There was a lot going on in the Bilenky booth at NAHBS. And each bike was involved… in the best way possible. There was the unassuming stickered alternate personality bike in pink docked in the exploded Hetchins frame rack. There was a sub 30 pound titanium travel tandem, matched by a very attractive red fillet brazed travel tandem. Then there was Bina Bilenky’s now famous “Le Petit Graveleur” which she rode across chunks of Africa. Any of these bikes on their own would have made a spectacular main draw for most builders, but the star of the booth was clearly Steve Bilenky’s own “Mentor” bike, which was dripping with details inspired by each of the builders that inspire him to do what he does…
When describing the Mentor, Steve was rattling off his list of inspirational builders so quickly that I struggled to keep up and take them all down. Firstly, the color of the frameset is a dark British racing green and its constructed from Reynold’s tubing as an homage to England where many of his favorite builders hail from (as we learned in his Road to NAHBS interview before the show). He cited Harry Quinn and Jack Taylor among his favorites.
Scooped seat stay end caps were inspired by Dave Moulton. Offset top tube routing (not shown in detail) was inspired by Jim Redcap. Other builders noted were Bruce Gordon, J. P. Weigle, and Ben Serotta. Throughout the build, there were bright pinstriped accents à la builder Eric Baar.
The wrap around seat stay bridge and rack mount details were influenced by the late Brian Baylis (who we lost in late February).
Components for the bike were modern PAUL Components for brakes, White Industry hubs, and Campagnolo drivetrain, with a bit of vintage Suntour – all companies that hold a soft spot in Steve’s heart.
The fillet brazed bottom bracket joint was more or less an homage to the style of Tom Ritchey and the late Tom Teesdale. The unique star head badge was done specially for the customer, Aaron Star. Really, there were a billion more things we could add, as the details were almost endless.
This frame is familiar to many of us who follow Steve’s daughter Bina Bilenky on her adventures. Le Petit Graveleur is a tiny 26in wheeled touring bike designed and built for Bina for the Tour d’Afrique several years ago. Sloped and swept top tubes allow for a 22in stand over. (In case you were wondering, it’s in such good shape because it was repainted after the tour).
The head badge is also new, featuring an opel she picked up during the journey and was made custom by Jen Green.
“BB” for Bina Bilenky in brass on the non-drive top tube to keep cables out of the way.
The Marvel bike was an interesting addition. This bike came with a fable – it had been originally built as a road race frameset, but was then acquired by a Pratt University hipster who converted it to a single speed for street riding. The artwork and themes around the bike are of re-use and adaptation – though what it really drove home in full effect was how beautiful these frames are with use and age, which isn’t something you always get to see demonstrated at NAHBS.
A clean filleted seat cluster with Bilenky signature.
The “hipster” in the story adapted the bike by sawing off the hanger and grinding off the downtube shifter bosses. Both areas are left with vestiges of those operations.
But what probably upstaged that bike was its rack, specially constructed for the show out of an old Hetchins frame, cut and re-purposed for this application.
The Marvel bike looks clean and minimalist comparatively, as you can see by this lug-work. The two frames were a shock to the senses in tandem.
Speaking of tandems, the booth featured two travel tandems, a masterful Bilenky mainstay. New for Bilenky this show is disc brakes. “The world is asking for disc brakes. So here you go,” gestured Bilenky in his booth.
A clean fillet brazed headtube and a second rear seattube badge.
Massive S&S Couplers join the main beam.
Last but not least is this beautiful beast, a special light-weight titanium travel tandem that Steve claims comes in at just under 30 pounds ready to ride. It features a 44mm head tube to better physically and visually join to the top, middle, and down tubes.
The stoker stem is separate from the front seat post, allowing the stoker to set and forget their cockpit without worrying about the front rider’s seat post position. Front seat post is 27.2 to allow the front seat tube to pierce and pass through the continuous toptube (the rear seattube is 31.6 to allow for the termination of the toptube).
And, again, this model features the new-to-Bilenky disc brakes, but a classic brazed steel fork.