On September 26th, I left for Las Vegas and the illustrious INTERBIKE industry convention. If you don't know about it, I'll spare myself from writing all the details. Suffice to say it's where all of the biggest companies in the cycling industry, from bike and component manufacturers to clothing, accessory, and marketing firms, debut their new lineup for the following year. If you really want to check out exactly what is encompassed in this week of salesmanship, check out the official site. Anyway, there are tons of companies, both large and small, showcasing tons of products, both amazing and hilariously futile. There used to be a smaller version of this same convention that would come to Philly every year at a different time...but thanks to our infamous convention center (and it's even more infamous union crew), that got shut down about 7 years or so ago.
The concept of Interbike generally sounds like it should be pretty interesting and fun - and sometimes it really is - but honestly, although I used to race mountain bikes, and was for a short time into road bikes, since I started messengering I really lost all interest in bicycle technology for the most part. I have a couple of keirin and track bikes, a cargo bike, and an old Fat Chance mountain bike. I hoard old Shimano thumbshifters and prefer to keep my rear cluster at 8 gears or less. Not exactly the target market for most companies. Upon entering the convention hall (located within the plush Venetian hotel on the strip), I quickly began to notice a general trend amongst the attendees. Many of them looked like this guy above (btw, I think he studied that bike for about 20 minutes, no joke). Shop employees roamed around in little groups wearing identically embroidered polo shirts. I saw a whole mess of people rocking hydration packs. It gave me bad flashbacks to when I used to work for shops myself (1990-1997).
And a WHOLE LOT of em looked like this guy right here. I'd kinda forgotten about the whole freeriding/mini motorcycle mountain biking phenomenon. It came back slamming in my face REAL QUICK. It was roughly 95 degrees in Las Vegas. Still, wool skully hats could be found with every swivel of the head. Nylon cargo shorts with padding, goatees, wrap-around Oakley's made of exotic materials (usually worn sitting above the brim of a baseball hat)...check, check, and check!
It was all about mountain bikes that looked like motorcycles, and 10-speed road groups. I remember when Rock Shox first came on the scene. Back in those days, you had barely two inches of travel, you'd ride it for a few months, the seals would explode, and every day you'd be wiping oil off the lower legs of your fork. And we liked it! Now they've got these newfangled four-to-ten-inch travel beasts, what with their adjustable damping and compression, and lockout features.....bah.
This bike was really exciting. Seriously though, I actually confused this with a pic from the SRAM booth. SRAM had one of the few new things that I was genuinely interested in. Mostly because it was some new competition in the Campy/Shimano road group war. First debuted in Philly during the....aw, I don't even know what the race is called anymore; whatever bank runs it now is my guess, but it is formerly known as the Corestates, or First Union, or Wachovia USPRO race...anyway, during that race this year. Ok, so before I babble on any further, SRAM has a new road group that should give the "Big S" some competition this year. It features one lever that's used for both upshifting AND downshifting. Short throwns upshift. Long throws downshift. It felt GREAT, and it worked flawlessly on the showroom floor...but then again, what doesn't?
You set em up, and I'll knock em down. THIS doesn't work well on the showroom floor. Or any other floor, surface, or universe in general, for that matter. If you've read any of this blog before - well, number one, I'd be suprised - If you've read any of this blog before, you'll remember this contraption from the Japan trip 2006 posts. Atsushi had one of these at Depot, and we were killing ourselves trying to ride it. Turns out, NOBODY can ride it. Not even the people who were running the booth! Once again, just so we're on the same page, here's what we've got on this thing: one 20" wheel, three shocks connecting the wheel to the hub, a disk brake, a seat and handlebars, and one rollerblade wheel in the back. According to the manufacturer, the whole purpose of this product is for other people to laugh while you try to ride it. I did notice that they had a video; it shows possibly the one person, located in Japan, who can ride this thing for more than 5 feet. Just don't ask him to turn. Final note: This device is patented, so don't think about stealing this design.
This is NOT the one person who can ride this thing (dubbed the "Max Challenger"), by the way. But this dude won the International Useless Bike Competition by convulsing and swerving his way
slighly beyond the 3' mark. Congratulations, you win a one-way trip to Detroit!
Now that I have delved into the land of marks and "Made in Taiwan", I feel I must show something that's actually really cool. There were a few displays in the show that really made my day. Number one: The Independent Fabrication booth. They decked out this frame like an '80's Skyway TA. Ridiculous. You can keep your 1.357 lb carbon time trial frame, just give me this!
To me, this was the Bike of the Show. Based around Shimano's Nexus internal transmission group, this bike sported custom, intergrated racks and a sick integrated chain guard. Full stamped metal fenders (I always forget who makes these things but they're among the nicest available), and a sweet machined cable pulley for the rear hub. I stayed here for a minute before braving the crowd once again. BTW, please note the sport sandals in the pic. I would actually wager money that at least 60% of the attendees had either sport sandals or those Croc plastic clogs on. No lie.
This is the chainguard I mentioned. I would have had better pictures of this thing, but did you notice the hand on the bike in the previous photo? That dude was practically making love to the bike. He stood over it, gripping the bars, hand on the seat, generally messing up my photos (along with his sandaled friend) the whole time I was there. Jerk.
I was walking around with Loud Steve from American Expediting, waiting for 2pm (the first official free beer giveaway of the show), and I caught a glimpse of some artwork that looked very familiar. I was getting ready to get really upset, because I could swear it looked just like Taliah Lempert's work. Then I got to the booth, and lo and behold...Taliah was there! She had been brought in by Accelerade and the Davis Phinney Foundation to do a painting of a replica race bike during the show. She was super-psyched about it. Shameless plug: Check out the Fabric Horse utility belt she was wearing.
The Accelerade booth became a home base of sorts, since Taliah was always there and they had some comfy couches and chairs. There were actually a bunch of kids from all over at Interbike: Brad and Patty from Trackstar NYC, Jason and Mike from Cranked Magazine in Seattle, Chris Kim and Mike Dee from NYC (they run a ton of goldsprints comps; check out their website, Bill Dozr and Whitesnake from NYC Mess Mag, and Kim from D.C., Jason and Alex from King Kog NYC). Reed and Scott from Level Components were up in Vegas all early with a baller suite at the Venetian. Plus, Jill Rogers paints for Indy Fab, so she was in Vegas too. Add some more familiar faces, and you've got a pretty solid crew. Anyway, the point of this paragraph was this: Amy and Kevin "Squid" Bolger were there for a little bit, and Amy's got an amazing new book chock full of her photos from years of NYC alleycats due to be published shortly. Hopefully we'll have a few copies; check out www.newyorkalleycats.com for more info...
Ashira was there too...and her birthday was a few days ago. She was in really good spirits all week long, and took a ton of photos that are much better than mine...they're up on flickr right now.
In the world of mass-production track bikes....KHS continues with their Aero 100, which is just like the new Kona track bike, which is just like the Bianchi track bike. Surly still makes their steamroller, which I actually really love because of the tire clearance and oversized tubing. I think Specialized still makes that Langster, but I never made it to their booth to find out for sure. It's aluminum, anyway, whether they make it still or not. On the "extremely scary" side of things, SE Racing - the old-school bmx company responsible for legit classics like the Quadangle, Floval Flyer, and OM flyer, of which I've actually owned and loved the latter two - had a single-speed/fixed bike on display, with a supposed retail of roughly $300. For the COMPLETE BIKE. Closer inspection revealed some parts specs that would make even the worst penny-pincher shudder. Most notably ONE-PIECE CRANKS. Oh boy. This should be fun to watch.
*More to come in the 2nd installment!!!