JACKSON, Wyo. — Silver spokes and polished chrome gleamed in the warm light as a collection of hand-built, vintage and otherwise unique bicycles lined the walls of Snake River Brewery and Restaurant's upstairs tap room for three days last week.
At the third Pretty Unique Bikes Expo, a bamboo-frame bicycle sat beside a fleet of refurbished classics, an all-wheel-drive bicycle hung gracefully in a repair stand, and two custom-designed and manufactured bikes hung like modern art from a nearby wall.
Chris Erickson, creator of the P.U.B. Expo, modeled the event on the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show. The collection of bikes he seeks out each year brings together a community of craftsmen and aficionados who admire and learn from one another's creations.
"For such a small town, we have five frame builders and a lot of cool old bikes in garages," said Erickson, Snake River Brewing Company's director of brewing operations. "All the builders know each other. They have worked together and share tools and are all familiar with each other's projects."
The expo "brings out all the bike geeks," Drew Gillingwators said. "We talk about bikes and how they were built and their history."
Gillingwators has been "tinkering around" with building bikes for the past five years. He makes bikes for friends, and although he gives his creations the brand name "Greybike," it's mainly a hobby for him. He owns GH20 Machining, so he has the necessary workspace and a lot of equipment.
Gillingwators designs on a computer, working out the size of a bike and the exact geometry for its intended rider. He sends the plans to a specialty manufacturer to build the tubes. Back at his shop, he miters the tubes and files the joints until they are seamless.
"This tight, hand-fit connection is what separates a hand-built bike from a production model," he said.
The name Greybike speaks to a utilitarian or working class right-to-ride vision Gillingwators has for his bike, he said.
The winner of this year's P.U.B. Best in Show award was Steve Dwyer's all-wheel-drive bike.
Constructed by Christini, a hand-built-bicycle company owned by Dwyer's cousin, it features a belt drive in the back hub that powers a drive shaft that moves the front tire. When engaged, pedaling moves both the front and back tires.
"It's like an Audi," Dwyer said. "You go into a muddy corner, and the back wheel slips, the front wheel engages."
Christini operates in a facility smaller than the downstairs of the brewpub, Dwyer said. Now the Pennsylvania company focuses more on building all-wheel-drive motorcycles, he said.
Dwyer pointed out a 1961 model, made by Austrian company Puch, belonging to Lisa Hoyt. Noting that older bikes were constructed of different materials, he pointed out that Hoyt's bike was made of copper. When the paint chipped, she discovered the copper underneath and cleaned it up to expose the golden metal.
Next to the copper Puch sat a bike made from bamboo. Though using bamboo isn't a new concept, Dwyer said, the bike in the P.U.B Expo had reinforced lugs, or joints, that made it especially strong.
Facing the bamboo bike was a 1950s Skyrider Roadmaster purchased using stamps given out through a grocery store reward program.
Nearby, two "pennies" — old-fashioned bikes with huge front wheels and small back wheels — sat awkwardly, one a miniature of the other. Doug Lowham, the bikes' owner, is famous for riding "Big Penny" to his job once a year on Bike to Work Day.
Tim Hoff of Hoff Bikesmiths entered a tyke bike with no pedals that made you wish it was your first bike.
George Bailey's Green Tea Express — a Shibuya Master frame with tastefully applied accessories — was a stunner. Down to the white toe straps, narrow handlebars and Asian lettering on the frame, every last detail of this hand-built bike screamed art and dedication.
Flying on another wall were two bikes outfitted with what look like brooms. Named the Nimbus 2000, they are the perfect rides for Halloween town cruising by witches or warlocks.
Shane Dawson, whose swing bike was in the show, sat at the brewpub Thursday enjoying a beer and good times with old friends.
"Shane has been living off a bicycle for 30 years or at least as long as I've known him," said Mike Maples, one of his friends.
Dawson said he has "always lived a hobo's lifestyle, be it on bike or skis."
Now he rides a swing bike, named for a joint under the seat that allows the bike to pivot in the middle turn like a motorcycle. Dawson says it is the fastest bike down the town parking garage.
"I love my swing bike," he said. "It's like dancing."
Dawson, who has been building bikes since 1976, said he was turned on to the swing variety by a peaceful biker gang in Boulder, Colo., in the 1990s.
Dawson loves seeing bikes receive their moment to shine.
"I've lived on a bike for a long time," he said. "I think they are both important and beautiful."