They rode their bikes from across town. They took the train from the Bay Area. They drove from Livermore or flew in from Portland, Ore., or practically anywhere else bikes are fun, cool and celebrated.
And when they arrived at the 12th annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Sacramento, enthusiasts of all kinds got down to the business of gawking, inspecting, ogling, photographing and, yes, running their hands ever so gently across bikes, wheels, saddles, bars, cranks, cogs, stems, spokes, hubs and headsets.
“This is the passion of the industry,” said Mark Hubbell, a sales rep for Shimano, which manufactures bike components such as gears, brakes and derailleurs. “You have these framebuilders who are artists and they are putting their art and passion into this.”
“They’re the most passionate people in the cycling world,” said Shimano colleague Chad Roberts, referring to those roaming the 95,000-square-foot convention floor. About 1,700 attended the show Friday and 3,500-plus on Saturday.
Judging by the large crowds and their positive feedback, NAHBS, as it is called by insiders, has been a major success.
Greg Manning, an electrical contractor who at one point Saturday was taking a long, careful look at handlebars and stems on display, drove to NAHBS from Livermore.
“I just like bikes. I like seeing stuff I don’t normally see,” said Manning, who rides about 50 miles a week.
Nearby, Rene Gonzalez, who works for the city of San Francisco, was using his phone to take close-up photos of two custom-made road bikes by Breadwinner Cycles of Portland. He already has three bikes but is in the market for a fourth.
“I’m looking for a townie/utility bike,” said Gonzalez, nodding toward the steel Breadwinner bike painted gray with orange accents. “This is elegant. It’s got fenders. It’s got those little touches like the light (powered by a dynamo hub in the front wheel). I like simplicity and I like showboating.”
There was so much to see that it would likely take at least a couple of hours for visitors to work their way through the 175-plus exhibitors of bike companies ranging from revered to obscure. There were bikes made of carbon fiber, wood, bamboo, titanium and, of course, steel, the mainstay material in the hand-built bike industry.
Retired pro cyclist-turned-TV analyst Bob Roll was spotted checking out the exhibits. Nelson Vails, the track bike hero from the 1984 Olympics, had a booth where he was signing autographs and promoting the new documentary, “Cheetah: The Nelson Vails Story.” Vails became a major star during the Los Angeles Olympics, where his story of rising from New York City bike messenger to world-class track racer resonated throughout the world.
Vails will lead a public bike ride at 8:15 a.m. Sunday at Mike’s Bikes, 1411 I St., Sacramento. The event is free and open to the public. All levels of cyclists are welcome and the ride is expected to be at a slow, friendly pace.
Rich Maile, a local bike racer and mechanic, was among many Saturday busily working his way through the exhibitors, checking out all kinds of handcrafted bikes and accessories.
“The biggest thing I take away from this is that the fear of the big-box society is not that big of a fear,” he said.
Asked why he was attending, Maile said, “Because I’m a bike geek. I love bikes. I love what I get to do with my bikes. This is like a giant homecoming for bike geeks.”
12th annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J St., Sacramento
COST: Tickets are $18