Cream of the Custom Crop

Four-year-olds can be pretty speedy on two wheels. So Shelly Horton suggested to her husband, Brett Horton, that they invest in a town bike for her that would be comfortable and fast enough to keep up with their son, Trevor, on the streets near their home in San Francisco, CA. A simple-enough request, unless your husband is a famous bike racing memorabilia collector with a penchant for lugged steel.

Within three hours of getting on the phone, Brett Horton had secured some of the top handmade builders in North America to design and construct a fully custom bike. His pitch to the handmade craftspeople: “Let’s see if we can build the coolest bike that the world has ever seen.”

Horton started racing in the 1970s and now owns one of the largest collections of original bike racing memorabilia in the world. It probably won’t come as a surprise, then, that the Shelly Horton mixte bike was designed around a vintage French chain guard.

Bilenky Cycle Works (BCW), of Philadelphia, PA, was commissioned to do the job of designing and building the frameset because of their expertise and experience building bikes for women. The inspiration for this, Horton said in a telephone interview, was drawn from a door that BCW owner, Stephen Bilenky, came across while at a train station.

The town bike is considered to be part of the constructeur tradition that began in post-Second World War France. The Art Deco aesthetic of the frameset is complimented by a custom handmade Brooks, England saddle, built around the B67S ladies saddle – something, Horton said, they were very lucky to get.

While the Shelly Horton bike isn’t complete yet – some newly fabricated elements will be added before it is shown at Interbike 2011 in Las Vegas, NV – Shelly is already happy with the design, Horton said.

The Shelly Horton bike was debuted at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Austin, TX, from February 25-27, 2011, where it took home the grand prize for best lugged frame by Bilenky Cycle Works.

Originally published in the July/ August 2011 issue of Momentum Magazine and on momentummag.com.

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