The 2023 MADE Bike Show in Portland, Oregon this past week was set to be quite an event. Announced about a year ahead, people seemed to be getting more and more amped as the date approached. In the weeks prior, the socials buzzed with hype and excitement. Everyone was getting ready and had something special planned.
This was the first show from this organization. NAHBS imploded around the start of COVID leaving quite a vacuum. The Philly Bike Expo has remained true, but that is firmly an eastern megalopolis event and has a slightly different mission than these handmade shows.
At MADE, I missed the education and lecture component that both NAHBS and PBE have included. I’ve been lecturing at shows lately and would love to keep doing that as there is a real need. Sadly, this MADE show was purely a marketing event. Hopefully next year there will be provisions for those looking to teach and learn.
Windy and I set out for Portland on Tuesday evening, from Fairfax, CA. We made it to the first rest area on I5 that night and got back behind the wheel in the early morning. It was a 12 hour drive and although long, quite beautiful, once you get past Redding or so. That put us on site at about 3pm on Wednesday.
We took a stroll through the venue to get our bearings and shake hands with the folks setting up early. Immediately, one thing was clear to be a big monster…darkness. The venue cast a theme that only a graphic designer could love; an old manufacturing building certainly about to be demolished before construction of chic urban condos. The ground was uneven and filthy. The ceiling super high. Getting on my knees to capture the shot meant getting covered with toxic filth. Very little light was reaching the details we want to see. It was dark. Photography was going to be a challenge and it’s already hard to take photos at bike shows.
I was one of the few roaming photographers that came prepared. At the bottom of my bag, as if by chance, I had decided to bring a small LED lamp. This turned out to be the clutch play of the weekend. It made it possible to get the photos that you see here.
At any big custom bike show, we can see trends. This year, I saw rigid forks, polished silver parts, and (of course) additive manufactured parts. I think that these three things stood out strongest but there were undercurrents of other ideas. Maybe it’s that the current aesthetic is retro but with a modern flair. I’ll let the style guys debate all of this.
Only two builders (that I saw) had a print shown with their bikes: Bingham and Manzanita. Both of those brands knowing that it takes more than pretty paint make for an impressive bike. I wish that more folks would get interested in bike geometry and demonstrate that to the public.
On Wednesday evening, No 22 hosted a small afterparty at a local bike shop that carries their line. This gave folks time to mingle offsite with pizza and beer. I had a good time as I captured a couple of interviews with those guys and delivered a long rant that an unsuspecting citizen bore the brunt of. I’m known for going off…
Thursday evening saw the Chris King afterparty hosted at their facility that will be the subject of its own post in the next few days. It was amazing. In many ways.
Friday was a happy hour at Breadwinner Cycles. They have a pretty cool location and the parking lot and shop overflowed with folks that had a lot to talk about. Tony was a great host, providing food and beer for the masses. I took off when the hipsters took over. Portland is Portland, eh?
One pretty wild thing happened while at Breadwinner. Jeff Buchholz (Sputnik Tools) called me over to look at a fork alignment table. Not just any table but THE fork alignment table that we had used 35 years ago. Around 1990, Chris Chance (Fat Chance) hired me to work at his factory. I ended up running the fork department. A new hire, Jeff was tossed into the mix and we did the forks together before we moved to other positions. In that time, though, we each aligned thousands of forks on this tool. Chris and Ron Andrews (King Cage) had constructed it in the 1980s. When the assets of Fat City were disposed of in the nineties, Chris Igleheart (who had worked on the forks at Fat City before Jeff and I) ended up with the tool and brought it to Portland. When he retired, the tool ended up in the Breadwinner shop across the street. Now, 35 years later, the three of us are standing in front of it again. Life is a crazy place!
Donna Norstad (Paragon) was on site showing off her Barbie flair. All sorts of pink splash. She promised that her toe nails were painted pink to match. I need to start dressing nice for shows.
I was super impressed with the Canadians. They came down in force, taking over a section of the show. Mad props going to Dustin Adams of We Are One Composites who gave a call to all his locs, sharing cost of space and the trip with a bunch of folks. That’s freaking cool. Canucks roll in force!
This was a special show for me personally. It was the first time that I had a bike in a big show. It’s funny that it’s taken so long but I’m not doing this the easy way. Daniel at Onyx Racing Products was kind enough to host both my Vega and Millennium Falcon in his booth over the weekend. Obviously, the bikes have the lovely Onyx parts on them and I totally love using their hubs (#noshill). I was thrilled that I finally had this chance.
I had planned on doing a big block of audio interviews at the show. Although that was the plan, it may not have turned out that way. Overall, I don’t think I did a great job with my interviews but there are some moments of inspiration in the mix. There were many interviews and photos that I missed and would like to have done but things can get crazy at a show and staying on task can be challenging.
Will Hilgenberg – Albatross Bikes
Will Bender – Bender Bicycle Company
Tyler Reiswig – Btchn’ Bikes
Will Boisvert – Tool Bike Co
Tom and Sion – Machina Bikes
Peter Verdone interviewed by Kevin Foss – Rosario Bike Co
Paul Price – Paul Components
Mike Smith – No22
Charlie Murry – Heavy Bikes
Bryce Gracey – No22