British Columbia builder bares all in pursuit of form and purpose
Sam Whittingham’s Naked Bicycles never fail to impress, and have a reputation for their daring, innovative designs.
So when the announcement came this year that Whittingham and his crew would not only build workhorse touring show bikes, but also ride these same bikes 500 miles from their home on Quadra Island, BC, Canada to Sacramento, CA, one couldn’t help but wonder what prompted the idea.
Well, according to Whittingham, “This is actually something that has been brewing for a few years. The bikes at NAHBS are perfect and beautiful, but in the end, [a bike is] meant to be ridden! We have also gotten a bit of a reputation over the past couple years for our blinged-out show bikes, but this is not what we do 90% of the time. We wanted to make some cool bikes and by riding them to the show, nobody could argue that they were impractical.”
True, nobody will try to argue that touring bikes are anything but practical. Built for the long haul, they are usually not turning heads; however, Naked hopes to change that perception by marrying “utilitarian” with “sexy”.
“As with my ‘simple’ bike from last year,” says Whittingham, “I am trying to build both bikes with an eye towards removing all that is not completely necessary. Touring bikes often are encumbered with far too much “stuff”. Touring should be about riding and experiencing your surroundings first hand, not hauling crap around.”
Not to neglect innovation, these touring bikes will also be built with KVA Stainless Steel tubing, incorporate an “innovative Gates Belt drive tensioning system” for the longer, loaded design, and have “all racks and fenders work seamlessly with the frame,” according to Whittingham.
The ride itself will be fully self supported. When people walk past the Naked booth at NAHBS this year, all Whittingham says they will see is “the bikes we rode there on and a backdrop of photo posters taken during the trip and of the build process.”
And what does Whittingham hope those same people walk away with?
“I really want to share my own belief that a great bike gets better with age and patina. The bicycle is an amazing tool that should be embraced as part of us and not simply an object unto itself. It is only when a bike is ridden that it becomes alive and holds any real value. We wanted to get back to basics a bit and remember what it is that brings all builders, show attendees and bike media together every year. We all love to ride bikes.”