Waaaaaay back in October, (back when the sun still had the decency to grace us with it’s light past 6pm, remember those days?) I traveled to Bend Oregon for the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show. This is the third year I’ve attended, but I believe the first year that the event has been held outside of Portland. I recall back on that mid fall day that the weather was superb; it was sunny, and the Oregon high desert environment was in peak form. At least that’s what I was told, because I spent the entire day inside at the Goodlife Brewing Company building forsaking sun and snowcapped mountains to look at the mobile artistry that is bicycle frame building. My guess is that 20-30 framebuilders and associated artisans showed up. I talked to many of them and came away even more intrigued by the craft. It’s true that on the surface most bicycle frames are fairly similar, at least in terms of basic function and geometry. A dominant form has emerged that works great, and this was on display at the event. Since most of the these bikes were made of steel, a few key techniques are employed, either brazing or welding. A honed handcrafted bike is not about the surface however; it’s about a builders specific intention, technique, artistry, and unique voice that comes through. It’s also often about the customer and their specific needs. From custom geometry, to ornate racks, filigree cut lugs, and lustrous paint, the world of custom bike building is akin to the world of high end jewelry. You could buy at Fred Meyers, or you could hire a trained jeweler. At a glance not many could tell the difference, but it’s not about the glance. Its about everything else. As always, it was my intention to draw and paint a lot of the event, but in this case I found myself enjoying the conversations I had with many different craftspeople. The one bike I did draw was this unique machine by Rob Tsunehiro collaborating with industrial designer Silas Beebe.(www.tsunehirocycles.com). This was their entry into the annual Oregon Manifest Competition (www.oregonmanifest.com), which is fast becoming a major national event in mixing the best of engineering/design/and transportation. Rob’s bike is a city bike with a lot of very unique features such as a built in (hand stitched) second saddle over the rear wheel, reflective paint, and an integrated cargo net. Below are some links to the other builders I had the pleasure of talking with. If you like cycling, craftsmanship, or Oregon I highly recommend going next year!
Belladonna Cycles www.belladonnacycles.com/
Straight forward, clean, and traditional, with an emphasis on women’s bikes.
Vendetta Cycles. www.vendettacycles.com. Two engineers building bicycles on the side. Very high end craftsmanship with beautiful lugs and paint
DiNuncia Cycles. www.dinuccicycles.blogspot.com A long time builder with some of the trickest dropouts around (did I say trickest? Yep!)
Blaze Bicycles www.blazebicycles.com
A fairly new builder out of Utah. Had a good talk about transitioning from the digital world to the handcrafted world.
Ahearne Cycles. www.ahearnecycles.com
One of the best down in Portland. Unique utility bikes. Very impressive features and details worth seeing in person
Littleford Bicycles. www.littlefordbicycles.com
Neat paint jobs and a unique focus on rack integration.