Over the weekend, the Seaworks Williamstown in Melbourne hosted 25 small local brands and bespoke bike builders for the third annual Handmade Bicycle Show.
There was a staggering array of shiny things with exquisite modern road bikes lining up next to hardcore hardtails, backroad adventure machines, penny farthings and high pivot long travel beasts.
Need to know
- The Handmade Bicycle Show ran for the third year from May 7-9
- The show was held at the Sea Works Williamstown
- 25 builders from all over Australia brought bikes, components, and other shiny bits to be oggled
- Everything from 6.8kg road bikes to high pivot, long-travel shred sleds were on display
The production quality and bleeding-edge technologies on display were impressive, as I had previously considered handmade and local a step behind the equipment and heavy production capabilities of the global mega factories. However, in a short time, I learned that titanium is still a thing, customised carbon fibre tubing is being produced in-country, and Australian builders are pushing the limits of bespoke bikes.
With small scale production, feedback from testing and customers goes directly into iterated designs for continual improvement. Big brands might have to wait two or three years for a new model, but small builders are agile can introduce something new to the next bike off the line.
A large portion of the floor was devoted to drop bar road, gravel and adventure machines; outside of elite racing, drop bar bikes have come a long way from the strict UCI competition regulations. Gravel, adventure and ‘all road’ bikes allow designers to let their freak flag fly, creating frames that can handle off the beaten track epics. Mountain bike DNA runs through many of these designs, some having fat knobby tyres, 1x drivetrains, wide range cassettes, disc brakes, thru-axles, wide bars and stable geometries that will catch the eye of even the most hardcore of mountain bikers.
Several small builders have harnessed some of the latest engineering techniques and machinery straight out of an episode of Star Trek to get an edge. Titanium 3D printing technologies are used to create complex structures for key frame components, like tube junctions and dropouts. The internal latticework is woven by machines combining titanium powder and lasers to dynamically assemble incredibly light and strong parts for a specific build. These builders are also using parametric modelling for the 3D design, which allows various applications across models, a significant upgrade from CNC machining.
Gellie Custom Bikes
Compared to the high tech productions, a steel hardtail might appear to lack flash and sizzle, but looks can be deceiving. Shane Flint from Tor Bikes and Ewen Gellie from Gellie Custom Bikes spoke in detail about the engineering detail hidden inside the tube set of a seemingly simple hand made frame. Both builders ride mountain bikes and use real-world knowledge and testing on Australian trails to refine and update their designs.
Hailing from the outskirts of Melbourne, Gellie is a big believer in choosing the right tubes with tailored butting profiles to create a lightweight and lively ride.
Gellie says that he has refined the tube sets he selected for each build based on their ride characteristics; for example, his current choice of rear stay tubes and chainstay lengths have been selected to provide carefully tuned compliance and grip. The builder’s latest creation, the Terra MTB, sees its geometry tailored around the more demanding aggressive trails cropping up around Australia. Gellie also paints and finishes in-house to maintain his turnaround times for customers.
Beechworth’s Tor Bikes’ new hand made dual-suspension frame is an evolution of the current Erode enduro design that we had a look at in 2019. With just one pivot, the bike is built to last with minimal maintenance over its lifespan.
Flint has engineered the frame to provide enhanced stiffness at both ends and resist torsional flex on the trail without adding weight. The stunning red paint job extended to the fork and stem, really tying the room together with black and gold accents.
Devlin Cycles from Yarrabilba, Queensland, had a beautiful candy apple dual-suspension mountain bike prototype on display. The Horst link, four-bar bike drew you in from across the room with the red paint and the pop of the CNC machined rocker link.
As I moved closer, I realised it was all steel, with beautifully reinforced tubes at junctions and pivots. Internal cable routing and clean hardware gave the whole package a premium look.
Egress Bikes are handcrafted in Melbourne by builder Jimmy Rostlünd, who has a history in bicycle engineering and is pretty handy on a BMX. The Egress display bike stood out with its raw finish and the brazed joints popping off the dark steel tubes. Rostlünd also built a one-off frame for Curve with a unique finish from an acid phosphorus dip. An oily surface on the dip resulted in a stunning marbled pattern, complemented by raw brazed joins and gold accents.
Auren Bikes are a relatively new entrant to the market; builder William Young also offers a range of titanium dirt drop-bar machines and a mountain hardtail with custom-fit and geometry. Young believes in the ride quality and long life of titanium for bicycle applications. Young takes care of the design and assembly in Melbourne, and the frames are made in a specialist titanium facility in China. The parts integration and attention to small details made for a clean, high-end finish.
Fikas Bikes from Canberra showed a customer’s brand new handmade titanium single speed with a short travel Lauf linkage fork. Builder Luke Laffan’s depth of experience fabricating a wide range of bikes from steel and titanium shone through with well thought out frame customisations.
Based in Melbourne, Curve has grown an impressive following with some quirky bikes.
Best known for its gravel, adventure, bike packing frames, Curve makes a nifty titanium hardtail with modern aggressive geometry. The brand produces small runs of production bikes in Asia, with a few one-off models made locally, like the titanium 36’er, drop-bar adventure bike, with room for enough bottles to keep you and your mates hydrated.
Trinity Mountain Bikes
Coming out of the ManuFutures Facility at Deakin University in Melbourne, the crew behind Trinity bikes been teasing a long travel high pivot beast designed around an Effigear gearbox in the run-up to the show.
Days out from the doors opening, components still needed to be milled and tubes welded, but after a few long days in the machine shop, the builders managed to pull it off, only to be foiled by the post, with the gearbox still being in transit.
A quick concept and development period and an even faster fabrication, the bike was a sight to see up on the stand. The know-how and craftsmanship in this bold design are imported from outside the bike industry and being used to push the boundaries of what small shop builders can produce.
Prova has some exciting bikes that feature cutting edge designs and unique frame components—utilising the 3D printed titanium frame structures pioneered by Bastion, allowing the formation of tube junctions that wouldn’t be possible with regular tube to tube construction. The 3D dropouts are both beautiful and functional, pairing high-level strength with low weight and increased vibration damping. A yoked bottom bracket and chainstay junctions offer more clearance for wide rubber chainrings without compromising stiffness.
While Prova does a lot of road and gravel oriented bikes, they also offer a titanium hardtail. On show, the brand had a quirky belt drive, gearbox development bike, which sits somewhere between a long-distance gravel bike and a performance hardtail. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher at first but showcases several out of the box ideas and technologies.
Penny Farthing Dan
Penny Farthing Dan is a fascinating guy who knows a heck of a lot about the history of the design. He handcrafts almost every component from the hubs, spokes and rims outward. Penny Farthing bikes still have a global following and were the precursor to modern high-performance racing bikes. If you want to go fast and cover a lot of ground, Penny Farthings are built with that goal in mind. With 36’ers starting to pop up more regularly, if we see a return to high wheels in the next decade, Dan will be there knowing they were the future all along.
For more info on the show or the check out some of the other builders, head over to the Handmade Bicycle Show website
Words and Photos: Derek Yates