Photo Essay
By Ed Estlow
on 3.15.13
Photo by Ed Estlow

The annual traveling circus known as the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) is the high point of the year for the arcane world of custom-crafted bikes. I connected with the 2013 edition of the show in Denver a few weeks ago, and I was damn lucky to have my bike-geek daughter along as an interpreter.

Along with seeing and photographing some insane bikes, one of my goals was to get a short video of my offspring talking to a frame builder. When the first such conversation took place twenty minutes after we arrived, I was so dumbfounded by the verbal exchange that I forgot I was holding a camera. It sounded a little like I’d stumbled into a street market in Marrakesh. The foreign language of bike-geek-speak was flowing freely from everyone’s lips — except mine.

Well, no matter. We were soon drawn in to nearly an acre of custom bikes of every imaginable variation — and a bunch we hadn’t imagined yet. Bamboo bikes, wooden bikes, unique road racing bikes, cyclocross bikes, and fat bikes (with 4-inch tires, now making their way onto wintry trails and paths everywhere). They all met in Denver, with in-your-face paint jobs and brightly anodized components everywhere we looked.

The NAHBS was a visual feast — so much so that it made this recovering engineer/photographer want to go buy a torch and a frame jig and get to work. Oh, and I’ll need a good bike-geek-speak phrasebook, too.