NAHBS 2012 may have been a week ago, but we’ve got a ton of profiles of handmade cyclocross bikes and builders from NAHBS still to come. Check back often for more eye candy and new cyclocross products, and view our recent NAHBS 2012 cyclocross coverage.

by Andrew Yee

It would be understandable if you walked by Rock Lobster Cycles’ booth at NAHBS 2012 in Sacramento and didn’t see an obvious cyclocross show bike. In fact, for someone looking for the latest trends in frame building or the most elaborate paint and polish, it would be hard to find a showpiece at all from Rock Lobster. There weren’t fancy paint jobs or intricately shaped tubesets or lugs that shouted “NAHBS” in the Rock Lobster booth, and most bikes on display were classics that had quite a number of miles on them, many from Rock Lobster’s Paul Sadoff himself.

Paul Sadoff's personal Rock Lobster team bike at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Paul Sadoff's personal Rock Lobster team bike at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Hiding in the back of his booth, just behind Sadoff’s first-ever build, a 1978 steel track bike, was his personal Rock Lobster Team cyclocross bike in sea foam green, made of scandium, built in 2005 and beat up with a bunch of training miles and by well over a hundred races.  It was Sadoff’s entry to the Best Cyclocross Bike category, and by the Santa Cruz builder’s standards, because it has held up after seven years of abuse and is still going strong, it was in his mind, the best cyclocross bike.

Rock Lobster with bikes from 1978, 2005, and 1992 (front to back) at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Rock Lobster with bikes from 1978, 2005, and 1992 (front to back) at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

It’s a distinct departure from the blinged-out show bike approach common at NAHBS, and symbolic of Sadoff’s love-hate relationship with the handmade bike show. He’s been a long-time attendee, displaying in San Jose and Portland in the past, and appreciates the honor of gathering with other talented custom frame builders to celebrate the craft. But Sadoff doesn’t get excited by elaborate made-for-NAHBS show bikes, and has opined on this subject after the 2011 event with a touch of humor with his own proposed award categories.

Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster had plenty of fans at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster had plenty of fans at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Sadoff is proud of his work and experience, but doesn’t celebrate aesthetics over function. Instead, he’s proud that bikes have won national championships (including Aaron Bradford’s singlespeed title in 2012 in Madison) and seems to take more joy in having more cyclists be happy customers, rather than the length of his wait list, the hours spent painting the frame, or a sky-high price tag. With his experience, reputation and so many repeat customers, he certainly could charge quite a bit more for his frames (aluminum cyclocross frames start at $1350) and make fewer frames in a year, but chooses not to. Whether that makes him a poor businessman, a builder who has stayed true to his roots, or both, simply depends on who you ask.

With a philosophy that prioritizes function, it’s not surprising that Sadoff is one of the few builders at the show who revels in building with aluminum. Granted, it doesn’t have the sex appeal or weight weenie appeal of carbon, the caché of titanium or the “tradition” of steel (Sadoff still builds almost half his bikes from steel), but the material is highly functional with a great strength-to-weight quality that allows him to build lightweight race-worthy machines. For his team bikes and for customers who want the lightest race bikes, Sadoff will opt for Scandium, but supply has been unreliable recently after Easton stopped making Scandium tubesets. He’s optimistic that will change with Acel, the new tenant of Cannondale’s old factory in Connecticut that is manufacturing tubesets of various materials.

A press fit bottom bracket and machined chainstay yoke bring some modern features and mud clearance to Sadoff's cyclocross creation.  ©Cyclocross Magazine

Not in his booth: Sadoff's singlespeed cyclocross bike at the Whisky booth utilizes modern features as needed, included press fit bottom brackets and an Ahrens chainstay yoke. ©Cyclocross Magazine

Ironically, Sadoff’s most modern bike at NAHBS was not at his own booth, but rather being displayed at the Whisky Parts Company’s booth. The tall bright yellow aluminum singlespeed cyclocross machine featured 324 Labs’ hydraulic brake adapter, Formula R1 disc brakes, Ahrens’ sliding dropouts and chainstay yoke, Whisky carbon bars and seatpost finished with a tapered steerer, disc-only Whisky carbon cyclocross fork. It’s just one of many cyclocross frames that Sadoff has created recently, as half of all his annual builds are cyclocross frames.

While Sadoff doesn’t shy away from sharing his opinions on all things related to frame building and cyclocross, he doesn’t seek the limelight and that personality is reflected in his products and articulated best on his “Over Opinionated Framebuilder” blog, far better than this magazine editor could summarize:

I accept that folks coming to see the show are looking to see who is out-doing who, what new take on traditional framebuilding will shake the foundations of the craft, [and] how cleanly the shorelines of the stainless lugged rolling heirloom quality frames can be. For me, the shoreline I’ll be thinking about is the one to my right as I’m rolling down Highway One north of town on my 1982 bike , still in effect, still good and still under the art-bike radar…as am I.

Check out Sadoff’s Rock Lobster frames in the photo gallery, and hear more about Sadoff’s philosophies in Cyclocross Magazine’s video interview below.

NAHBS 2012 may have been a week ago, but we’ve got a ton of profiles of handmade cyclocross bikes and builders from NAHBS still to come. Check back often for more eye candy and new cyclocross products, and view our recent NAHBS 2012 cyclocross coverage.

Video interview with Paul Sadoff of Rock Lobster Cycles

Photo Gallery of Rock Lobster Cycles at NAHBS 2012: