Tech features Tech gallery: 2023 Made handmade bicycle show, part six
Deviating from the straight and narrow.
Custom bikes often don’t deviate all that widely from what you might be able to get off-the-shelf: sometimes it’s slight tweaks to geometry, a special paint job, or even just a particular build kit. However, that’s not always the case – one-off (or small-batch) production can also open the door to more outlandish machines, which is where I think custom builders can really highlight their creative and problem-solving abilities.
At your local bike shop, you won’t find cruiser-style or BMX-inspired titanium hardtails like what we saw at this year’s Made show from
Retrotec, Merlin, or Wheatfall. And Brulé’s decidedly unique interpretation of a track bike is most definitely unconventional, even for that niche segment of the sport. A fully CNC-machined or cast frame from a mainstream brand? No way, but that’s exactly what Tool and Heavy Bikes are doing. And while small-wheeled folding bikes are hardly unheard of, Joseph Ahearne of Page Street Cycles certainly has his own take on things.
Last but not least, cargo bikes are a subject near and dear to my heart – and oh my, did Danielle Schön of
Schön Studio take my breath away with the one she brought to the show.
We’re getting close to the end of
our continuing coverage from the Made show, but never fear; we’ve still got a little more to come. The Merlin Newsboy is back! This modern version pays homage to the original cruiser-style Newsboy of the 1990s with similar styling, but thoroughly up-to-date construction methods, geometry, and materials. Still swoopy, still distinctive, still expensive. Retail price for just the frame is US$6,380. The revamped Merlin Newsboy uses several 3D-printed titanium parts (designed by Daniel Yang of Neuhaus). This makes for a neat aesthetic, but it also simplifies the manufacturing somewhat while also reducing the chances of misalignment. Merlin even faithfully reproduced the shape of the bullets from the original Newsboy. Compared to the 1990s version (which saw the cables routed into the frame behind the points of those curved tubes) the cable routing is thankfully more elegant this time around, with tidy clamps running along the underside of the down tube. More 3D-printing can be found down at the chainstays to improve tire and drivetrain clearance. Old font, new frame. Brulé Bicycles arrived at the Made show with this truly outrageous track bike. Only the driveside chainstay required this unusual shaping to clear the monstrous chainring (120 teeth!), but the symmetry is visually pleasing. There’s some nice triangulation going on here. The smaller wheels are actually paired with a -3 mm fork rake to add stability. The bars are interchangeable for different track events. This custom cargo bike from Schön Studio was another one of my favorites from the Made show. It was made for a pair of clients in Squamish, British Columbia, who wanted to do some gravel bikepacking with their dog. Danielle Schön is definitely one of the undersung wizards of the custom bike world. The bike was set up with a huge platform at the show, but the bike is also designed to be modular as needs change. The clever frame arrangement accomplishes multiple goals. The extra down tube makes it easier to access the two water bottles while riding, and there’s still room on the lower section for two small frame bags. Plus, it just looks fantastic. The custom fork looks appropriately burly for the task at hand. Not that it should be necessary (or will it?), but the novel frame layout yields massive ground clearance. A power meter on a gravel cargo bike? Sure, why not? The custom brass headset spacer avoids having to resort to a giant stack of conventional aluminum or carbon fiber ones, and it also just looks cool. As a nice bonus, Schön said it was the perfect excuse to buy the knurling tool she’d long had her eyes on. Cable routing is very tidy. Even the water bottle cages are painted to match. Yep, the linkage rod is painted to match, too. Schön could have just used a straight reinforcement for the rear triangle, but this S-bend piece looks so much nicer. Bravo. Curtis Inglis has long run two parallel brands: the eponymous Inglis range that concentrates on more traditional builds, and the Retrotec label that centers on cruiser-style frames. Inglis has been building Retrotecs for three decades now, and that experience comes across loud and clear in this gorgeous titanium hardtail. Adding to the titanium goodness on this Retrotec hardtail were Cane Creek eeWings titanium cranks and a truly stunning CNC-machined titanium direct-mount chainring made by Josh Ogle of Ogle Component Design. Metal frame makers are gradually adopting SRAM UDH-compatible rear dropouts. Retrotec’s logo has long been one of my favorites, and this anodized finish is a whimsical way to apply it. I’m bummed I didn’t leave myself enough time to buy a T-shirt while I was at the Made show. Next year. Real screwed-on metal head tube badges never get old. The 3D-printed titanium chainstay yoke came from fellow custom builder Chumba Bikes out of Austin, Texas. Page Street Cycles is a pseudo-production sub-brand created by long-time builders Joseph Ahearne and Christopher Igleheart. Igleheart has recently retired from the business, but Ahearne (with Igleheart’s blessing) has decided to keep the Page Street name going. This small-wheeled travel bike was one of my favorites of the show. The more you look, the more you see. The coupled frame is designed to fit inside a small travel case, and uses a system similar to Ritchey’s Breakaway design. The big front triangle has plenty of room for two water bottles, and integrated braze-ons are included for a frame bag. Paragon Machine Works Polydrops dropouts don’t only look beautiful. The split design allows for a belt drive, and the interchangeable dropout inserts make them somewhat future-proof. Page Street uses Brompton’s widely-adopted head tube bracket for the front bag. The long walk from our hotel to the Made venue each day had me lusting after a travel bike like this. And yes, I could have used one of the many electric rental scooters that littered the streets of Portland, but, well, teeth. One of the most unusual bikes at the Made show came from Heavy Bikes, an upstart brand trying to sing the praises of cast aluminum construction. Cast aluminum isn’t exactly known as an especially high-performance material, but Heavy Bikes says its pressurized sand casting method greatly reduces the porosities typically associated with the manufacturing method. Heavy Bikes isn’t trying to hide the bike’s industrial looks; if anything, the brand is highlighting it, although I’m not sure the aesthetic will be all that widely appealing. Each mold is custom 3D-printed for each frame, and the sky’s pretty much the limit for what’s possible. This sample includes an integrated rear fender, for example. Heavy Bikes certainly aptly named its brand. Each frame is said to weigh somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.6-4.5 kg (8-10 lb). I’ll admit to being quite intrigued by Heavy Bikes’ sand-cast construction methods, even if I’m skeptical about how widely it’ll find favor. Based in Quebec, Canada, Tool is making these high-pivot enduro bikes using CNC-machined aluminum halves that are then bonded together. Tool isn’t alone in this style of construction, either. Pole has been doing it successfully for years. The CNC-machined construction makes for an unusual look for sure. A more conventional aluminum tube is bonded in at the head tube. Lots of places for mud to accumulate, unfortunately. High-pivot suspension designs have been increasingly popular recently for the way their slightly rearward axle paths more capably levels sharp-edged impacts. Wheatfall Cycles is a new brand out of Santa Cruz, California, featuring titanium frame designs that are intended to hold up to abuse above all else. The dual top tube configurations are said to be inspired by BMX bikes. The machined chainstay section adds a little extra drivetrain and tire clearance as compared to a traditional tubular construction. This certainly isn’t the lightest way to make a titanium hardtail frame, but I’d imagine the torsional stiffness is excellent, and it certainly makes for an eye-catching look. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent