I’ve been hearing about NAHBS, (North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show), for the past few years and it has caught my interest. The show moves around the country, but this year, it is being held in Sacramento, a short 100 mile drive… or perhaps a long ride on the bike from where I reside. It didn’t take me long to decide it would be a fun adventure to ride from my home near Berkeley, CA to Sacramento by bike, making for a long, but interesting day. And why not ride my recently completed 1987 Eddy Merckx lugged steel Corsa Extra bike to make the whole project that much sweeter?
Things do not start out smooth. I go to prep the ‘ol Merckx the night before departure, and find that the ancient 28 spoke rear wheel, (Maillard hub and MA40 rims), had detensioned severely, and is completely out of true. I pull the wheel, put it in the truing stand, and go to work. I get it right, and increase the spoke tension on the entire wheel. I wonder if it is a good idea to ride this vintage bike such a long distance… but in the end I decide I have to do it, I’m committed. I’ve re-trued bad wheels in the past and in most cases, the fix held nicely.
I start out on the route, at first light, just after 6 A.M., on Friday morning, with my one concession to modern technology, a Garmin 800 bicycle GPS device to help me find my way. My friend Paul Chuck, who frequently rides from Berkeley, to Davis, CA, near Sacramento, gave me the beta on the route, I map it, create a .tcx file and upload to my Garmin. But when I go to bring up the route, it isn’t there! I flip a U-Turn and head back to the house. I’m discouraged, as my first light departure is now foiled. But I get the file correctly uploaded, get back on the bike, and with about 20 minutes or so lost, I am smoothly on my way. The navigation with the Garmin 800 works perfectly from here.
From this point everything goes wonderfully. OK, this route to Sacramento isn’t going to score on my top 10 most beautiful cycling routes, but there is something about going a long, long way, to an interesting destination, under your own power… on a bicycle. This is the beauty of the day. I pass through El Sobrante and Vallejo. I see more Harley motorcycle shops than I can count on all my fingers, toes, and bicycle spokes. I pass many Meth Heads, wandering the streets in the early morning looking for… who knows what? The temperature had plummeted to 32 degrees F. I shake my head and think, what am I doing?
After an hour or so, I get to the Carquinez bridge. The new span has a bike lane. I think how lucky I am to bicycle across this bridge in the early morning light! From there, it’s East past Lake Herman, then North next to the 680 freeway, and through the nicely restored old town of Suisun. The on to Fairfield. The downtown area is nice, but after that, it’s a long slog through the sprawling town. North again along Pleasants Valley Rd., with a wicked North headwind, then East on Putah Creek and Russell Rd. into Davis, where I am surprised not only by the number of people on bikes, but also the car traffic!
A quick stop for coffee and pastry in downtown Davis, and I am left with the 15 miles of flat to Sacramento along the Causeway next to I-80. A strong bike commuter rides in in front of me, and I toy with him as we both cruise the route at 22 mph with a severe crosswind. This goes quickly, and I find myself cruising into Sacramento on Capitol Ave, which takes me directly to the State Capitol building. I ride my bike on the forbidden walkway and snap a photo of myself near Jerry’s digs.
I then arrive at the convention center and leave my bike with the SABA (Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates) bike valet. These guys do a wonderful job of having a secure place for folks to leave bikes and I am very grateful. I am also grateful that my vintage bike and 6 speed drivetrain ran perfectly smooth for the whole ride.
I enter the show, after pulling on some baggy shorts and flip flops carried along in a net/string backpack. I’m still wearing my vintage 80’s Velo Sport Wool jersey.
The show is amazing. Here you have, in one room, the most talented, and dedicated bicycle builders on the planet. These people could excel in other more lucrative pursuits, but are totally dedicated to this piece of Funcitonal Art known as the bicycle. What I saw would take pages to describe, but here are a few highlights. I meet, chat with, and hang out with, a very humble and nice man, Roland Della Santa. I talk at great length with the builder of a “36er” or Mountain bike with 36″ wheels, the “yarder” if you will. A Magnesium tandem that weighed 23 lbs! Bikes made of wood and bamboo. Many different city/touring, practical day to day bikes. Steve Rex was there, a local Sacramento builder whose shop is just blocks away from the show. He was there with wife and daughter helping. Curtis Inglis was there, with his cool Retrotec bikes. Bamboo bikes, steel bikes, wooden bikes, the list goes on. So much innovation and dedication. You really have to attend this show if you get a chance!
I had plenty of time to spend at the show, then dashed out for a quick beer with my brother Doug, also at the show with his fellow bike shop employees, then rode across town to meet my ride to Truckee, CA for a weekend of nordic skiing… all the while dreaming about American Hand Built Bicycles. If you are a bicycle person, this show is a must do. If it comes anywhere near your town… go. If not, go anyway.
See more photos and descriptions of the show at this Flickr Photo Set
Follow my route riding the 100 miles from Berkeley to Sacramento on Strava: