If you haven’t noticed from our ongoing Road To NAHBS series, the North American Handmade Bicycle Show if fast approaching. The two day event is one of the few in the industry that caters specifically to riders and allows people interested in purchasing a new bicycle to meet builders face-to-face. It’s a wonderful way to spend a weekend and if you’re within driving distance of Charlotte this year, I highly recommend you attend.

As you walk down the maze of corridors of the show and ogle the beautiful two wheeled creations, Wheelbuilder.com would urge you to take a look at the wheels adorning the ride. Check past the break to read their open letter to the industry.

The 10th Annual North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) will be held in Charlotte, NC March 14-16th. 7,000 attendees and a media corps will join exhibitors from four continents.

Handbuilt bikes are often referred to as the heartbeat of the bike industry and NAHBS showcases the intersection of form, function, innovation and quality craftsmanship of the handbuilt community. However, with all the enthusiasm and growing attention for custom frames, bespoke bars, stems, saddles etc., the lack of attention to handbuilt/custom wheels seems at odds with the spirit of NAHBS.

Wheelbuilder is the best-known bicycle wheel hand builder in North America and frankly, we’re not that well known. On behalf of all custom wheel builders, we respectfully ask: “Why don’t you have custom handbuilt wheels on your show bikes?”

There are notable exceptions of course. Rob English was praised heavily (and deservedly) for his custom wheels last year and NAHBS is the perfect forum for introducing the merits of handbuilt wheels to an audience with an appetite for cutting edge cycling technology and innovative artisan craftsmanship.

Custom wheels can do all of the things a handmade frameset aims to do: make riders faster, more comfortable, tune the road feel of the bicycle as a whole – as well as being beautiful and aesthetically unique. Custom wheels allow you to choose the rims, hubs, spokes and nipples. With each component, there are big manufacturers and boutique producers; ultra-light and durable options, choices in materials, classic or latest/greatest technology and a rainbow of color options.

We respect the passion you bring to frame building and we know you spend countless hours with your mitering jigs, jibbing, fillet brazing, TIG welding etc. However, we can’t understand how after all of that attention to detail, some choose to mount a set of robot-built or off-the-shelf wheels to showcase your pride and joy at NAHBS.

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all bicycle wheel for any cyclist, but especially not someone who loves custom bikes. You can buy a suit off the rack, but it will never fit like or make you feel as special as a custom tailored suit because it wasn’t made for your measurements, style and purpose. At Wheelbuilder.com we understand that every build is as unique as the rider who enjoys it.

Most hand-builders will happily loan wheels for NAHBS because your audience is our audience. Anyone willing to sign up on a waiting list for a handbuilt bicycle and pay $5,000 – $15,000 for the privilege has very exacting specifications and standards and will likely also be in the market for wheels built specifically for the project.

NAHBS is successful because of the interactions, respect between builders and the sharing of ideas. Displaying custom wheels on your bikes at NAHBS seems like a natural fit and kudos if you’ve already made custom wheel arrangements. If you need help in this department, give us a call and let’s work together – we’d be honored to help you succeed and the entire bike industry will be better for it.

Yours respectfully,
info@wheelbuilder.com | (626) 442-4444.


  1. Handmade bike shows are very cool but you should change the name to not made overseas bike show.

    Just because an item is handmade on a large scale by foreigners in a controlled factory it is not any less handmade than an item made in a garage outside of Boston.

    please call it what it is

  2. It would be nice to see a custom wheel builder renaissance in the US, similar to that which has happened with frame building. I think Wheelbuilder is romanticizing the situation a bit. The margins for a custom wheel builder are very small. And while Wheelbuilder will sell you a handbuilt set, they’re also more than happy to sell people Zipps and Enves. Which wheels do you think keeps the company in the black?

  3. +1 to 1Pro!

    Many frame builders BUILD THEIR OWN or have another custom builder to it for them. Just because wheelbuildr isn’t getting a piece of the pie doesn’t mean anything. Shady that Velonews called this blatabt advertising “journalism” and just as bad for BR to post without commentary.

  4. Wow, this article is getting more press after it was published on VeloNews? Come on BikeRumor. This letter is just a big PR campaign for Wheelbuilder. These guys aren’t a paying exhibitor at NAHBS and they are trying to capitalize on the press from the show? Are they bitter about the coat-tailing rules because they can’t advertise their wheels on others booths? There are lots of hand-built wheels at NAHBS last time I visited in Indy. Time to get rid of this article.

  5. Yeah, this “we need exposure” soapbox is highly accusational of frame builders, a lot of whom, as stated by MB, build their own for customers. A lot of the time the customer is calling the shots on the build anyway, and not a lot are keen to drop extra money on wheel labor when they just shelled out for a frame. I’m with them on trying to get information out to interested parties about the custom-built wheel option, but this is a pretty douchey way to do it. As 1Pro said, get a booth.

  6. Yeah, let me call Don Walker and have him get on that. The North American Not Mass Produced Bike Show. NANMPBS just doesn’t have the same ring to it!

  7. So many tears! .. I don’t know about NAHBS, but if you look at the exhibitor list of Bespoked the UK handmade show you’ll see a number of custom wheel builders prepared to take booths

  8. I’m going to disagree with the general direction of the comments and say I totally agree w/ the open letter. It’s not about Wheelbuilder having or not having a booth, it’s about hand built bikes using hand built wheels. I’ve been to NAHBS and am going this year. I see NAHBS show as as much an art dhow as a bike show. Is about the craft of hand building a bicycle, focusing on and promoting the craft in North America. What Wheelbuilder stated pretty is it would be great if the people hand building the bikes would use wheels hand built as well.

  9. I’ve only been to one NAHBS, but the overwhelming majority of the bikes there were on handbuilt (or shall i say custom specced wheels).

  10. Anyone that displays at the bike show should EMBARRASSED to showcase these people’s product. Their business model is the complete opposite of what custom builders are trying to do–mail order products and undercut local businesses.

    While I’m at it, shame on you Zipp/SRAM. How dare you sell rims to these people and not make them available to local bike shops?! Either have them available for aftermarket sale or not… Selling them to a mail order wheel house insults the local bike shop and re-enforces the “mail order” image that you claim to battle. My shop participates in “Buy Local Now” and stocking your stuff has yet to earn me a sale through your site, while not having access to Zipp rims has lost me a few sales to WheelBuilder.com

  11. Also, companies send out press releases and letters all the time. It’s what their PR folks are supposed to do. It’s up to the journalists or publications to do their diligence and dig further. Simply running letters isn’t journalism. As someone who has a journalism degree and has worked in PR, it’s interesting to see how in the last few years press releases just get run as if they’re news.

What do you think?