Was it only a month ago – seems like a lifetime as Melbourne endured its 4th COVID-related lockdown which slammed the doors on travel, trade, and events. As we slowly emerge from our domiciles, here’s a head check on the only custom bicycle show in the World this year – the Handmade Bicycle Show Australia, or as I often refer, the show of bikes I’d love to own, but currently can’t afford (them all).
The venue was the amazing Seaworks in Williamstown, a chance selection by Event Director, Nathan Lorkin, who lives around the corner. Perched by the watery inlet of Melbourne’s port, seeing the city from an unfamiliar angle was a great backdrop, and access was easy – some even choosing to take a punt across the waters to the show.
It’s been 2 years between drinks – and displays from the best in the land. A solid representation from foundation attendees and an influx of new names made a wander through the hall an engaging experience. The simple aesthetic of the show makes bump-in and out for builders a breeze, and I love the democracy of it, allowing exhibits and builders to shine on the merit of their wares and not elaborate staging.
The number of frame builders was at an all-time high and would have been higher if not for some last-minute withdrawals and International names unable to attend.
The hunger from the public was also reflected in a near doubling of foot traffic from 2019. Nearly 2,500 cycling enthusiasts came through over the 3-day event.
Friday night was buzzing with energy, enthusiasm, perhaps just the novelty of being in a room with so many people again – without masks, to enjoy conversation face to face. The highlight for me was seeing the incredible standard across the board. The formidable standard set by long terms brands like Baum (celebrating their 25th of manufacture), and Llewellyn (42 years) must be intimidating, but some of the New Kids on the Block certainly didn’t let it show – like Sugarloaf Cycles of Brisbane, and their handmade carbon road bike and a trio of steel beauties from The Lost Workshop.
Road still dominates, but Gravel is locked on its wheel, and only one track bike from Vechter graced the venue, yet a decade ago track bikes dominated the stands. To suit my own whims, I’d love to see more custom mountain bikes, and it was great to see a quartet at the show from Tor’s custom all-mountain bike, Curve Cycling’s Downrock in long haul mode, Sean Doyle’s (Devlin Custom) own trail bike, and Trinity MTB‘s prototype frame with 170mm of rear travel, designed around the effigearbox. Those who like going fast and getting sideways may be familiar with one of Trinity’s designers – Engineered to Slide. Go down that wormhole of cool if you dare.
Other highlights for me was chatting with Pennyfarthing Dan, a welcome inclusion on craftsmanship alone. His passion for the Penny was the same as Gellie and his gravel bikes, Velocraft and their paint, or Bastion and their amazing new 3D integrated cockpit.
It was also great to see many parts and accessories from local makers. Terra Rosa Gear for their recrafted adventure hardware, Olas and their beautiful timber sculptures which double as a bike rack, Passchier with their range of bamboo laminated bars, and Partington with their world-class handmade carbon wheelsets.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the show was that the hundreds of people I asked ‘What’s your favourite?’ they all had a different answer. Maybe it’s no surprise as custom bikes are a reflection of the cyclists who ride them. All different, all unique, and all wonderful.
We’ve narrowed the bikes down to two parts, as we curated a selection of 17 bikes total, so enjoy Part 01 today with Part 02 to follow on Wednesday!