INDIANAPOLIS, IN (BRAIN)—The seventh annual edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, scheduled for Austin, Texas, Feb 25-27, 2011, is shaping up as potentially the biggest year yet, in part because of the popular Austin location, but also because of a surge of activity within the Handmade bicycles industry.
Exhibitor registrations for NAHBS are up considerably over this time last year, with 74 currently registered for the Austin show.
While it might be too early to predict the end of the economic downturn in the handmade sector, two key suppliers, Nova Cycle Supply and Paragon Machine Works, are both reporting strong sales so far for 2010.
Lon Kennedy of Nova Cycles Supply, a major tubing and accessories distributor, reported almost double his average monthly sales in March 2010 on top of increases of around 50 percent for January and February. Sales figures have held strong for him since then.
"I believe we've reached a tipping point with consumers, and there are a few factors at play in this. One of them is the increased awareness and status that NAHBS has given to all frame builders. Another is the growing awareness that U.S. handbuilt frames are of extremely high quality and precision manufacturing. I know: I've seen many, many crashed or damaged frames over the years, and by inspecting the inside of the joints I have seen that the domestic-built frames have outstanding construction quality. A third factor is the growth in good Web sites that serve as a shop window for builders. A lot more people are now able and confident to buy direct from the builder," said Kennedy.
Paragon Machine Works, which makes a wide range of parts and accessories used by handmade frame builders, reports having had low sales in 2009, but so far for 2010 is on track to match 2006 and 2007—its best two years yet. Company owner, Mark Norstad, said, "It is a bit early to make predictions, but things are going well."
Norstad points to a shakeout in the handmade industry during the past couple of years, but notes that as some of the smaller builders have disappeared, new companies are appearing to fill the gaps.
Speaking to Kennedy's point about NAHBS shining a light on the handmade industry and keeping enthusiasm high among the builders, the show's founder/director Don Walker credits a good part of the growing success and popularity of his show to its formula of moving to a new city each year.
Walker said, "By doing that, we keep it fresh and exciting. The one time we repeated in a city, the second year was relatively flat. By moving around the country we continue to build awareness of the handmade bicycles industry and draw in new customers."