Wood. Bamboo. Carbon fiber. Titanium. Magnesium and steel. The 200 cycling artisans displaying their hand-crafted rides at the ninth annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show at the Colorado Convention Center this weekend are testing the boundaries of bike construction with an array of materials.
"These are the most cutting-edge designs in all of cycling," said show spokesman Paul Skilbeck.
Indeed. Part art, part pedal, the bikes at the show are both functional and beautiful. The artisanal craft of customizing cycles is booming, as evidenced by the number of Colorado framebuilders displaying at the show. Of the 40 Colorado exhibitors at the show, 21 build bikes, with 13 of those hailing from the Front Range.
Chris Connor went from building classical guitars to furniture to bike frames built entirely with ash wood. His Woody Scorcher - laminated with layers of bulletproof Kevlar and ash - is a ridable sculpture; a "hot rod city bike," Connor said.
"As so many things are mass produced and so many things are disposable, there is a newfound respect, I think, and newfound value for things that are handbuilt with enduring quality," Connor said.
The National Bike Dealers Association estimates there were $6 billion worth of bikes, parts and accessories sold in 2011, and sales have hovered around that level for the last decade.
There are maybe 300-400 handbuilt bike makers in the U.S. and they are hardly threatening the industry monsters, whose bikes are built in China. Handmade bikes are a drop in the national cycling industry's bucket, but the industry is growing into a trickle.
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