Most people these days ride name-brand bikes that are mass-produced in factories. But the tradition of the handmade, small-batch bicycle is still very much alive and well. Proof: nearly 200 builders showed up to the recent North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in Salt Lake City, Utah, to show off their crafty, smartly designed mountain bikes, fat bikes, road bikes, track bikes, and gravel bikes. (Lots and lots of gravel bikes.) “People are tired of the same old, same old,” says Don Walker, founder and president of NAHBS, which has been held in cities across the country since 2005. “I think people are wanting things with more intrinsic value.” Here are 12 of our favorites, shot by photographer Jim Merithew. Photo:Brad Hodges, owner of WH Bradford Designs, built this bike as a tribute to the original Yeti Tribe. If you’re a rider of a certain age, this beast (which uses Boost axle spacing) will bring you back to the early days of mountain biking. The bits are an assortment of White Industries and Paul’s Components, and the frame is made from steel. “I fell in love with cromoly frames at a very young age,” Hodges says. “I am the tailor. I will build you something that will outlast you, that you can pass down to your children.”
This Prince tribute bicycle from Peacock Groove Bicycles in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has too many custom touches to list, but here are some of the highlights: a custom purple Prince paint job, waterjet-cut H2O reinforcements, S&S couplers, asymmetrical chainstays, custom rotors, and, embedded in the stem, a pick that Prince used. “I’ve had multiple people cry when they see the bike for the first time,” says designer Erik Noren.
"We're trying to make aluminum sexy," says Andrew Low, of Low Bicycles in San Francisco. The company was showing a prototype of its soon-to-be-released gravel bike, which included a slacker head angle than Low’s race bike, room for wider tires, and 7005 FLEXshape alloy tubing.
This Sklar 29+ bicycle was built as a commuter bike for a customer in the United Kingdom. “He does a 30-mile trail commute; " says Adam Sklar, who has been building bicycles in Bozeman, Montana, for six years. This bad boy comes equipped with a full Enve cockpit and Enve M60 Forty Plus hoops."
“The JB Racer 29er is my roots. If you are just going to go do a 50-mile ride, this is a great bike for that,” says Tony Pereira, co-founder of Breadwinner Cycles in Portland, Oregon. All Breadwinners are custom fit—no stock sizes. This model, with custom-spec’d Columbus Zona tubing, is hung with SRAM Eagle and the RockShox RS-1.
“I’m not building for the masses,” says Tim O’Donnell, of Shamrock Cycles, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. “I’m building for one person. It’s much more micro, not macro.” Case in point: this chromed-out steel gravel bike with SRAM eTAP, brass caps and fenders, and custom water bottles. “It’s an all-arounder, go-anywhere bike with thru-axles,” he says.
Ben Farver started Argonaut in 2007 and began making custom carbon-fiber bikes in 2012. “We are trying to build the best road bikes in the world,” he says about his Bend, Oregon–based factory. This is the company’s disc road whip built with Enve’s Speed Release wheel and axle design, a Cerakote matte paint job, Chris King hubs and and headset, and an Enve cockpit.
“I’m a motorcycle guy,” says Kevin Ostrom of Maxwell Bicycles in Rochester, New York. “So I built something a little bit different.” The Maxwell XO1 is a tribute to board-track racing motorcycles and has a 1,000-watt motor and regenerative braking. Ostrom says most of the bicycles he’s created are hung as installation art.
"I’m starting to not use the word handmade,"; says Aaron Barcheck; founder and owner of Mosaic Bicycles in Boulder; Colorado. “I prefer handcrafted. We take a lot of pride in our craft and our process.” The RT1 is Mosaic’s titanium road bike. This one features SRAM eTAP and the company’s new tri-panel paint job.
Cio bicycles have a white ash exterior that hides an interior carbon frame. “The ride characteristic is surprising,” says Nick Flutter, director of Cio Bicycles. “They’re stiffer than you would imagine, while also being smooth because of the wood and carbon-composite mix.” The bikes are built in Brisbane, Australia, but the wood is sourced from upstate New York.
The Proudfoot Proudfat is a sub-30-pound dual-suspension fat bike built in Golden, Colorado, by a group of former aerospace-industry bicycle geeks. It has 120mm of travel up front and 100mm in the back. “I think about bikes when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning,” says Jon Acuff, founder and builder at Proudfoot.
Toronto, Canada–based No. 22 loves titanium, and it shows in every bike the company builds. This Silver Wing is a true track bike, designed and built with racing in mind. In addition to a racy titanium frame, it has a gorgeous 3T carbon fork and complete 3T carbon cockpit.