February 23, 2008
Bravo to Don Walker and all those that made the Handbuilt Show such a success in Portland this month. I ran a Wheel Fanatyk booth and showed everyone the incredible wood rims from Ghisallo and the beautiful and smooth operating Morizumi spoke cutter. We had huge numbers of admirers for both items. The Handbuilt Show was a perfect setting for the rims. Everywhere you looked were stellar examples of high craftsmanship and eclectic design.
Dario Pegoretti showed a pair of our rims on a lovely touring bike.
Greg Townsend showed his gorgeous green track bike with Ghisallo rims. An image of it graces his Web site. Also check his gallery, click "Track" to see how wonderfully he blends colors and details.
BC's Sam Whittingham, incidentally the World's fastest bicycle rider (click "go sam go"), showed his latest creation, a fixed gear bike that evoked the brash, brilliant glory days of track racing. This machine brought the Show to a standstill.
Every detail, and dozens can't be seen in photo's, added to this bike's impact. I'm biased but convinced that the Ghisallo wood rims contributed to its beauty and allure. When time came for awards, Sam walked off with the Big Three: Best in Show (voted by exhibitors and press), People's Choice (voted by attendees), and President's Choice (Don's Walker's own selection). There was barely room in the booth for the trophies. BTW, that's not Sam in the booth, below.
Sam, as ever, shrugged it off. How many World Records and Best in Show's will it take to slow this guy down?! If all that weren't enough, Lance Armstrong wandered by and bought it. After the Show, Sam's bike was shipped to Austin, where it will be a centerpiece in Lance's just-announced super-sized bike shop. Hurray for wood rims, eh?
Here, humble by comparison, are some shots of the Wheel Fanatyk booth. I was lucky to have my wife, Donna, down to help with the crowds.
I'm on the right, Donna on the left. The tall handsome gent between us is Inigo Gisbert, FSA's industrial designer who came over from our Taiwan factory to enjoy the Show.
Donna and I haven't worked together in a bicycle setting since the early days of Wheelsmith, where we first met. No surprise, she met a bunch of folks she hadn't seen for years (Richard Sachs, etc.). The family side of cycling (industry or otherwise) is particularly rich, especially among handbuilt aficionado's.
Interest in wood rims is particularly high. I gave a talk on Sunday afternoon that was unexpectedly well attended. Everyone finds something surprising in the story. An important point that I repeated is how modern construction combined with traditional appearance and profile creates strength advantages unavailable in decades past. By modern, I mean extra-thin laminations, cloth strips between each, and up-to-date 2-part epoxy adhesive. Also, numerous folks were unaware of the strength potential of the rims because many that have made it to North America are the very lightest possible (330g). They're beautiful and authentic but designed for limited velodrome racing and wheels with no rear hub dish. They are sturdy but not nearly as strong as more robust models like Elegant (430g) and Sport (520g clincher).
If only such artistry were less expensive, we'd have sold hundreds!
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