NAHBS 2012 may have been more than 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 Kevin White
Before bike frames were made of aluminum, titanium or carbon, there was steel. New materials and designs have taken center stage but there are some who still prefer the time-tested alloy. There was no better place to browse the many ways frame builders are currently using the material than at this year’s NAHBS in Sacramento.
Shamrock Cycles are made in Indianapolis, Indiana by Tim O'Donnell. © Kevin White
Tim O’Donnell, the owner of Shamrock Cycles in Indianapolis, Indiana, has been building frames since 2003 and uses steel exclusively. He brought some prime examples of his handiwork to the show including a commuter bike that shared the award for best city bike and a custom cyclocross race bike. “I started building steel bikes because I liked riding steel bikes,” said O’Donnell. “When I wasn’t paying attention my hobby became self-funded hobby…and it became a career. I don’t really know when that happened.”
Tim O'Donnell of Shamrock Cycles brought this blue steel creation as his entry to the Best Cyclocross Bike at NAHBS 2012. ©Cyclocross Magazine
Steel tubing has evolved over the years and O’Donnell’s ’cross build was made with Columbus PegoRichie tubing, designed by Richard Sachs and Dario Pegoretti specifically with custom fabrication in mind. The oversized niobium tubes are butted to optimize the material’s qualities and reduce weight with the goal of producing a competitively weighed steel bike that is aesthetically modern. In fact, the claimed total weight for O’Donnell’s cyclocross show bike was just 17.5 pounds.
The rear brake cable is routed through the top tube with an additional touch behind the seat tube. © Kevin White
Builds like O’Donnell’s are just one example of the resurgence of steel as a viable material for lightweight race applications, where for a brief time it seemed that only classic bike aficionados, randonneurs and the touring crowd remained loyal. “If you were to ask me two years ago what I was mostly building I would have said credit card touring, lugged steel road bikes,” commented O’Donnell. “I’ve been [lately] taking a lot of orders for ’cross bikes. What was the credit card touring bike and the pure ’cross race bike are now sort of a combination.”
O’Donnell said that the geometry he builds tends to favor racing but unlike a stripped down race machine many customers want the bosses to make the bicycle a more versatile training and riding tool. Even in the race form, O’Donnell’s bike included some nice touches including an extended seat tube that is gusseted at the collar for added strength and a custom lathed front derailleur cable pulley that O’Donnell specs on all of his cyclocross builds.
As part of the NAHBS advisory board O’Donnell was also instrumental in the creation of new categories for judging. “Prior to this year there was just best off-road bike. When we were putting together the judging one of the things I kept rallying for was a dedicated best ’cross and a dedicated best mountain,” stated O’Donnell. With over 20 entrants in the cyclocross category alone O’Donnell remarked, “I feel vindicated. The voters responded by entering so many bikes.” (Cyclocross Magazine was the title sponsor of the Best Cyclocross Bike category).
Check back often for more eye candy and new cyclocross products, and view our recent NAHBS 2012 cyclocross coverage.
Shamrock Cycles Cyclocross Bike Photo Gallery by Kevin White:
Shamrock Cycles Cyclocross Bike Photo Gallery by Andrew Yee: