NAHBS Highlights 1: Starring Cinelli, Cherubim and Alchemy

Max Leonard picks some personal faves from this weekend's North American Handbuilt Bike Show

by Max Leonard   March 5, 2012  

With 171 exhibitors – just a few shy of last year’s record 176 – and a hall-busting 8,100 visitors, this year’s North American Handmade Bicycle Show can justifiably claim to be the biggest ever. Here’s a few things that caught road.cc’s eye.

Tokyo’s Cherubim Cycles came to NAHBS last year with an outrageous design (see below); this year’s was no more conventional, and stole the Best in Show prize.

Its graceful arched top tube and lack of seat tube make you wonder how the bike would ride; but the build and execution are flawless. Shin-Ichi Konno comes from a framebuilding family: his father created the Cherubim name, and his uncle was the builder behind 3Rensho, the classic keirin frames. Konno’s mission, he says, is to prove that, when freed from the strict NJS rules governing keirin, Japanese framebuilding can be progressive. If by progressive he means space age, then he’s on the right track.

He has, though, been known to produce more normal-looking frames, and he can be commissioned through London’s Tokyo Fixed. http://www.tokyofixedgear.com

Alchemy Handmade Bicycle Company won the Best Carbon award at the show with this rather slippery looking aero road frame. Alchemy says it has a close working relationship with Enve Composites, from whom it gets its tubes, which means that it can get involved in the lay-up of each set, making each one unique to each rider’s style, needs and, yes, weight. This means the company can claim a target frame weight, for skinny climbers, of just 875g – even with all that aero trickery. Sprinters and larger folk, obviously, will need something beefier, but they’re still getting a one-off frame built for them. The biggest difficulty is, says the company’s sales manager, Dave Ryther, getting roadies to understand that this bike is as good an all-rounder as it is at time-trialling.

A round seat tube is optional: Alchemy sponsors a local amateur team (lucky amateurs), some of who go for that rather than the deep aero scoop, but Ryther reckons this is only an aesthetic choice.

The frameset, with an Enve 2.0 fork and Cane Creek headset retails for $4,400 in the US. You can deal with them direct, while they look for distribution and retail in the UK. The company also had a rather Flandrian looking 'cross bike on display.

“Classic with a modern twist,” was how Gruppo’s Fabrizio Aghito described Cinelli’s main NAHBS offering.

The so-called Soupercorsa has a beautiful pearl white finish, with a blue wash, the same lugset as Cinelli’s classic Supercorsa Pista, and blue Chris King finishing kit.

Oh, and there’s also disc brakes and a Gates carbon drive. Gates carbon drives were everywhere at NAHBS, at least in part because of a special award sponsored by the company, new this year, for the best belt-drive frame. Nevertheless, the idea seems to be growing on many builders – mostly for use on town bikes and utility bikes, with a few mountain bikes thrown in there. When pressed, Aghito admitted he couldn’t see the belt drive as a real high-performance option, but pointed out that it could be great for an S&S-coupled travel bike. The mountain bike discs, on the other hand clearly anticipate the road discs to come.

Also on the Cinelli stand was its stainless steel XCR frame in experimental 2013 colours. There was a lot of polished metal around and the company feels that, since they helped usher in that trend with the XCR a couple of years ago, they’d move on. The black paint job and classic Cinelli colours looked smart; but it was the script on the downtube that caught the eye – masked off to let the stainless steel shine through.