Tech features Tech gallery: 2023 Made handmade bicycle show, part three
Metal is metal, but so are carbon fiber and wood.
If custom bike builders are viewed as artists, then the bikes and frames they’re creating could easily be considered their canvasses. But not every builder chooses the same medium for their craft, and so the rest of us are treated to a wonderfully diverse array of colors, textures, and tones.
Vanilla Bicycles could certainly be considered one of the OGs of the North American custom show circuit, and certainly a fixture in the local Portland scene. Seventeen years ago, founder Sacha White crafted the most bonkers tricycle for his elementary school-age daughter, and he brought it back out for the inaugural Made event. It was looking a little worse for wear these days – who wouldn’t after seventeen years, eh? – but it was no less striking today than it was then, and at least for me, it was a fun trip down memory lane to the very first handmade show I ever attended.
That over-the-top spirit still permeates much of the custom community today, where just “good enough” is never remotely good enough.
The finish on the
Officina Battaglin gravel bike? Insane. Don’t think a titanium bike can be stiff enough for crit racing? Haley Cycles would like a word. Is Pursuit Cycles’ carbon frame somehow too refined for its own good? While some brands use bold paint to catch your eye, Bridge Bike Works draws your attention with a gentler nudge. What’s the point of a lusciously carved wooden frame if the non-wooden parts look like clumsy and crude? Twmpa went the extra mile. And speaking of extra miles, one lucky member of Victoire’s crew built themselves one hell of a bike for heading off on all-day (and multi-day) adventures.
Feast your eyes, and stay tuned for
more of our coverage from the Made show. This incredible custom tricycle from Vanilla Bicycles isn’t new. In fact, it dates back to the 2006 NAHBS show, and I remember shooting frame after frame of this thing when I first laid eyes on it at the San Jose Convention Center. Vanilla brought it back out for Made, and it was no less striking today than it was then. Vanilla Bicycles founder Sacha White built this tricycle for his daughter, who by now has likely graduated from college. These sorts of metal logos were big back in the mid-to-late 2000s among the custom crowd. The custom-turned wooden and aluminum grips may not have been super practical, but boy, do they look cool. The wheels were custom turned in cooperation with Phil Wood. The solid rubber tires have clearly seen a few drifts. The closer you look, the more you’ll see. Absolutely bonkers. There’s even a near-mythical Star headset fitted. The Brooks leather saddle was modified to fit the custom steel supports. This Vanilla road bike is certainly more recent, but no less artistic. The incredible polishing and pantographing work is courtesy of none other than Chris Howard of CycloRetro in Melbourne, Australia. There’s a Shimano rear derailleur hiding underneath all of that lovely polished silver aluminum. More of this, please, bike industry! Fantastic. Pursuit’s multi-piece molded carbon fiber construction is designed such that the company can provide a wide range of custom geometry. However, the end result is so seamless-looking that the company has apparently been accused by some as merely re-labeling open-mold frames. Flashy paint has been a hallmark of Pursuit Cycles since the shop first opened its doors, and the brand’s paint contractor, Dark Matter Finishing, certainly hasn’t disappointed. You’d certainly never guess from looking at a Pursuit Cycles frame how many separately molded carbon fiber sub-assemblies are used to form a single frame. Now that’s a tidy dropout. And yep, I believe that’s a 3D-printed replaceable titanium derailleur hanger. This steel gravel bike from Officina Battaglin unquestionably won the unofficial prize of “shiniest bike” at this year’s Made show. The insane finish was apparently produced by first chrome-plating the entire frame, sanding it for an ultra-smooth mirror-like surface, and then adding a tinted clear. It was positively stunning in sunlight. Ridiculous. Icing on the cake. Yeah, I’d be afraid to get it dirty, too. Officina Battaglin is only making 70 of these this year. Mesmerizing. Haley Cycles offers a range of custom titanium frames, but whereas most brands are content to price things a la carte, Haley’s pricing is meant to include everything right from the get-go. A new option on the menu from Haley Cycles is an extra-oversized tubeset (as shown here) for riders who want an ultra-stiff setup for things like criterium racing. I mean, seriously, look at this thing! The tubes are absolutely massive. Painted-to-match cockpits are always a nice touch. Haley Cycles frames are welded in Durango, Colorado. Yes, I know titanium can be left raw. But man, oh man, does it also look good with a nice coat of paint on it, too. Machined chainstay sections increase tire and drivetrain clearance while still allowing for a compact rear end. Fully rigid 29er hardtails aren’t really my thing personally, but someone out there is looking at this thing and probably thinking it’s perfect for them – hence the beauty of custom bikes. Bridge Bike Works wasn’t actually officially displaying anything at Made, but one of its Surveyor all-road bikes nevertheless found its way into the booth of Portland-based wheel company HiFi – and I must say that it made for a subdued, but fetching, combo. The muted colors of the frameset and Enve one-piece cockpit were offset by the incredibly bright Ciclovation bar tape. I can’t decide if I love it or hate it. Welsh-based builder Twmpa Cycles says its doesn’t just make its frames from wood as a novelty; the ash construction also supposedly imparts an incredibly damped ride quality. Frame sections are made in two halves that are bonded together. Dovetail-like seams are visible in certain areas, too. I’ve seen quite a few wooden frames over the years now, but the Twmpa is probably the most refined-looking example I’ve seen so far. Dropouts are usually where I find most wooden bikes disappointingly crude, but Twmpa has that aspect nailed with these custom-machined aluminum bits. I’ll admit it: I’m curious to ride one. Twmpa has put an impressive amount of thought into the details here. For example, the internal routing is fully lined with a nylon sleeve so as to protect the inside of the frame from moisture. Also, the inside of the seat tube is sealed at the bottom from the rest of the frame, and incorporates a drain that runs to the bottom bracket shell. This steel Victoire is actually a staff machine, and most definitely was designed for very long-distance riding. This particular Victoire adventure machine features clearance for big 700c tires, but yet the subtly curved seat tube still makes for a relatively compact rear end. The stainless steel threaded inserts are machined in-house, and feature a blind design that won’t allow water to easily get into the frame. Very clever. Beautiful. The seat cluster treatment is quite elegant, and I love the way the seat tube opening is artfully sculpted. A stainless bar is brazed on to the side of the head tube to protect the paint from housing rub. This little plate is apparently how Victoire’s welder leaves their signature on each frame. Straps? What straps? I get the impression this front rack has been witness to many a backcountry adventure. What did you think of this story?
😐Meh 😊️Solid 🤩Excellent