When I lived in New York City, we rode our bikes to Philadelphia every year for the Philly Bike Expo. At the time, the event was hosted inside an old armory in the city, and featured a handful of framebuilders, makers, and companies with roots mostly in commuter cycling. Back then, the Philly Bike Expo felt like a family. I moved out of the Northeast shortly after and was really looking forward to reconnecting with old friends.
The last time I made it to an Expo was in 2012, and a lot has changed. While the same soul is still very much present, the venue, size, and impact of the Philly Bike Expo have grown. After a two-year pandemic hiatus and a relatively subdued 2021 year, it was back and bigger than ever for 2022. Cari and I flew to Philadelphia to get out of Santa Fe for a few days, soak in some big(ger) city food, and take in the Expo, so let’s get to it.
Framebuilder showcases in the United States have been unstable over the past few years. NAHBS was canceled this year, and while both the ENVE and Chris King Open House events happened there hasn’t been a palpable buzz for anything in the US for some time. With our exceptional Bespoked and Concours coverage, I was feeling pressure to document all I could in a relatively short window of time.
Cari and I have a lot going on these days, so we decided to travel to Philadelphia a few days early, do some Shop Visits with old friends, eat at some nice restaurants, and take a break from our fast-paced lives before spending a full day at the Expo on Saturday.
I had to reassess my personal goals for shooting the Expo, knowing I’d want to have some time to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and geek out over custom bikes. I hadn’t seen Bina or her father, Stephen Bilenky, for quite some time and was eager to see how this family-run bike showcase has grown.
We had to be back in Santa Fe on Sunday, so I only had Saturday at the Expo to document the many bikes and the show itself. There were around 40 framebuilders in attendance and just as many companies, including US-based manufacturers and makers. Then there were all my friends I haven’t seen in years. Wanting to still chat with people and browse the aisles of products, I didn’t try to document 40 bikes but instead, I’d focus on half as many. Even with these culled expectations, I couldn’t get to everyone I wanted to see and photograph!
It was an undertaking! We’ll get to the Expo itself in tomorrow’s post but for now, let’s look at a selection of bikes I was able to highlight. I decided to do something different for this showcase, describing why I liked the bike and assigning an adjective to each, so enjoy!
44 Bikes Third Generation Prototype Full Suspension 29er: Ambitious
Kris Henry’s New Hampshire-based 44 Bikes should need no introduction here. I’ve reviewed both a 29er hardtail from Kris and had him make an experimental 27.5+ touring bike for me some years back. His work is precise, clean, with a well-designed branding aesthetic and welds that make everyone stop in their tracks and admire.
Over the past several years, Kris has been working on a steel full-suspension 29er—the version seen here is the second iteration of this project. The first bike featured a single-pivot design. This latest version uses a Horst Link instead, aka a four-bar suspension system, distinguished by the rear pivot being located fore of the rear axle on the chainstay, disconnecting its path from the main rear swingarm, thereby allowing it to move throughout the suspension cycle travel.
What makes this bike so ambitious is the fact that the frame’s pivot points, linkages, and various other hardware bits are made from 3D-printed 15-5 stainless steel. Previously I didn’t realize stainless could be 3D-printed, so this was a surprise to me. Kris pinged the team at Ram3D in New Zealand, one of the only manufacturers that could deliver such pieces to meet Kris’ high standards. He also turned to Lichen to CNC various other parts for the bike. The tubing is Vari Wall.
This 160/140 travel proto features a 64º head tube angle, a 76º seat tube angle, and 440mm rear end. It’s as modern as any plastic motorcycle on the market, yet it only weighs 32lbs for the size large shown here. For the production model, Kris will develop a 140/120 travel flex pivot bike, with an option to upgrade the front triangle to titanium.
Wipe that drool from your chin and look alive; 44 Bikes hopes to have one market-ready next year!
Bishop Bikes Wamwea’s Track Bike: Personalized
Man, oh man, it’s been so long since I’ve documented a Bishop Bikes, and let me tell you, Chris Bishop’s work is still some of my favorite out there. While Chris and Tommy brought along a few road and gravel bikes to the Expo, it was Wamwea’s personal track bike that strummed at my heartstrings the most. Wamwea is a friend of Chris’ and a lover of track bikes, so Chris took extra time tailoring this bike to make it truly unique for him.
