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North American Handmade Bicycle Show

December 16, 2009

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show is an annual bike show that is, as the name implies, a show of bikes made by hand.  Technically, it’s a trade show, but it’s at least as much art exhibit as commercial gathering.  Even as a trade show, the NAHBS is unusual.  While most trade shows are exhibits of new products by manufacturers exclusively for their retailers, the NAHBS is open to the public.

Most of the exhibitors are very small scale bicycle manufacturing operations, the largest of which make a couple hundred frames each year while the majority of the builders make only a few dozen frames per year.  Most of the brands are on the fringes of the industry, but this is historically where the innovations are the most interesting.

The bike industry is a fringe industry as it is, and the fringes of this industry are the wingnuts and artists who’ve chosen the bicycle as their medium for expression.  Seeing the work of these visionaries is the true value of the Handmade Bicycle Show.  There are frame elements that are so delicately executed that a jeweler’s glass would not be out of place in the workshop of some builders.

The flip side of all this fine craftsmanship is that many of these bicycles carry the price tags of fine art.  Even though the complete line up of bicycles has not been revealed, I can confidently predict that $10,000 would not be enough money to buy the most expensive bike at the show.

This is the show’s fifth year, and this is it’s first time in the southeast.  Even though I have every expectation of leaving empty handed, I won’t pass up the opportunity to see these ultra rare bikes when the NAHBS comes to Richmond, VA at the end of February.

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