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An open letter to the builders of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show

With the best in bespoke goods on display at NAHBS each year, the staff urges the show to recognize custom wheels

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The 10th Annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) will be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, March 14-16. Seven thousand attendees and a media corps will join exhibitors from four continents.

Handbuilt bikes are often referred to as the heartbeat of the bike industry and NAHBS showcases the intersection of form, function, innovation, and quality craftsmanship of the handbuilt community. However, with all the enthusiasm and growing attention for custom frames, bespoke bars, stems, saddles etc., the lack of attention to handbuilt/custom wheels seems at odds with the spirit of NAHBS.

Wheelbuilder is the best-known bicycle wheel hand builder in North America and frankly, we’re not that well known. On behalf of all custom wheel builders, we respectfully ask: “Why don’t you have custom handbuilt wheels on your show bikes?”

There are notable exceptions, of course. Rob English was praised heavily (and deservedly) for his custom wheels last year and NAHBS is the perfect forum for introducing the merits of handbuilt wheels to an audience with an appetite for cutting edge cycling technology and innovative artisan craftsmanship.

Custom wheels can do all of the things a handmade frameset aims to do: make riders faster, more comfortable, tune the road feel of the bicycle as a whole — as well as being beautiful and aesthetically unique. Custom wheels allow you to choose the rims, hubs, spokes and nipples. With each component, there are big manufacturers and boutique producers; ultra-light and durable options, choices in materials, classic or latest/greatest technology and a rainbow of color options.

We respect the passion you bring to frame building and we know you spend countless hours with your mitering jigs, jibbing, fillet brazing, TIG welding etc. However, we can’t understand how after all of that attention to detail, some choose to mount a set of robot-built or off-the-shelf wheels to showcase your pride and joy at NAHBS.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all bicycle wheel for any cyclist, but especially not someone who loves custom bikes. You can buy a suit off the rack, but it will never fit like or make you feel as special as a custom-tailored suit because it wasn’t made for your measurements, style, and purpose. At we understand that every build is as unique as the rider who enjoys it.

Most hand-builders will happily loan wheels for NAHBS because your audience is our audience. Anyone willing to sign up on a waiting list for a handbuilt bicycle and pay $5,000-$15,000 for the privilege has very exacting specifications and standards and will likely also be in the market for wheels built specifically for the project.

NAHBS is successful because of the interactions, respect between builders, and the sharing of ideas. Displaying custom wheels on your bikes at NAHBS seems like a natural fit and kudos if you’ve already made custom wheel arrangements. If you need help in this department, give us a call and let’s work together — we’d be honored to help you succeed and the entire bike industry will be better for it.

Rich Sawiris and the crew at