NAHBS 2017; bikes and components

It’s Sklar, not Skylar.  According to Adam himself a common mistake.  Thankfully his last name isn’t Smith, but rather the name of some Finnish metal band.  So if you see any outlets with the above photo and the later name, talking about how he won best mountain bike, you know they didn’t go and are just yoinking the info off the Dropbox link the NAHBS PR company sent out, where they also said Skylar Bikes.  Good job MTBR.

Sklar is based in Bozeman, and makes some very pretty, very curvy, and very pricey steel frames.  The award winning greenie is nice, but my favorite was the yellow one below.

The North American Handmade Bicycle show is all about balls-out, beautiful frames.  Often ones which are impractically so.  Having not owned or ridden many bikes in my life, nor being especially discerning about ride characteristics, I’ll let the bulk of this post pass by with little comment.  Presumably they all ride great.


Black Sheep semi-longtail fatbike, with Paragon splitters on the seat and chain stays.  A bunch of bikes had these, reportedly cheaper than couplers, but more labor intensive to install.  Longtails were not common, however, with the current style of short rear center and long front centers almost universal in the dirt world.  Ask any of the builders about the historical whys and hows of this geometry and you’ll get an ear full.


Defiance Frameworks from Homer, Alaska.  Winner of my best headbadge award.  Unfortunately their website is currently down.  Also unfortunately, I totally spaced that the builder must be an associate of Bjorn, and thus sadly missed a chance to chat packrafting and hellbiking.  He did report that enough framesaver would guard reasonably well against salt water, though as the finish shows Defiance bikes were on the utilitarian and understated end of things.


The historic bikes were fun to see, as were the many bikes (old and new) which had obviously been ridden prior to the show.  Dust in corners and the odd subtle dent were both refreshingly common.


That portage strap mounting bolt was a forward-thinking bit of pragmatism.  I certainly don’t miss the days of 1.9 inch tires.


Why does Steve Potts hate tire clearance?  Just about the only such mountain bike at the show.  The lines are gorgeous, and non-suspension corrected rigid forks somewhat common, but barely fitting a 2.4 seemed like a profound anachronism.


Retrotec 29+ hardtail.  Just awesome in every detail.  I don’t think those tires look especially massive, either.


Oddity Cycles 29+.  Not as elegant in my book, but not a boring bike, either.  Custom Paul ano components to match the Eagle drivetrain.


Another Oddity, with Maxxis 27.5×3.8s that just squeaked in there on narrow rims.  Apparently the paint job was an epic bluff call.


If Ritchey is doing it that means literally everyone has a B+ tire.  Why this standard was so quickly accepted by the same industry that fought against 29ers and fatbikes for years I’d love to kn$w.


Black Sheep, a polarizing brand.  I think they’re hideous bikes, but there is absolutely no mistaking them, and the finish and component selection is universally neat and coherent.


Wolf Tooth.  Have an oddball drivetrain question?  They probably have a (beautifully executed) answer.  Probably my new favorite bike company, based purely on the phrase derailleur optimization, and the continued support of the 5 bolt 94 bcd standard.


Brooks Cambium saddle.  The seat is rubberized cotton.  Is it any more suitable than the leather ones for rugged use?  I’m guessing it still suffers badly when crashed, but maybe it doesn’t sag and have to have the tension adjusted after 6 hours of riding?  Certainly pretty.  Brooks’ of all types remain popular with the bike nerd set.


Maglock Pedals.  Rare earth magnets in the pedal, a big chunk of steel bolted to the shoe as a cleat.  Heavy, but seemed like it might work.  Release tension seemed good, and the degree of float was impressive.  I’ll admit that the only reason I chatted with these folks was because I wanted one of their hats, which I got, but I left convinced the idea has some merit, though ideally in a significantly lighter package.


Lauf “suspension” forks.  Carbon leaf springs, of a sort, glued into carbon legs.  Supposedly the flex is designed to only respond to trail obstacles, rather than brake input.  Not handbuilt, really, but they certainly fit with the weird show vibe.  I’d be very interested in riding one.  Almost as light as a steel fork, with 50mm of travel in the mountain models.


The new and the old.  This is the earliest double rim and double tire fatbike I’ve heard of, though perhaps a reader can enlighten us as to when Remolino got off the ground?  A good idea that took a very long time to mature and come to the mass market.  Hopefully the builder of this frame is still around to see and ride modern fatbikes.


Grateful Dead themed bike, complete with bolt-on case for your headset adjustment wrench.  Which with modern components is particularly important.  Especially in Colorado.

As a cyclist it is easy to appreciate the effort that went into every single piece of this stuff, especially the frames.  Talking with builders and seeing their wares made it obvious that the vast majority are very serious riders, with an eye for detail and an intense interest in talking shop.  I’ll say it again, if you’re a bike geek NAHBS needs to be on your life list.


2 responses to “NAHBS 2017; bikes and components”

  1. Nice round-up, Dave. I look forward to NAHBS every year. Am I the only person alive who doesn’t like the aesthetics of all these curvy tubed bikes?!

    1. ;) I doubt it. Lots of uberclean, simple frames. For me Breadwinner took that cake in that department.

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