NAHBS: Under the radar stars

Many of the most beautiful handmade items are easy to miss

Be sure to check out Nick’s other features from NAHBS as well.

Not everything at NAHBS is flash, bright colors and exotic parts. Many of the most beautiful handmade items are easy to miss. Slowing down and looking carefully can go a long way. While many try to woo show goers and journalists with whiz-bang bikes, others whisper quietly about their wares. Here are some of my favorites from this year’s NAHBS in Sacramento.

Curtis Odom hubs

Curtis Odom made his first bicycle hub 16 years ago. But it wasn’t until last year that he began production of the gorgeous examples he had on display in Sacramento. Odom makes high flange, high-low flange (with and without cutouts), and offers stainless steel hub centers as an option. Track hubs start at $425 and road cassette versions are $530. The sealed bearing hubs are a fantastic modern interpretation of vintage high-flange hubs. In them, Odom’s calling to make an elegant, high quality hubset is apparent. He also produces a very fine crankset. “Why not throw some beauty back into cycling,” he said.

Dinucci Cycles

Mark Dinucci won Best in Show at last year’s show in Austin. This year he showed a nude lugged bike that was easy to miss. But for those that noticed it, they were treated to one of the most perfectly executed frames I’ve ever seen. Without paint, a builder’s work has nowhere to hide. No Bondo, no filler, just brazing and lugs.

With the frame, Dinucci printed up a statement in which he wrote, “There are no machines that do what I do and there is no CNC program for the endless pursuit of the best the craftsman is capable of. 30 years from now this frame will still reflect the thought, care and skill with which it was assembled.”

Not only are Dinucci’s frames beautiful, they are functional. With over 40 years of building and designing bicycles under his belt, Dinucci strives to deliver the longest fatigue life possible in his frames. He explained that it’s easy to overbuild certain areas of a frame and that leads to failures elsewhere. He added, “it’s a balancing act. That’s what motivates me.”

Bishop Bikes

Baltimore, Maryland isn’t known as a hotbed for hand-built bicycles. But Chris Bishop is putting it firmly on the map with his chess piece logo and award-winning framesets. His 1970’s California framebuilder style track bike won Best Steel Construction this year. New for 2012, frames entered in this category had to be unpainted.

Bishop drilled the rear fork ends, custom machined the fork crown and bottom bracket shell, fillet brazed the lugs to sculpt them and then joined tubes using silver brazing. The bike was built to Bishop’s personal dimensions, but added that, “my wife’s pregnant, so everything’s for sale.”

As word gets around about the quality of Bishop’s frames, supporting his new family should get easier and easier.