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San Diego Custom Bike Show First Impression

Published April 14, 2009

When I first heard about the San Diego Custom Bicycle Show (SDCBS) I have to admit I wondered what the point was. Consumer shows have a dismal long-term success rate. However, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show’s ongoing growth and increasing popularity, even despite moving to the cycling and tourism Mecca of Indiannapolis, Indiana, has proven that it is possible to draw a crowd of dedicated cyclists indoors for something other than a track race.

Still, I wondered what the real value of a splinter show might be. After all, the guys who got the SDCBS going—Brian Baylis, Dave Ybarrola and Chuck Slesinger, have all displayed at NAHBS. Why fragment a community just as it is finding its wings?

What I discovered was a concept that needs no sale: The show was dominated by local builders showing bikes to local cyclists. What could be simpler? For many attendees the show was an introduction, an education even, into how many talented builders there are between Tucson, San Diego and Portland. Virtually anyone who drove in for the show met a builder in his or her backyard. And that’s the key for each of these guys. Graduating into the ranks of successful framebuilders requires an ongoing and growing clientele and as Dorothy said, there’s no place like home.  

Whether your interest was fancy lugwork, a 29er mountain bike, bamboo or custom on a budget, there was something for everyone. The show’s biggest surprise and strongest indicator of its potential staying power came not from the builders who displayed there but from the industry heavy hitters who also purchased booth space. Campagnolo, Cane Creek, Speedplay and even the AIDS Lifecycle Ride turned out. Who knew the lynchpin of industry consumer shows would be the little guy? 

Richard Bryne, founder of Speedplay, with pedals from his museum in the background (one of them he paid $3000 for) and his TWO Masi Speciales beside him. He told me the story of them. His brother found the one on the bottom at a garage sale for FREE. He knew Richard raced on a Masi so he'd be interested. When Richard took the bike to Brian Baylis (who used to build bikes for Masi), to be repainted, Brian said; "That's the oldest Masi I've ever seen!" He refused to repaint it and insisted that it remain original with all original parts. What he proposed was to make an EXACT copy of the bike including original parts. He put 1000 hours into the project but it IS an exact copy, same tubes, same lugs, same parts, etc. Totally cool. The clone was built by Rob Roberson and painted by Joe Bell.


Bruce Gordon (red shirt) knows a thing or two about the handmade business.




Brian Baylis organized the show.


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