Entering the 2023 MADE show presents an abrupt dichotomy. The Portland, Oregon venue in the Zidell Barge Building is nestled in an old ship manufacturing yard and is evidence of a bygone era. Cranes and mechanical armatures tower overhead and huge steel joists span across the space, with years of dust and grime clinging to each rivet and bolt. Underfoot, the concrete floor is stained from a century of industry and the bright sun barely penetrates the skylights, yellowed from age.
Within each of the bays rest vestiges from the Pacific Northwest’s industrialized peak: band saws, electrical panels, metal tanks, stacks of sheet metal, and other obsolete remnants. Long gone are the hulls and the chorus of industry; in there place are rise high-rise condos, hospitals, bike paths, and local businesses.
And even if it was just for a few days, the MADE show revived this post-industrial venue with the spirit of hand-built machines, this time in the shape of mechanical chariots of freedom, exploration, and the greenest form of transportation humans have ever invented: the bicycle.
MADE brought together framebuilders from all over the globe, under one roof to celebrate the art of building bicycles. From fillet-brazed beauts, lugged frames made to flex and plane, to high-tech modern carbon production, we saw cargo bikes, fast bikes, slow bikes, concept bikes and more. Adjacent to these makers were the producers of accessories; bags, bells, components, wheels, apparel. You could smell the aluminum chips flying off the CNC mills, the anodizing baths, and the blood, sweat, and tears each person had poured into their work.
Actually making products in the country of design origin will never be easy. As such, the makers that congregated in Portland last week are outliers of the bike industry. Artists giving life to their ideals by building unique and utilitarian vehicles to carry their owners on journeys long and far. The drive to produce by hand has come in packages large and small since the first humans crafted tools from rock, bone, and wood.
This drive, motivation, and desire to shape not only the bike industry but the world itself through handmade objects is inseparable from the human condition, and celebrating these feats is always worth our effort here.
MADE was the best bike show I’ve ever been to. The venue was stunning, the people welcoming, and the crowd diverse. The forces within have motivated me to spend the last almost 18 years of my life documenting their work with a passion. I built this very website as a venue of celebration, and MADE was a reminder that every bit of energy released into this world comes back with a massive return on investment.
As Josh and I spent five solid days shooting bikes from sun up to sun down, we both walked away exhausted but excited. It felt like a family reunion. A return to an era of celebration and experimentation, full of energy, light, and awe.
Some quick observations: we saw were fewer “bikepacking” setups, more touring racks and panniers; there were more cargo bikes, fixed gear gravel was trending, 20″ mini MTBs are back, having their first heyday since their genesis under the torch of Victor Vincente with the Topanga Bike. We’ll continue to surf the waves of the industry’s ebbs and flows…
Writing about this event—the makers, framebuilders, the people we shook hands with, hugged, and cried with—isn’t easy. These people are my family, and documenting their work brings me the greatest joy I’ve experienced.
If you came here to read our words, browse our photos, and engage in the comments, thank you. If your work was featured here, know it comes from the heart, and my only regret is not being able to visit each and every builder.
Over the course of the showcase, we documented around 80 bikes, and as I loaded up my bag and walked out of the venue back to my hotel at the end of the show, I wished I had the energy to document more.
It was Coco from Paragon Machine Works’ birthday. She and PMW keep the framebuilding industry afloat!
Thanks to everyone who helped bring MADE to light, and a big, warming hug to anyone who stopped to say hello. We’re still vibing hard off last weekend, and I hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage.
The Zidell Yards launched its last ship in 2017, yet the spirit of industry lives on with shows like this.
🖤 you, MADE
Check out the above gallery for a 200+ photo gallery, and read along in the captions…
We’ll be back tomorrow with our final gallery of bikes from MADE, so stay tuned!
Thanks to 1-Up USA for supporting our continued coverage of the 2023 MADE Bike Show. Check out 1-UP’s made in the USA bike racks!