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13/03/2012 - Thoughts on North American Handmade Bike Show
Sacramento California March 2-4.

Well we just returned from exhibiting at the handbuilt bike show in California and it was a great success. The show posted record attendance numbers and everyone who came by the booth was enthusiastic and enjoyable to speak with. The show provided a much needed opportunity to get out of the shop and re-connect with the people who actually ride and enjoy these bikes. It also was great to see some of the talented builders out there, speak with them about their work, their business, and the industry as a whole.

For a small company like Dekerf, it was no small task though to actually get to the show and present the product we did. This was partially because of challenges thrown at us along the way, but also because we set the bar high in terms of the product we showed. We showed off 5 pieces in total, 2 complete bikes, and 3 frames, plus some forks and 1 of our Bar/stem combinations. It was a broad cross section of what we can do with an emphasis of new designs, available options, fancy detailing, and lots of custom paint. So after all that work preparing the frames and bikes, we couldnt let US customs, driving 16 hours through the rain and snow, nor the flu prevented us from showing it all off! The feedback was nothing short of humbling. Thank-you to everyone who came by the booth.

We first attended this show back in 2006 in San Jose. Back then the show was in its infancy and our experience was mixed, which is at least partially why we opted out until this year again. It was a pleasant surprise to see how far the show had come in 5 years. The show had gone from about 80 booths in a parking lot under a tent in 2006, to a beautiful convention center with over 200 exhibitors in 2012. The show set the highest attendance records to date at over 8000 people coming through which for one exhibit hall made for a very busy show. We must have had over 1000 photographs taken in our booth alone over the 3 days, plus countless media photos and interviews. Its hard to know how it could have been better really.

We showed off our skills with a beautifully fillet brazed Team SST 29R frame, fork, and matching fillet brazed bar/stem combination. This frameset was also sporting internal cable routing and a stuffing paint job with a poker them, complete with chip, money, and the best poker hands you could ever hope for! All-in the package was a big hit. In addition to this we also had showed a super light complete built of our Elysium Titanium mountain bike. Frame weight came in at only 2.8 lb with a complete bike weight of only 19 lb. including the front shocks. But the show stopper in the Dekerf booth had to be the Titanium Di2 road bike we had on display front and center. The white paint with endless metallic blue accents, coupled with some exposed Titanium was super eye catching yet not over done. The internal brake and wiring routing was super clean, and all the repainting of the bars, stem, seat clamp, and even the BB inserts tied everything together nicely. I think we will be making an effort to show more complete bikes with this type of component integration in the future.

The only slight disappointment I can think of was that we were not able to claim any of the awards handed out at the show. We had 2 frames entered, 1 into the best fillet brazed category, and 1 into the best titanium category. Neither was of the style to capture the judges attention sufficiently. It is of course a show highlighted by more artistic and even flamboyant interpretations of bike design than I personally subscribe to. I can certainly appreciate the creativity and work (and workmanship) that goes into these bikes and congratulate all the winners. After the awards were announced I explained to a friend that as much as I can rationalize the situation, you cannot build the kind of bikes that I do without putting your emotions, and really a piece of yourself into them. The time spent thinking through the design, the painstaking process of actually building it, the meticulous hours creating and finishing all the details, then all the custom paint, and finally your name boldly there for everyone to see and judge it all by. There is a piece of Chris Dekerf in each one of those bikes and like it or not, you become emotionally connected to them as a result. We didnt win any awards this year, but I can say that the product we showed was the culmination of 25 years of experience and that these were probably the best work Ive ever done; and that I can feel very good about.

Lastly I would to thank a few people who helped bring the whole show together for us. Jeremy and Mike at Speed Theory who did an amazing job on the assembly of the Di2 Road bike. Also Darren and his team at Dream Cycle who built up perfectly the Elysium Ti mountain bike. Also Chris Jones from Cycles Bespoke in Perth Australia whose design input proved invaluable and who also travelled all the way from Australia to help out. Finally thanks to Mark Norris for allowing us to show off his beautiful bike and lastly thanks to Bruce Sabourin for his amazing paint work.

Back again next year? Absolutely! See you in Denver, Colorado in 2013.

Cheers.

Chris Dekerf
 
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