By Brooks Brand Specialist Michael Firn.
Our U.S.-based Brooks team recently exhibited at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) in Austin, Texas. In its sixth consecutive year, NAHBS has gathered together the finest craftspeople in the industry to celebrate the burgeoning world of custom bicycles and componentry.
Though still considered within the cycling community as a specialty event, the Handmade show is a microcosm of the industry as a whole and a perfect venue to gauge the temperature of what we consider one of the most exciting and rewarding endeavors—outfitting cyclists the world over with stylish and functional goods to traverse the topography of their lives on two wheels.
The NAHBS event is a showcase of Brooks heritage in itself. As the number of exhibitors continues to grow with each successive year, so does the presence of the Brooks name. These masters of their chosen material dedicate countless hours of their lives to creating the finest examples of the craft, and as the main point of contact, saddle choice is often considered the final flourish. We were proud to see our saddles atop 78 of this years entries to the show
What is perhaps most striking (though not surprising) is the variety of bicycles paired with Brooks saddles. From classic city bikes to cyclo-cross frames, sleek road-racing cockpits to a new-generation of bamboo transport, from tandems to cargo-haulers, these savvy denizens of the handmade world understand, regardless of the application, the natural pairing of a handcrafted bicycle and the world’s finest leather saddle.
One of the finest pairings of the 2011 event, and one that encapsulates the detail and care put into bicycle building at this level, is the collaborative projects of the Horton Collection show bikes. Commissioned by Brett Horton of the eponymous Horton Collection, custom builders Bilenky of Philadelphia and Bishop of Baltimore were charged with creating a pair of Art Deco themed city bikes with custom components by Phil Wood, proprietary tubesets by Columbus, and a pair of one-off custom Brooks saddles.
Starting with a custom-crafted chainguard, every detail of these show bikes was carefully constructed using this unique inspiration. The overall tone of the project called for a singular set of saddles, a pair only Brooks could provide. For the Bishop build, a custom B33 in honey, with a smooth top, hand-hammered copper rivets and chamfered sides was a regal addition to the subtle, detail-oriented construction of the build. The Bilenky project for Brett’s wife Shelly Horton featured a perfectly executed B-67 S with hand-hammered copper rivets, chamfered sides and the addition of lacing to create a classically elegant finish.
In the end, the incredible examples of bicycle construction featured at the 2011 NAHBS event all speak to an overall ethos shared by Brooks—this is not simply art for aesthetic purpose, but rather for the melding of beauty and function that no other form of conveyance can offer.