Saturday, October 14, 2006

Interbike 2006...the fun part

Now that all the show stuff is out of the way, we can get to the good part of this whole should be noted that the show actually ran from wednesday through friday. I attended all day wednesday, a few hours on thursday, and was completely sick of it by friday. Anyway, there was actually an alleycat on the first day...thrown by Whitesnake (above right) and Dozr from NYC. Which is pretty crazy, because if ever there was a place to NOT ride a bike, it'd be Vegas. I think Jason Britton's bike almost got cut off of a railing....there's limos and cabs and traffic everywhere on the strip. Everything is designed to make it hard to even walk's completely designed for automobiles. The start of the alleycat was right outside the main entrance doors to the show. There were actually about 30-40 people involved, i think....which is a pretty good amount given the venue.

Here's Kim from D.C. and Dozr. I'm not sure where all these cans of Bud came from, but they were pretty welcome. Inside the show, there were various beer giveaways at different booths every day. The show guide actually had a small section every day detailing said giveaways. This was the only real reason to pick up a guide, unless you were really into the business/financial side of the bike biz. Anyway, thanks to precise planning and the strength of our group (people tended to give us a good amount of space as we loudly approached booths), we managed to make the most of the festivities and avoid actually paying for beer.

Mike Dee (NYC) and Sheba (D.C.) waiting for the start. I was a little disappointed, because I'd recently purchased a Bilenky track frame with S+S couplers (chek the blog entry from a little while back), but hadn't had time to actually put it together and make the bag for it so I could bring it to Vegas without paying a plane fee. So Steve and I didn't ride in the alleycat. Turns out that that was a good choice, but still...would have been fun.

You'd figure in Vegas nobody would really care what was going on unless it reached such a level of absurdity about 25 times that of normalcy. Seriously, think about the stuff that must go on here on a daily basis. I don't think there is such thing as "too drunk"...matter of fact, when we first got to Vegas, I was checking in at the Luxor, and a guy was practically falling down checking out. This was at roughly noon. He was telling the receptionist he hadn't seen the friend he came with in two and a half days. Are some people sitting outside drinking beer really going to upset the delicate balance of this town? Still, the rent-a-cops outside the convention center seemed to be getting really nervous about all of us being right outside. We'd only been there for about 15 minutes when they came out to usher us across the road.

This is Jason from King Kog. The next time I'd see him would be from the window of our limo as we pulled up to the afterparty. Hey wait, isn't that a bit excessive....a limo?

Naw, not really...the thing is, taking a limo, given enough people, can actually be cheaper than an individual ride in a taxi. I had never thought about it before...but Reed and Scott (from Level Components) had been in Vegas for about five days already, and figured it out very early in the game. After the alleycat went off, everybody who wasn't racing walked up to their room to chill for a little bit. They were out of beer...but not out of hard alcohol. Hmmmm. Well, we hung out there and had a few drinks, and then went outside to grab a ride to the Palms (Kona was throwing a party there so Whitesnake figured he might as well make that the afterparty). Before we even got to the taxi line, Reed told us to hold up so he could hook up a limo. There's limo's for hire outside of any casino at almost any time, so it's pretty easy. Anyway, within two minutes we had our ride, we piled in and took off. That's Scott right there, probably talking about playing poker later.

Here's a horrible picture of the Mirage from the limo. Anyway, this small sequence of events (drinking in a patio of a suite in the Venetian, jumping in a limo, and arriving at the Palms and going out to the humongous pool/party space, where there was a stage complete with dancers, little streams of water with floating cushions for chairs, and general craziness) was probably the closest I've ever felt to being on MTV Cribs. That feeling died down pretty quickly, though, as more people (show attendees) began to crowd into the party and we realized that beers were $9.

The next night (I think), Chris Kim and Mike Dee set up goldsprints in the Level suite. The mere fact that they brought all their equipment to Vegas is amazing in itself. Truth be told, by the time I got there, the racing was over. Alex won. As usual.

We hung out outside a drank for a while. I think the toll of Vegas life got to everybody a little bit that night....people started slowly dropping out kinda early. Around one, I made my way back to the Luxor to do some gambling. All said, I actually did pretty well with a combination of roulette and slots. One word of advice: if your dealer mentions his/her birthday, or the birthday of any of their family members, PLAY THAT NUMBER.

I guess that's a good segway into the actual "Vegas" part of Las Vegas, which I've been sparing you through this whole thing. I stayed at the Luxor (pretty decent hotel/casino...not amazing, not budget). It's a glass pyramid. The whole theme is ancient Egypt, and there's a...well, I could call it a light, but that's an extreme understatement. It's actually the world's most powerful light, shining a beam directly up into the sky. Visible up to 250 miles away. Seems like a good use of energy to me. Interesting side note: Close to the hotel, if you look at the beam, it seems to be shimmering and sparkling. It's a very nice effect. What is really goign on, however, is hundreds of bats feasting on all of the insects that are attracted by the lights. Nice touch, Luxor.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Interbike 2006 (pt.2)

It got to the point where I was spending more time walking around taking in all of the ridiculous stuff than actually looking for cool stuff. Mostly because there was weird stuff EVERYWHERE. Case in point: The Motostik. Please bear in mind that this was one of THREE "extreme pogo stick - er, i mean stik" - companies that were displaying their lines at the show. I never knew there was such a market for this stuff. I was amazed to see that for every three people that walked by smirking, one would actually take a serious look at this thing.

