Ask someone to list off the world's most innovative bicycles, and chances are that they'll mention some mass-produced bikes made by big-name manufacturers. The fact is, though, it's more often the smaller, independent builders that are doing the real innovating. For the past 10 years, many of them have been showing off their latest builds at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). We attended this year's event, which took place last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. Here's a look at some of the things that really caught our eye.
It wasn't that long ago that bamboo-framed bikes
were thought of as a weird rarity. Thanks to its combination of durability, stiffness and vibration-damping characteristics, however, the material has been gaining popularity in recent years. That being said, some designers still find that the random nature of pure bamboo makes it a little too unpredictable for producing frames of a consistent character and quality. That's why two frame builders have developed some interesting work-arounds.
When you want to climb or sprint on your bike, what do you do? That's right, you get your butt off the saddle and shift your weight forward. According to Tampa-based inventor Felton Zimmerman, however, going off-saddle like that hampers your performance. His solution? The Darwin Bicycle. It features a folding frame that automatically moves the saddle forward with you, so you're always seated.
Wooden-framed bikes are things of undeniable beauty
, but they're also highly prized for their smooth ride capabilities
. At the North American Handmade Bicycle Show
, Chris Connor of Denver-based Connor Wood Bicycles introduced us to a new mountain bike named DURT, that's had sections of the steam-bent, locally-sourced reclaimed wooden frame reinforced with Kevlar for a gorgeous combination of strength, beauty and performance.
Of all the things that cause wear, tear and noise on a mountain bike, chain slap is certainly one of the most annoying. As its name implies, it occurs when rough terrain causes the chain to be flung up and down, slapping against the chainstay as it does so. While there are things that can be done to minimize it, California-based Cycle Monkey has taken a unique approach – the company has helped to design the one-of-a-kind Battleaxe mountain bike, that features a unique chain slap-unfriendly drive train.
While companies such as Dahon
already offer products that let you charge your phone with power generated while cycling, both systems do somewhat clutter up the handlebars and stem. Sinewave Cycles' new Reactor, however, is mostly integrated into the bike's existing steerer tube, keeping external hardware to a minimum.
Tandem bicycles are great for allowing couples or friends to ride together, but they're not exactly conducive to riding by yourself. While you could just buy a tandem and
a solo bike, one couple recently took a different approach – they got California-based Calfee Design
to build them a tandem that can be converted into a single.