The 2016 Philadelphia Bike Expo, held November 5-6, broke its exhibitor record with a 28% increase in custom frame builders showing their works compared to the previous year. Regarded by many of the small custom workshops as representing the heart and soul of the industry, this family-run event was founded in 2010 by Philadelphia frame builder Stephen Bilenky and the staff in his shop and is now managed by his daughter Bina.
One of the features of the Philly Bike Expo is a long promotional build-up, in which bikes from the expo floor are presented to custom enthusiasts around the world who were unable to make it to the November expo in Pennsylvania. The 2016 Philly Expo featured its widest range yet of truly fabulous custom bike frames. The personalities of the constructors who toiled over their creation are just as varied, as those that attended the expo could attest. This is the first of a few stories from the show floor.
Cobra Frames are built by Joe Roggenbuck in Syracuse, New York using steel TIG-welded and brass fillet-brazed construction. For Roggenbuck, practicality and versatility are key virtues of any bike, and he imparts these virtues to his frames.
“I tend to specialize in versatile and practical bikes such as randonneuring and gravel bikes. I aim to make straightforward bike frames that can cleanly integrate all of the parts of the finished bicycle.”
Roggenbuck shuns the influence of racing culture that draws in many other builders, and he doesn’t build bikes for a specific subset of cyclist. With his frames, Roggenbuck seeks to encompass a broader, collaborative ethos of cycling.
“In the past, road racing has informed too much of recreational road cycling culture. In a road race, speed and weight savings are crucial to the bike to remain competitive, but for those of us who want to ride with friends on our own time and get out on the weekends, we don’t need to make the same sacrifices to our bikes.
“We can choose to ride bicycles that give us versatility and capability, not just flat-out speed. The trend toward larger volume tires for “road bikes” is enabling a new road cycling ethos that is more focused on riding for the fun of it than just race-winning speed.”
Cobra Frames follows the Occam’s Razor paradigm to produce an elemental two-wheeled vehicle meant to be thrashed. Roggenbuck aims to design and build the strongest, simplest, and most beautiful bikes he can to give the customer the best cycling experience possible.
Readers interested in following the buildup to the 2017 Philly Bike Expo, November 4-5 may do so on the website. The expo produces an online newsletter too, and a signup form for that is also on their website.
Special thanks to Paul Skilbeck and Alan Davis for the story, and to Brad Quartuccio/Philly Bike Expo for the fine photography.