Story & Photo By Robert Annis
At the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this weekend (NAHBS), a handful of students wanted to show the nation’s best bike builders that they, too, were masters of the craft.
The students are enrolled in Professor Steve McGuire’s bike-building class at the University of Iowa’s art school. Class enrollment is spread fairly evenly between engineering students, like graduate student Ryan Grant, and art students, such as Jim Busby. It’s believed the program is one of only two such classes in the nation.
Grad student Busby finds beauty in minimalism, so it’s no wonder that he’s in love with the 650B rigid single speed he created. The wavy curves of the titanium tubes are reminiscent of the ocean waves crashing onto the shores of his native California.
“I try to balance between the aesthetic and the functional,” Busby said. “Hopefully I don’t have to compromise between the two. I work with titanium for those same reasons. I love the ride quality of titanium, its light weight and shininess.”
Titanium also appeals to Busby’s more anal-retentive qualities as well.
“I don’t need to use oil when cutting it, so I have a clean workspace,” he laughed.
Busby mocks up all of his designs in AutoCad to ensure the tubes’ unique shaping doesn’t compromise its strength. For his NAHBS build, he experimented with a lower bottom bracket and a shorter cockpit. When asked why he built a rigid singlespeed, he replied simply, “there really aren’t any real mountains in Iowa.”
He’s taken McGuire’s class three times; during his first go-round, it took him the entire semester to build one bike. Now, he says, it takes him about a week. So far, he’s built a couple of mountain bikes, two fat bikes, a trials bike and one road bike, and he doesn’t intend to stop there. Unlike many of his classmates who consider bike building a hobby, Busby plans to make it his career. He’s currently trying to finalize a design for his brand, as well as a new website, busbybikes.com.
For more details on the class, visit its Facebook page, facebook.com/IowaDBR.