A Very Personal Thing
Craig Calfee is world renowned for designing bicycles that helped bring carbon fiber construction into the mainstream and reintroduced bamboo as a frame material.
He’s also one of the NAHBS “Original 6”—those frame builders who gathered in what he calls a “cheesy Houston hotel-conference room” in 2005 to display their wares to a tiny crowd of handmade-bicycle enthusiasts.
Although NAHBS has grown up, the essence of the show remains the same, Calfee says. “It’s a geek fest.”
At that first gathering in Houston, Calfee entered a road bike he had designed to meet his own, personal desires; a bike that he, indeed, would ride. And every year since, NAHBS has been the show where, along with production bikes, he introduces the bicycles he builds for himself.
An intimate machine, and intimate gathering
“A bicycle is such an intimate thing,” Calfee says. “For heaven’s sake, you put your crotch on it!”
When one rides a bike, says Calfee, there exists an intimacy between builder and user—a relationship comparable only to that between musician and instrument maker. (Indeed, Calfee himself designed instruments for a year after leaving art school.)
Today’s NAHBS—although large in scale, with 174 vendors, and 7,000 expected attendees this year—remains an intimate gathering.
It is here, Calfee says, that buyers can “see, touch, and feel” these very personal machines. And they can discuss a bicycle’s construction, as well as its guiding philosophy, directly with the frame-builder who conceived it.
The most soulful show
The first Houston show, though sparse in builders and attendees, drove interest by virtue of its very existence, says Calfee.
It was a “soulful” gathering, he says, and still very much is. Unique among shows, NAHBS is “the great gathering of craftspeople.”
Calfee also says that NAHBS offers more services than any other show. Moreover, it is fun. Unlike other events, “It’s not a business show.”
“I think about these things a lot.”
NAHBS is where Calfee chooses to roll out each year’s new products. This year, among three cycles on display from Bamboosero, and nine from Calfee Design, is an adult/child (“family convertible”) tandem designed with the child’s seat in the captain’s position. The child isn’t steering, but is up front where he or she can see everything.
A “modular bike system,” it features internal DI2 battery, Calfee power-post for external charging, and S&S couplers for converting down to a single, or adding a third. The bike is scalable for functional and cargo uses.
Again, it is a bicycle that he designed for himself.
“As a parent, I think a lot about my son becoming aware of his surroundings when riding a bike in traffic,” Calfee says.
“Just because I learned to become aware of my surroundings in traffic by almost killing myself as a bike messenger in New York City, my kids won’t have to.”
Calfee Design is at Booths 410/412 on the show floor, and Bamboosero is at Booth 312.