Upon walking into the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS), everything competes for your eyeballs. Where do you begin? The visual rush of metalwork and paint schemes — from gilded to glittery — requires the attention span of a lightning bolt.
For the third time in its 15 years, NAHBS held the show in Sacramento, California, where early March makes for pleasant riding weather. This is welcome news particularly for Tom Porter of Porter Cycles, who plans ride back to New York City after NAHBS on a custom frame he built. It’ll be his first bike tour.
“This will be the first time in 10 years I’ve gotten away from Brooklyn for this long,” said Porter, 39. He expects to finish in about two months.
This year, we saw more cross-pollination among categories we assign to bicycles, as well as the drivetrains and gear we associate with them. A sporty gravel bike could serve as a trusty, world-touring rig. An adventure bike could take you across the world, or simply to work. And many exhibitors made compelling cases for belt and/or gearbox drivetrains as realistic, reliable options.
Let’s dive into highlights from two days roaming the Sacramento Convention Center.
Framebuilders are finding clever ways to stash gear on your bike, from the “micro pannier” to new racks.
Portland-based North St. Bags, known for its commuter backpacks and duffels, is leaning into the adventure category with its X-Pac Micro Pannier. It’s a compact alternative to larger panniers for overnighters or light touring loads. The setup here (including panniers and framebags) goes for about $325.
Matt Feeney, the man behind Pass & Stow Racks, displayed his first fillet-brazed rear rack intended for bikepackers who aren’t committed to a seatbag. He says they’ll be available in three months, with sizes to accommodate tires of the monster, plus, and fat variety.
Shimano announced last December it was entering the ever-expanding framebag scene with its PRO Discover line of bike bags.
And Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles partnered with Paul Component Engineering for this stem-mounted front rack to keep handlebar loads secure.
There was a big presence of Gates belt–driven bicycles and Pinion gearboxes in every row of the show floor, on almost all styles of bicycle. But this doesn’t mean obsolescence for chains. Rather, touring and traveling cyclists have options for cleaner, quieter drivetrains they won’t need to adjust on the road or in the wild.
Keep in mind that the jury’s out on whether Pinion gearboxes have come of age. One issue is the the weight, and another is the lack of shifter options beyond twist-shift (limiting riders who want to use dropbars with Pinions). But solutions are popping up. For example, Tout Terrain’s in-house brand Cinq (partnering with TRP Brakes) debuted the new Shift:R lever and trigger shifters.
Mostly absent from the show were eBikes — there were a a few here and there, but the overall muted presence suggested that NAHBS wasn’t the place to get excited about electric motors on an otherwise simple machine.
There isn’t an official “best touring bicycle” category award at NAHBS, as there are for road, mountain, and cyclocross. But that leaves room for both framebuilder and rider interpretations of a bike’s capabilities.
Plenty of framebuilders gave nods to timeless randonneuring-style rigs, like Coast Cycles and Frances Cycles, which could send you into a reverie of pedaling through a French countryside. A few we pored over: