North American Handmade Bicycle Show Awards

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The NAHBS was last weekend in Sacramento.  If you’ve never had a chance to make it to one of these shows you need to make a point of it.  It is a gathering of the best of the best current handmade bicycle manufactures.  It is more like walking into an art exhibition that an bicycle show. You could spend a whole day at nearly each and every booth.  There is too much cool stuff to even come close to absorbing.

Anyway, my sponsor and long time friends at Kent Eriksen Cycles won 2 awards there this year. They won the best gravel/cyclocross bike and best TIG welded bike.  This isn’t anything of a surprise. Kent and Brad normally bring home a ton of awards, which the truly deserve.

I’ve known Kent forever.  I won the first MTB National Championship riding a bike Kent made and now I’ve been riding Eriksen’s titanium cross bikes this whole century and honestly can say that they are the best cyclocross bikes made, bar none.  Titanium is a perfect material for cyclocross/gravel/and MTB’ing.  It is virtually bombproof and has an incredible ride feel.  Titanium has improved a ton since the old Merlin/Litespeed days.  It is lighter, stronger, thus for the road, my bike is nearly as stiff as that of a carbon frame.

Frankie Andreau came up to me at Joe Martin, a few years ago, when he was running the 5 Hour Energy team, and asked me if he could ask me a personal question.  I said sure, having no idea what he was going to ask.

He wondered why I was riding a titanium road bike?  I was expecting something way more personal.  I told him that I wanted a bike that if, or more honestly, when I crashed, I could reach down and pick up my bike off the ground, knowing that it would not be in pieces.  I had ridden carbon frames for the previous 3 seasons and had broken a ton of them.  As soon as a front wheel from another rider hit my carbon frame, it was done.  I’d broken stays, main tubes, integrated seat masts, etc.

I told him I didn’t ever have a car following me that had another bike ready and available for use, so I’d prefer riding a bike that could take the rigors of bicycle racing.  He understood.  It was April and he said that his team had already went through 10 frames, which was about the same as my experience, just on a lesser scale.

Anyway, I can’t say enough about Eriksen frames.  When I retire, I’m only going to have titanium bikes hanging in my garage.  They are going to outlast me, which is how a bicycle should be built.  It’s a privilege to be riding them.

For all the show winners, here is a like to Bikeradar, which has them all listed.

For all the show winners, here is a link to Bikeradar, which has them all listed.

This video is a little fussy, but Brad gets across the pertinent information.

Almost forgot Tucker's picture. He had to remind me.

Almost forgot Tucker’s picture. He had to remind me.


27 thoughts on “North American Handmade Bicycle Show Awards

  1. Jason Anderson

    I completely agree with you on this. I would much rather ride a Ti or steel frame any
    day! Everyone is soo caught up in the carbon thing. Carbon has it’s place-such as forks, seatposts, and various other compenents-but full carbon frames have always scared me for most applications. My tri bike is all carbon, but tri and tt bikes can be the exeption.

    I would love to ride Ti again someday.

  2. jeffc

    Love Ti… I have an old airborne Ti frame… can do anything with that. I’ve ridden Aluminum, carbon and steel. Steel is a nice nice ride, my cyclocross do everything ride is steel. Love it… hate aluminum, it doesn’t warn yah before it breaks, it just breaks. carbon, I’ve busted carbon crank arms and carbon frames.
    The fatigue limit is what counts – Ti has a very high fatigue limit, aluminum doesn’t… carbon, it depends on on the process… won’t touch carbon anymore. Too much can go wrong in the process.

    Having worked for lockheed and such, chatting with the engineers that manufacture helicopters, aircraft etc… Ti is the best way to go.

    I’d love to have a Ti road ride or cyclocross , one of these days… nothing beats Ti

  3. jeffc

    just to continue on – I think we’ve been duped into thinking carbon is the hottest thing going… I just remember back in the 90s when things changed. Bikes went from steel to aluminum, the warranty on the frames went from lifetime to 5 years, then 3 years, then 2 years, then no years… junk… Along came carbon, nice and light. But, the stuff would break easily (depending upon the process used and material …. so many variables). Some had 5 year warranties, I used that up with my carbon frame. I have a new carbon frame that sits on the wall, I don’t dare touch it… don’t trust carbon. Then probably no warranty now. I think most Ti frames come with lifetime warranties, that’s what counts…

    yet, we fools in the cycling world are made to believe otherwise – look at XYZ’s new bike, its light and its made of YZY … who cares, if there isn’t a warranty on the thing. If a bike manufacture can’t guarantee its stuff, don’t buy it… simple. If they can’t trust their workmanship, then why the heck buy it…. that’s my motto now.

    I’m just waiting for the foolishness to be teased out of all this electronic shifters. That’s pure foolishness at its best. Having worked on military grade electronics and missile tracking stuff etc… (really high end state of the art stuff with FPGAs, high end electronics etc…) I know how quickly electronics can degrade, especially when put under stress (weather, beaten up, etc…). I suspect this trend won’t last long if people are smart. If anything, we should be going back to just a few key gears not more gears… foolishness at its best. Someone making money off it all.

    what I’d like to see more of though – is more honeycomb structures used with Ti and steel combined. That would be a strong strong structure to take on a lot of the forces put on a bike…

  4. Ted

    I designed and built titanium mtb in Poland in the mid-90’s because the labor rate was so low and plenty of qualified people – the frames were built at a former helicopter factory that built helicopters for the Russian Army – very talented people there. The first prototype was built entirely by hand which is a very tedious process if you ever tried to cut titanium. More important the jig had to be perfect because the blueprints were aerospace standard (thousand of an inch) – and there is no aligning titanium after you weld it – a full suspension frame like Kent has is very difficult because the rear triangle has to fit perfectly to the frame triangle – one mistake and you you throwing away hundreds of dollars. Most people do not realize how difficult it is to make a full suspension ti-frame. The argon has to 99.99% (lab quality) also – otherwise you start seeing blue in welds (presence of oxygen). And lastly the lifespan of a titanium frame is 100,000 years – compare that to AL which is 5 years (on average).

  5. Carl Sundquist

    Last year I bought a steel Ritchey breakaway bike for traveling. I wanted the Ti version because it still takes me 30-40 minutes to disassemble and wrap each frame tube in 3mm neoprene whereas I would hardly need any frame padding at all with a Ti frame. But I couldn’t justify the extra $1500 for that reason on a bike I only use intermittently. First world problem, I know.

  6. RGTR

    Everytime I read about the Ti bikes I want one. I’ve luckily been on my carbon frame now for about 5 years but the creaking is about to drive me bonkers. I see Eriksen doesn’t recommend that stupid BB30 pressfit. I’m scared to ask him how much!

  7. Carl Sundquist

    I have no opinion on the estimated 100,000 year lifespan of a Ti frame partially because it is irrelevant. But I think you are underestimating the lifespan of Al frames. I am not preaching that Al frames are awesome, just that I think it is greater than five years. Aluminum’s main features are that it is decently light, can be shaped/hydroformed, and mostly, is cheap in material costs and manufacturing. Because of it’s relative lightness to steel, it can be used with heavier gauges which allows for faster, less precise welding. In bulk, you can buy aluminum frames as cheaply as $8. Because it is made with thicker aluminum, it is sturdier, thus has a reasonably long lifespan.

  8. Krakatoa East of Java

    Carbon frames are the biggest fraud. Yes, they’re a little bit lighter, and they have great road feel (when built properly), but they break all the friggin time. So much so, that they had to tell the Tour’s moto-photos to stop showing the aftermath of crashes.

    Joe Martin is in April. For Frankie’s team to have blasted through ten of them by the middle of April, that’s speaking volumes.

  9. Dog

    Couldn’t agree more. Back in the late 80s early 90s most of the privateer riders rode on Ti frames. The team guys were riding the latest and greatest sponsored rides and going thru a couple three frames a year. The privateer guys showed up to our races every year with the same old beat to hell bike parts on a shiny three year old Ti frame. They were and are expensive, but they just don’t seem to go away. To me cross is the perfect sport for a Ti frame. No rust,pretty darn light, scratches come out with a scrub pad, don’t bend when you go down, and with a little WD 40 on the finish the darn thing looks brand new after you power wash the big mud off it.

  10. George

    I bought the Ti Ritchey breakaway (cross version) a couple of years ago.

    It’s a really nice bike and I don’t have to worry about getting the paint scratched. I also like being able to run cross tires or road tires. I just need to make more trips with it!

    As for the Ti Eriksen’s I have the FS Bingham Design Eriksen and it’s amazing. I’ve ridden it a little over a year (2500 miles or so) and it’s been flawless. I don’t consider the cost a drawback as I would start looking for a new bike every year with a “normal” bike and with the Eriksen I haven’t felt the itch for a new one at all.

    AND, I don’t miss the BB30/BB90/BB Pressfit of the day at all. Threaded Chris King BB and I’m happy!

  11. Terry

    I was in Poland and had a custom steel hardtail made. Couldn’t be happier. Again, the workmanship was very good in this case. Lot of qualified builders.

  12. John H

    Actually, speaking of “just the frame” carbon is a *LOT* freakin lighter(percentage wise) than even Ti. That said, once you bolt on everything, it doesn’t really matter all that much but to weight weenies. I mean, my current bike is carbon, and I am carrying around two of my bikes in extra weight on my body. It’s pretty irrelevant.

    All that said, my next and possibly last bike will either be Ti(the Ericksen’s with SnS connectors look so nice), or a stainless Jaegher.

  13. olmowebb

    I was hit by a car a few years ago riding a Felt Carbon. As far as I can tell, there was no damage to the frame, BUT, you can’t be sure without professional inspection, so I won’t ride it. I also have a 12 year-old Dean Ti, made-to-measure, that I’ve put 10’s of thousand of miles on, and love it. Fits great, looks like new, and I put new decals on when I want to change the look. Also have the Ritchey Ti Break-away (clearance sale, otherwise would have gotten the steel). Been on a few trips so far and it’s held up great.

    As I’ve aged and been cycling for 30 years, my tastes have changed. I don’t want another cookie-cutter bike made in Asia. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just want something different and personal. The Dean won’t die, but my next bike will be a locally-made Ti, or one I build myself.

  14. The Capitalist

    Tucker!!! Looks like he’s full of piss and vinegar today. He sure is a cute little guy.

  15. barb

    I think Frankie Andreu summed it up nicely when he said it was only April and his team had already gone through ten (carbon) frames. Not that most of us ride like professional racers, but I’ve always ridden ti for my good bikes, have never trusted carbon (tri friends have snapped off their stems, bars, resulting in bad crashes, mountain bike friends have fractured carbon frames etc) and the idea of a mass-produced jello mold frame because it’s cheaper to manufacture (even though it costs us more) just doesn’t appeal to my idea of what a bicycle should be. I’m currently building a ti cross/gravel bike, so I can run road tires or cross tires on the same wheel set and frame, since my road frame was not built to accommodate bigger tires. Eriksen’s NAHBS winning gravel bike is the stuff dreams are made of, but the cost is more than a little unrealistic for most of us. What a beautiful bike though!

  16. Jim

    “If anything, we should be going back to just a few key gears not more gears… foolishness at its best.”

    It would be foolish to revert back to a 5 or 6 speed cassette that you have to swap depending on the course profile. I’ll take my 12-25 11 speed cassette over a 5 speed cassette with downtube friction shifters any day.

  17. Michael Thompson

    Steve, I have followed your blog closely over the years and rarely comment. However, I cannot resist whenever the topic of Ti frames comes up, especially when it also mentions Kent Eriksen.
    I had been going to Steamboat for years for winter and summer fun since college. Continued as a family man (all our kids learned to ski on that mountain).
    Kent made me a road frame about 9-10 yrs. ago. I actually went to Steamboat that summer with the family with the intention of getting a Moots road frame, since I had been riding a used Moots YBB for a few years. While I was in the condo trying to find the phone # for the Moots factory to set up an appointment I saw a number for Eriksen Cycles and made a knee jerk decision to go see Kent at his new shop, which was really his old shop in the in the incinerator that was Sore Saddle Cyclery. I was one of his first customers after he founded Kent
    Eriksen Cycles in 2006. He had left Moots 2 yrs. earlier. The frame rides today like it did the first ride. In a word, perfect. They simply know what they’re doing there. The service is personal and attentive. It wasn’t cheap even a decade ago ($3,000 give or take a couple hundred) for the frame, but I won’t have to buy another ever because I have to, it’ll be only if I want to.
    Titanium is the perfect material for a bike frame, as far as I can tell, and I thought that long before I had ridden one. Strength to weight ratio, durability, appearance , ridability – in the hands of someone like Kent who can dial in the stiffness/compliance and geometry to your liking- is unparalleled.

  18. dave

    Riding a Colnago C-2 Titanio for the road 12 years now. It’s a Ti/carbon combo, seatstays/chain stays and fork carbon, mainframe titanium. Very nice ride. And Colnago paint jobs are tops.

  19. Larry T.

    You’re preaching to the choir Steve. But the profit margins on steel and titanium bikes are not high enough for the industry these days. Think about the real big change in bike frames – from steel which took a lot of brazing work + filing, etc. to make it look nice to aluminum which a guy used to making lawn furniture could weld up quickly and cheaply. Once the industry figured out marketing mojo (Remember Cipollini’s “Cannondale Best Bike!”?) could sell these awful things it was downhill from there to the current carbon where guys in Asia can slap ’em together and bake ’em up for next-to-nothing. Think about the profit margins needed for a big company (maybe one that starts with S?) to sponsor all those pro teams – not only dozens of frames to replace the ones that break but millions of $ as well. You aren’t gonna get that kind of dough with skilled-labor- intensive bikes made from steel or titanium, not to mention they don’t wear out or break, so there’s no repeat sales from failure or simply going out of style. Might this explain the industry’s current infatuation with disc brakes? That’s ONE way to make even your never-gonna-wear out metal bike obsolete!

  20. Mark

    I personally look forward to buying myself a new bike every couple of years. Makes old roads and trails seem brand new again.

  21. Steve Tilford Post author

    Mark-Instead of spending all that money on a new bike every two years, you could just send you frame back to Eriksen, get it bead blasted and new decals for s couple hundred dollars and have all that extra cash to be riding new wheels or upgrade to Di2 on all your bikes. Or ride carbon rave wheels/tubulars training. Talk about a better ride. One of the problems with the industry right now is you can buy the parts to assemble a complete bike cheaper than buying the bike with the components.

    Try to piece together an 18K bike. 6k for the frame, 6k for the components and 6 for the wheels? It is nearly impossible.

    I’m not saying you never need a new frame. The new 1 1/2″ steering tube on my new Eriksen is substantially stiffer than before. But these changes happen every 8-10 years, not constantly.

  22. Kerry Powers

    I was smart enough to listen to people that know a lot more about bikes than me a few years ago, and I bought a road bike from Kent Eriksen. There is nothing like riding a TI frame that is custom fit for you.. I ended up going to the NAHBS show last year in Louisville and ordered a Mountain bike as well.

    Riding their bikes is a blast, as was the process of working with Kent and Katie to have it built. The only question for me now is when to order the fat bike…

  23. Larry T.

    Can’t help myself with this one – rather than buy a new bike spend the money going somewhere new to ride!!! Riding your current bike in a new place has got to be better than vice-versa..but I’m in the bike travel biz so can’t claim to be unbiased. But when you look back upon your life, will you remember the things you bought or the things you DID?


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