An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show

My wife surprised me on Thursday.

A while back I had thrown out the idea of going to the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show in Portland this weekend. Problem was, with the little one, plus having my older daughter (12 year old) this weekend, I didn't think it was the best idea.

Well, on Thursday she suggested that I take my older daughter on a road trip and do the show.

We talked about it. Negotiated... I also have a first-cousin-once-removed who just had a baby in July and lives in Portland, and she and my wife have struck up a bit of a friendship over the last year. A visit with her and her son sealed the deal, and we all took the drive south yesterday morning.

The drive itself was harrowing -- Biblical-flood-like rains falling made the highway speeds slow, with visibility dancing between poor to downright dangerous. But we made it just fine.

A stop at the Lighthouse Inn in Linnton for a lunch of burgers and onion rings (the best I've ever had, worth the side trip), then back into town. I was dropped off at the show, while they headed to Powell Books.

I've been getting my welding gear together since March, when I took a 3-day one-on-one session with Dave Levy of Ti Cycles to build my gravel bike (the best-riding bike I've ever been on), and want to be building bikes by the end of the year, so seeing nothing but hand-made bikes and talking with the builders on various topics could easily fill the better part of an afternoon. I would consider it research. And maybe a little bit of obsession.

I found myself looking less at the bikes, and more at the details of construction and design. The "signature" parts, the things that, even if the frame were repainted without logos, some one could look at and say, "Hey, I know who made that bike."

Some of the things that stood out to me:

* Ti Cycles is now offering smoothed welds on their titanium frames. I know how much hand work it takes to finish a fillet brazed frame (I think 2.5 of the three days building my bike was finishing the joints), I can't imagine doing that on Ti. They were beautiful.

* Ti Cycles also had a full-suspension fat bike, and the rear suspension had no rear pivot -- it relies on the flex of a titanium plate aft of the bottom bracket.

* Pioneer Bicycle Co, a new builder, had some beautiful and smooth brazing. Talking with the owner, I found out he's pretty new -- he's only been building since January. Hm... Maybe I could be there next year. Only I don't live in Oregon.

* Strawberry Bicycle had some interesting wishbone stay work on display, and I really liked the Lan71 lug. Also, Andy Newlands brazes with propane, so I picked his brain a bit on set-ups and processes.

* Vendetta had a unique treatment on their seatstays -- a fastback design that is also capped like many wrapped stays.

* Igleheart had some of the tightest brazes I've ever seen. Very clean.

* Contes Engineering's 4-wheeled bike looked like it could go ANYwhere.

* Cielo Bikes had a road bike on display where the welds and paint made it look like liquid metal. Beautiful.

* Cielo also had a really nice disc cross race bike on display.

* Winter Bicycles had a matte-finished cross bike with un-finished brazes. These things were so clean they didn't need any finish work.

* North St had an ingenious tool bag that was also a top tube pad, which they called the Salmon Roll. For any bike that doesn't have top tube cables, this would be an awesome way to carry the tools.

Ti Cycles offers smoothed welds
Ti Cycles' FS fat bike.

Pioneer's clean fast back stay set-up
Ti Cycles' pivotless rear suspension

Lan71 wishbone lug
Strawberry's wishbone assembly

Igleheart's tight brazing
Vendetta's unique stays

Contes Engineering quad bike
Cielo's liquid metal

Winter's unfinished brazing.
Doesn't NEED finishing.
North St's Salmon Roll

 There were also a couple of vendor booths that left me wondering just what they were doing there. Finish work was poorly done, brazes were sloppy, and in one case not only were the bikes dirty and beaten, but the person manning the booth was clearly drunk. To be fair, beer was being served (though not free), and many were partaking. 

But it was a great time. I learned some things, learned that I need to learn a lot more, and left richer for the experience.

Another drive through torrential downpours (I think I saw animals lining up by two's in Olympia) got us home late, ready for a long sleep.

This morning has me thinking of filing tubes and burning some propane...

No comments: