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Arts & Culture

Handmade Bicycle Show Rides Into Hartford

Handmade bicycle builders and enthusiasts gather in Hartford this weekend for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. It's the first time the show has been held in New England.

It’s also a homecoming of sorts, but more on that later.

Custom bikes run the gamut, from high-end racing and touring bikes, to whimsical, functional works of art.

Don Walker, who builds custom frames for racing bikes and is the director of the show said people seek out handmade bicycles because of their craftsmanship, engineering, and artistry.

“There's all kinds of ways to make a bicycle better,” said Walker. “When you are buying a handmade bike, you are not just buying a bicycle -- you are buying a relationship with the builder. It's not just a bicycle, you are buying the the experience of getting a handmade bike.”

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show will offer seminars for builders and cyclists, a handmade bicycle competition, as well as the chance to meet cycling greats, like Olympic silver medalist Nelson Vail.

The event also celebrates the accomplishments of some of the best builders in the country, including Connecticut's own J.P. Weigle, who started building bikes in the 1970s. Don Walker said Weigle is a legend in the industry.

“He’s a legend in the industry,” said Walker. “He is one of the most sought after names in randonneuring bicycles. Randonneuring is an endurance-type race. Those types of bicycles are built for long distance comfort. So Weigle's bikes are engineering-wise and aesthetically among the finest in the world.”

Bamboo Articulation
Credit NAHBS 2018
Bamboo Articulation

Organizers point out the importance of having the event in Hartford, calling it a homecoming.  According to the Smithsonian's Museum of American History, the first American bicycles were manufactured in 1878 in Hartford by Albert A. Pope.  

The North American Handmade Bicycle Show runs Friday through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

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