be sure to check out the cycling caps by Mary Elizabeth of alloneword; she has some unique patterns, and you can even select the materials for your own custom design), organizations, and San Diego shops.

Was there anything I didn't like? I didn't like that some exhibitors were not there (yet?). One in particular I was looking forward to, Basso, ended up not participating, though they were listed as an exhibitor on an earlier list. Stuff happens, and a few no-shows, or late-shows do not detract from those who were there. Worth every penny of the fifteen dollar entry fee. If bikes are your passion, go if you can. Be forewarned though, the Golden Hall (site of the expo) is also the registration site for the San Diego Gran Fondo, also happening this weekend. That will probably mean the next two days are even busier. So here is the link to my photo catalog of the day. I will add captions, so you/I can identify builders, but probably not until tomorrow. I'm tired now.


  1. It was awesome. I am seriously thinking my next bike will be custom, either, DeSalvo, Steelman or Townsend... I really like the fact Townsend is a local guy and I figure if I am going to spend the cash, it needs to be lugged.

  2. What I like about this show is that it gives the smaller guys who you don't hear as much about, or maybe you have never heard of, a chance to show their stuff. It's very creative.


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