I just had to show the flyer. Please check out the videos at the Motostik website. I can only assume they rented out the skatepark locations so as to avoid possible injury to their "riders". Otherwise, I'm sure there would have been some pretty good footage of random skaters walking by and smacking them in the head. I triple-dog-dare anybody to take one of these things out at FDR skatepark.

Back in the land of the sane, Brooks had some nice stuff in their booth. Along with their world-renowned saddles (which I personally don't like due to their "don't get me wet" nature, but otherwise adore), they had these leather grips. I'm sure most people have seen their older grips, which were basically padded grips covered with a stitched-on piece of leather. But these things....wooo boy. They were made of big leather "O-rings", which themselves were basically a bunch of leather circles laminated together. The ends were aluminum, and you could adjust the length of the grip itself by adding/removing rings. I can really dig the craftsmanship of these grips. What I can't dig, however, is the price tag: roughly $100 retail. Doh.

Brooks also had some lovely leather bar tape. This picture does it no justice. What I really wish I had a picture of (or better yet, the actual item) was one of the beautiful Brooks long sleeve wool jerseys that were available at the booth. The booth in general was incredibly understated; Brooks knows all about the simple beauty of their product, and they didn't try and get flashy. When your stuff looks like theirs, it's enough to just put it all in glass cases and let people drool.

.....And then there's the other side of the spectrum. Oakley. They had an absolutely humongous booth, which was pretty much a mock-up of some crazy futuristic space bunker or something. I'm quite sure the booth cost more money than we make annually. Anyway, at any point during the three-day show, there were approximately 100 people up in this booth. It was pretty nuts. I'm not a big fan of their stuff, but I was curiously drawn in by how over-the-top everything was inside. I did manage to slip into a little room (I assume this is where they talk business with big accounts) and snap this photo of the seats inside. They had custom made, padded barstool covers. The patch near the center opening reads "Exhaust vent". You can't make this stuff up.

Surly had a pretty nice, basic type of booth. They also had this crazy snow bike. The tire must be about eight inches wide. While incredibly impractical, I couldn't help but think about how much fun it would be to ride around Philly on this thing after a blizzard.

Hopefully said blizzard would bury THIS silly, silly contraption under a few feet of snow. It was quite a harrowing experience, going to grab a brochure for this beast while trying to avoid eye contact with any of the reps (which would surely have launched them into a fake, pre-programmed sales schpiel). I managed to slip in and slip out while some other dude was looking at the bike closely. Lucky for most attendees, these guys were placed about as deeply as possible in the "ridiculous new crap that won't be around next year" section of the showroom floor.

Does this really need a caption at this point?

Awww yeah. Now you can get your step on, while also bending over uncomfortably to grip bmx bars on a 20" wheel, and looking as silly as possible all at the same time! I love this show. Seriously.

Back at the Accelerade booth, Taliah Lempert was still busy painting. Probably a good thing, given what was going on around her. Some booths had begun to bring out kegs,and fools were having even more animated conversations about carbon fiber than before. I've gotta give props to the guy from Risse Racing (they make aftermarket shocks for pretty much every bike on the market). He was right across from one of the major free beer booths, dealing out shots of Cuervo with salt and limes for $5, including a Risse shot glass. Good stuff.

Ok, so by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't really do much as far as researching any new, useful products. mostly I walked around taking pictures of people and wacky inventions. And scouting where the next free alcohol giveaways would be. And deciding what to do later during that particular night. Which is, realistically, a hell of a lot more fun than actually taking this mess seriously. Truth be told, we will have a booth next year, and our booth is going to make the show about 25 times more exciting than it is normally. We've got big plans. Trust me on that one.

On one final note: Kryptonite is introducing a whole new line of locks this year. And the amazing thing is, they've actually listened to messenger input for the designs. They've switched out the incredibly annoying, rotating "rain cuff" (the thing that used to cover the key hole) for a nice new sliding "door". So you can leave it open most of the time, and with just a flick of the thumb you can slide it over the key cyclinder to keep your lock from eventually rusting out. Now you no longer have to cut off the cuff! They've also come out with a new model for NYC heads, dubbed the "fuhgettaboutit" lock. It's basically an extremely beefed up evo mini. The thing is HEAVY. Very heavy. As in "might rip off the back pocket of your jeans if you put it there". But it's not nearly as heavy as 3 feet of chain and a padlock. To top it all off, possibly the nicest, best rep I've ever met works there: Donna Tocci. She's amazing. She's responsible for all of the locks that get given away at alleycats and major races all year long. She even gave one, on the spur of the moment, for the Inetrbike alleycat Whitesnake and Dozr threw. More on that in the next installment: Interbike 2006 - The Fun Part.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Interbike 2006

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, 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 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!!!