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NAHBS-Louisville-02

Beginning this Friday, March 6, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) takes over the Kentucky International Convention Center in Downtown Louisville to show off the wares of top bike artisans and manufacturers. The show’s founder, Don Walker,  also happens to live in the Louisville area, and this year’s show is sure to be a great addition to the ongoing #YearOfTheBike. Previous shows have taken place in San Jose, Portland, OR, Indianapolis, Austin, and Charlotte, among other cities.

Broken Sidewalk contributor Mary Beth Brown asked him a few questions about the show and what it means for the city. According to Mary Beth, “Don is super passionate about this and I’m hoping it’s only the beginning of a relationship between Louisville and NAHBS.” We couldn’t agree more.

We will also be on the ground at the NAHBS, talking with some of the 170-plus exhibitors and a few of the more than 7,300 expected attendees. Be sure to brave the snow and check out the show running from March 6–8 2015.

How did you get started with the NAHBS? How did the show grow over the years?

NAHBS started from an online forum about bicycle framebuilding. Many of the experienced guys were chiming in with some tips for the new guys and we all talked about getting together and doing an in person type of session to make sure the new builders didn’t fall into the same traps as we had earlier in our careers. I decided to take the initiative and make something happen with it instead of talking about it. I felt that it would be best to implement the media and general public to gain as much notoriety for the builders. It caught on rather fast and built up momentum and here we are 11 years later!

Bilenky Cycle Works is among this year's NAHBS exhibitors. (Courtesy NAHBS)
Bilenky Cycle Works is among this year’s NAHBS exhibitors. (Courtesy NAHBS)

What is a Handmade Bike? Why is craft in bike making important?

I believe there are lots of ways to interpret it, but the basics are that the bike is not built before the order comes in to the builder. Sure, a production bike may be “handmade” by a craftsman, but the whole bespoke/craft movement has a feel or guideline that the order predates the construction of the item. Like when an artist is commissioned for a specific piece.

Craft is important for many reasons, but among the lead reasons are that you are doing business with someone whose passion is the bicycle. Lets face it—if you’re passionate about riding bikes, maybe you want to show your passion by having something made just for you, by someone who is as, if not more, passionate about bicycles. Each step in the build process is done with care, attention, and passion, and that in itself is almost as important as the craft itself.

The Louisville Slugger bike will be unveiled at the show. (Courtesy NAHBS)
The Louisville Slugger bike will be unveiled at the show. (Courtesy NAHBS)

What’s one particular bike that stands out to you?

I’ve heard of a few really cool bikes coming to the show. I have to say that as a baseball fan, I am really, really excited about the Slugger bike by Connor. I appreciate all kinds of bikes. Seriously, its hard for me to narrow it down to just one, but if the Star Wars bike by Peacock Groove is at NAHBS, I think I’ll be pretty psyched to see it in person.

What does it mean that this year’s show is in Louisville? Is Louisville’s bike scene starting to grow up?

For me, it means that NAHBS returns to the Midwest, where we haven’t been since 2009 when the show was in Indianapolis. Being a resident of the area for the last 3 plus years, I have seen much growth in the cycling culture. I have witnessed the opening of the Big Four Bridge that links cyclists (and other pedestrians) between Southern Indiana and Louisville. Mayor Fischer has been working hard to increase the bike commuting routes and is making great strides in improving Louisville’s standing in the yearly League of American Wheelman’s Cycling Cities rank. Then, we hosted Cross Worlds, Single Speed Cross Worlds and don’t forget the Mayors hike, bike and paddle where we routinely see upwards of 10,000 cyclists. This city is blowing up, so to speak. Oh yeah, and the 16 plus miles of trails coming to the Floyd’s Fork area. Yeah, its hard not to think that this city didn’t deserve some props from NAHBS.

How can this show help Louisville grow as a biking community?

Just by helping more folks recognize Louisville as a legitimate cycling destination. With so much great road riding in the area and the parks system we have and all the mountain biking, Louisville really can expand on this energy and make it snowball. It’s really exciting to see so much growth in such a short time.

The REEB Destroyer Dirt Jumper bike. (Courtesy NAHBS)
The REEB Destroyer Dirt Jumper bike. (Courtesy NAHBS)

What’s the future of the show? Could it come back to Louisville again in the future?

NAHBS goes to different cities and regions each year. That’s one of the unique things about this show that makes it different each year. Different exhibitors and different attendees. It never gets stale. If the Louisville show is off the charts, and what I mean is the show has a ton of media buzz, the attendees are plentiful and all of the exhibitors have a great show, its hard to say “no, we won’t come back in future years.” However, the exact opposite can happen as well. If the show is a miserable experience for all of my exhibitors, we’ll probably not want to come back to Louisville and look back at other cities in the Midwest region.

Where can people get more information and tickets to the show?

You can always go to the show website, to see the show hours, who is exhibiting and the local ride schedule. You can register for the event here. Advance tickets run $18 and will cost $22 at the door.

[Top image: Don Walker, left, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, right. (Courtesy NAHBS)]
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