Wamwea was born in Kenya and enjoys riding track bikes at the velodrome. Prior to the Expo, he took this bike out for a 75-mile ride around their local track. He also rides the bike on the cobbled streets of Baltimore, hence the fat tires. The red, black, and green motif is present throughout this stunning lugged frame, using a Cherubim seat cluster, Bishop track ends, and Columbus tubing.
Chris really went to town with this bike and his love for Wamwea is visually evident in the stunning iconography and build spec. Polished logos, epically clean lug shorelines, painted lug windows, and a straight blade fork are clearly Bishop earmarks. Custom logos on the Raketa track hubs send the attention to detail over the top for this bike.
Breadwinner Cycles B-Road: Stable
As a big rider myself, I always gravitate to large, custom bikes at showcases like the Expo and the tall headtube found on this Breadwinner B-Road spoke to me. Finding a large bike that offers stability is hard and you’re unlikely to find a production model with a perfect fit from the big makers, which is where operations like Breadwinner come into play.
Simplicity is the name of the game here, yet Breadwinner pinged one of their wheel manufacturers, Astral Cycling, to co-brand this client’s bike with Astral orange hits on the head tube bands, a painted-to-match stem, seatpost, and Sugar Wheel Works-laced Astral Cycling wheels.
These simple, yet elegant paint nods to Breadwinner’s timeless and modern aesthetic.
Johnny Coast 650b Randonneur: Timeless
One of the first documentaries on framebuilders I worked on, with videographer Sara Kinney, featured Johnny Coast alongside his then-studio mate Seth Rosko. That video was from 2010—I had already been documenting builders and makers in the Northeast for about four years and, in the years following, the Atavistic Urge would eventually manifest in today’s version of The Radavist. It’s because of this history that I chose the descriptor timeless to represent Johnny’s work; the classic randonneuring bike remains one of the most lasting cycling archetypes, even today.
Randonneuring bikes offer no shortage of detailing, and this Coast is an exquisite example of a constructeur-inspired, modern rendition. Johnny meticulously shapes his bi-lam head tube, thinning the lugs for sharp shorelines and finishing his brazing to a perfect radius. Yet this beautiful head tube is but a complimentary backbone for the stem and decaleur; a French design that supports a small randonneuring handlebar bag. Coast’s decaleur even has a spring quick release.
A compact TA Cyclotouriste crank pairs with a Campag Centaur 9-speed rear mech. At the rear wheel interface rests his new Paragon machine works-made dropouts, and on the front, he’s machined down his fork ends to better accommodate his generator hub setup.
Coast’s work remains some of my personal favorites within this realm.
Hotsalad Bicycles Titanium Klunker 29er Hardtail: Retrospective
While it’s easy to get drawn into the three-holes that punctuate the double top tube, framebuilder B Vivit’s Expo klunker deserves a much closer look. Built under the banner of Hotsalad Bicycles for SRAM’s Inclusivity Scholarship, this is a true-to-form modern klunker. While that word might mean different things to different folks, we’re defining it here as a balloon tire, flat bar bike with brakes and gears. Coaster brakes are for cruisers, y’all!
… and while these three holes set this frame offering apart from others in the space, the frame is constructed immaculately with beautifully stacked welds and a raw frame finish. Details like this harken back to the earliest off-road bikes, which is why I thought of the adjective retrospective. Yet, there are some other unique moments found throughout the frame.
B modified these Paragon Machine Works dropouts, which supply the “building blocks” for many builders, reducing excess material vis-a-vis these windows and three holes and referencing the double top tube’s holes. Yet, the detailing on the flaying chain and seat stays were what most caught my eye.
After shooting (and owning) countless titanium bikes in my lifetime, it’s this kind of innovation and creativity that ensures this retrospective bike will remain a source of inspiration for years to come. Well done, B.
