“Every Day Is Your Chance To Make This City A Little Better.”
So proclaims a small white sign hanging above the shuttered Sewing Machine Center on J and 10th streets. It’s not clear who exactly hung this sign up, but it’s a sure bet they had someone like Sacramento-area bicycle advocate Rick Houston in mind when they did. Houston, after all, is the man behind Sac’s Tweed Rides, and now he has convinced the owner of the world’s largest handmade bicycle showcase to bring his annual event to Sacramento.
“We have so many advantages to becoming a premier bicycling city,” says Houston, recalling how he convinced Don Walker to bring his brainchild, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, to The River City. “Our topography is beautiful; you can literally bike 12 months a year. And we also have so many tribes of bicyclists here: dedicated commuters, time trial racers, mountain bikers, fixie riders—you name it!”
“Rick made a strong case,” notes Paul Skilbeck, media coordinator for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS). “Ultimately we chose Sacramento because the cycling culture is very strong and very dynamic.” Skilbeck says this year’s event will be the second largest in NAHBS history, after last year’s show in Austin, Texas.
NAHBS features a wide array of independent bicycle artisans who skillfully fabricate custom frames by hand. The show provides a venue for builders to meet, share ideas and display their designs. NAHBS, now in its eighth year, is held in a different city each year. Past shows have graced Houston, Portland and Indianapolis, among other cities.
In his capacity as Regional Liaison for this year’s NAHBS event, Houston is involved with media, marketing and advertising for the show, interacting with Event Coordinator Robin Rinehart and the Mayor’s office. That he’s doing all of this for no pay, on a strictly volunteer basis, is a testament to Houston’s self-described “enthusiastic community cheerleader” ethos.
“Even for folks who aren’t ‘bike people,’ [NAHBS] is like a great art show,” says Houston. The hours of expert precision detail that go into all of the light-weight lugged steel—and even bamboo—bicycles on display should make for an impressive, awe-inspiring, kid-in-a-candy-store experience.
NAHBS encourages attendees to take a little time out between drooling over bikes to meet the frame builders one-on-one and (hopefully) commission a bicycle built, measured and designed specifically for its rider. “You need to form a relationship with the builder,” says Skilbeck. “They’re essentially your own personal tailor.”
“It’s like a bespoke fitting,” adds Houston.
This year’s NAHBS—held March 2 – 4 at the Sacramento Convention Center downtown—boasts 90 frame builders and 170 exhibitors, which includes (to name but a few) Naked Cycles, Ellis Cycles, Brooks England, United Bicycle Institute, Chris King Precision Components, and Sacramento’s own legendary frame builder, Steve Rex.
“[NAHBS] is a pretty big deal nationally and internationally,” notes Rex, a long-time fixture in Sacramento’s bicycling community. Rex Cycles has been building and selling covetable custom frames in Sacramento for 25 years now. “This show is another feather in the cap for bicycle culture in Sacramento.”
Houston recommends getting to the show early and taking a preliminary walk-through beforehand, as it will easily take hours to see everything on display. This year, NAHBS expects about 10,000 people from all over the world to attend this three-day event.
The number of bicycle-centric events swirling around NAHBS is staggering. Hot Italian hosts a pre-event kick-off party starting at 6pm on Thursday, the 1st. The event starts the following Saturday. A de Vere’s-sponsored ride to the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame in Davis happens that morning at 8am, followed by the ArtBike! parade from 2 to 4pm. That same night, Mulvaney’s B&L Restaurant hosts the “Pig On A (rex) Bike” dinner from 6 to 9pm honoring Steve Rex (with proceeds benefiting the Sacramento Area Bicycle Coalition—or, SABA). Then the “Sacto Pedal Jam” street party goes from 8 to 11pm, hosted by SABA, the California Bicycle Coalition and Old Soul Roasters. This event takes place in the Liestal Way alley, between 17th and 18th streets, and features mobile food trucks, live music and bike displays from neighboring Edible Pedal (with a $5 suggested donation). The following Sunday is women’s bicyclist clothing designer Sheila Moon’s “The Mimosa Ride,” starting at 9AM at the Convention Center.
Added to this mix are the ArtBike! installations (a collaboration between the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission). ArtBike! is the force behind those nine brightly colored bicycles you may have seen around Midtown—all donated by the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen. ArtBike! also spawned a number of bike-themed multimedia art installations at various venues around town.
“I want to make sure that people who come to this show have the best possible impression of Sacramento they can have,” Houston beams.
The North American Handmade Bicycle Show takes place March 2 – 4 at the Convention Center in Downtown Sacramento. For more information visit 2012.handmadebicycleshow.com.