Junkyard Cats Commuter Build for Janet Jackson: Visibility
When Casey from Mars Cycles, Carl ‘Snarl’ from Vicious Cycles, and Stephen at Bilenky began work on this commuter bike, Stephen Bilenky thought it was for Janet Jackson. Why? Well, he had good reason… because Casey told Stephen it was. In reality, it was for Stephen himself all along. Steve wasn’t even aware in the slightest, even working on the chain and seat stay fabrication himself. Carl provided the Vicious fork, and Casey, the rest of the bike. It wasn’t until the opening morning of the Expo that the big ‘ah-ha’ moment was revealed and Stephen was elated to be surprised by his good friends.
A true team effort, this Junkyard Cats has the mark everyone involved in designing and detailing this brightly-colored – hence visibility – chassis. The bi-lam constructed head tube is coated in an ostentatious, green sparkle paint coat with painted lug lining.
Even on the morning of the Expo opening, Steve wasn’t aware this bike was for him, resulting in one of my favorite bits of lore from the weekend and resulting in my favorite bike that Bilenky and Mars brought to the Expo.
Maiorossé Cycles Commuter Bike: Spirited
Of the new builders at the Expo this year, I was most drawn to the work of Dániel Shafer’s Maiorossé Cycles. His bikes were colorful, full of exuberance, and commanded attention, drawing in crowds like moths to a flame. Yet looks alone don’t cut it. Bikes have to deliver on both aesthetics and functionality, two things exemplified in this commuter that Dániel made for his wife.
This triptych showcases one of my favorite details from the show; a bi-lam lugged seat cluster with a cable guide brazed to the seat stay, a detail I had never seen utilized before in such a way. While it does introduce another hard line in what is a very organic focal point of this frame, its ingenuity caused pause.
As stated, this is a commuter bike, and the porteur rack speaks to its utility. With a dynamo light mounted to the non-drive side, it ensures proper visibility. Don’t worry, you fender heads; the bike can still take full fenders. ;-)
The internal routing, clever paint job, throwback Columbus decal, and overall size and stance of this bike really spoke for not only the love Dániel has for his wife but his love of the framebuilding ecosystem.
Royal H Cycles Dursley-Pedersen Reproduction Bike: Tensile
What is essentially a hammock on wheels, the Dursley-Pedersen is a unique bicycle design developed by Danish inventor Mikael Pedersen and produced in the English town of Dursley. Also known as Copenhagen bikes, these unique bikes operate as moving trusses, kept in tension, hence tensile, by a series of turnbuckles, ratchet straps, springs, cams, shackles, and the weight of the rider.
Framebuilder and all-around good chap Bryan Hollingsworth from Royal H Cycles unveiled this bike to me on the Friday before the Expo, and my mind might have begun to smoke. Not only did he ideate the construction technique – remember, these frames are essentially a series of trusses held together in tension – but he machined and retrofitted the saddle harness. He requested that the client do the actual saddle weaving himself.
This bike was by far the most intricately fabricated specimen of the entire show, barely besting the Acoustic Cycles high pivot full suspension, which we’ll look at tomorrow, and even utilized steering bumpers for the steering clevis. I went to town shooting this bike, so take your time while in the gallery!
Again… wow, Bryan!
WZRD Bikes Hardtail 29er: Rambunctious
How could you not be drawn to the work of Em from WZRD Bikes? Their creations are equal parts utilitarian and elegant. As a part of the SRAM’s Inclusivity Scholarship, Em’s hardtail is as at home on their trails in BC as it would be here in the Southern Rockies. Long, slack, and rowdy as fuck, this one deserved to the rambunctious moniker.
The half frame bag compliments the Nickelodeon gak-inspired paint that coats the front end of this purple chassis. A 140mm travel RockShox Lyric is ready for anything you point this bike toward, and the meaty Goodyear Newton tires are prepared to defy gravity.
Yet, there are some clever moments found within the detailing as well, like this rear brake routing. For as long and large as this bike is, it felt well balanced, photographed as true as an arrow, and is a perfect ending to a wonderful first gallery from the Philly Bike Expo.
We’ll be back tomorrow with part 02 of our coverage of the Philly Bike Expo. For now, take a while, soak in this delicious bike gravy, and let me know what your favorite is in the comments!