By Josh Boisclair (please see accompanying photos on our flickr site)
“One step forward, two steps back”
I will admit that Vegas and large crowds are not my natural habitat, so many of my observations might be overly-negative and tainted with Tecate….. but the fact that Interbike is hosted in Vegas really makes a lot of sense,–(even to me, and I actually ride my bike to work every day); especially when you consider that when it was projected to not be in vegas this year there was a massive uprising among venders and attendees and so in Vegas it has stayed. Stumbling past the street souvenir vendors along the busy Strip, I couldn’t help but think that Interbike should have their logo printed on those popular souvenir Vegas shirts that say “What happens in vegas, stays in Vegas”, if they in fact don’t have those already, and i would be seriously disappointed if i missed the opportunity to own such a shirt. I arrived on The Strip, but only after the $7 airport beer, $12 airport bloody mary, and the free-but-programmed airport-bartender greetings and small-talk attempts, and the largely uneventful, but environment-killing and resource-wasting flight, and everything seemed the same as the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that. Instantly, you can’t help but notice that everyone is walking around outside and in public drunk, (or at least on their way there), smoking, holding a cocktail glass or a tall can of Coors Light, and under the influence of a prescription, or a back-of-the-alley-under-the-table drug…or three. Then, you go into the Casinos and there are the older folks, almost all overweight and aging poorly, sitting at their chosen slot machine, waiting to be hit in the head with their American Dream, –(“The” American Dream died when Burger King came out with “My Whopper”)– at all possible costs. Inside the Interbike Arena, the observations differ, but only slightly: A small, portable bar right at the entrance, with a very professional bar tender, $7 bud lights, and he knows how to make a real good bloody mary. No one was smoking that i could tell, but some of the “new products” made me wonder what some may have smoked, beforehand…..
Luckily, most all the attendees seem to be in Vegas Mode, which to me, means senses numbed from all the over-exposure, unable to make full sense of any one thing, instead lumping every little piece of input into a large sludgy mass of Information to be sifted through and cleaned up later. Like Vegas, everything jumps out at you with a loud voice yelling “try me!”–it’s all so new, loud, big, bright,–it is utterly impossible to make any sort of analytical assessment of anything at first, despite that fact that that’s what I’m there for. Luckily, after Recovery, I am able to,–two days later to be exact. The first day of the event is pure acclimation, walking around in a sort of stupor unable to speak, and definitely not wanting to get into an in-depth bicycle-related conversation with a professional. I did manage to snap a few photos though, which came out very poorly due to my unfamiliarity with digital photography–just another new thing to try to figure out along with everything else. The first bike i noticed was a mixte frame made by Bilenky at the Paul booth. That bike won a best-of award at NAHBS. This bike also set the mood and although vague, the theme of the show this year, as far as i could tell anyways: extreme attention to detail, high-end, custom, local, family-owned..…. While I didn’t see any north american frame-builders with booths, their bikes were everywhere, at larger companies’ booths, displaying the larger companies’ goods. California-built custom bikes and Cali-based companies were everywhere, Renovo comes to mind, also right at the entrance, locked up to a pole, displaying bike locks. Fixed-gear urban bikes still have a surprisingly strong presence and the one that stood out was Livery Design gruppe, with very original ideas and immaculate attention to detail. The Fixxxy thing might not be a passing fad after all!–I have reconsidered leaving my own fixed-gear bike hanging, full of shame, in the rafters……–maybe i’ll take it out for a spin again. The Sturmey Archer booth also displayed their products on custom hand-made bicycles instead of production Raleighs. I was however, in a constant state of disappointment, it started out quite mild, but then grew and grew as i saw hardly any! decent “city” bikes, utility bikes, or cargo bikes. Biria, Bobbin, Linus, and Nirve all displayed entry level and economically priced city bikes; while Gazelle and Pashley had the higher quality bicycles. Trek, while not there, had an aluminum Omafiets on display at a car-rack booth, proof of an awareness of sorts, but no commitment. The only real cargo bikes there were the Gazelle Cabby, the Dutch ID Filibus, and the Johnny Loco (with its ridiculous parking stand). And out of those three, The Cabby and the Filibus are the only bikes worth anyones money. Gone were last year’s cheap chinese cargo bikes, so at least no one got turned-off to cargo bikes this year, although the Johnny Loco is not too great but luckily was neatly hidden in a corner. Yeah, there was the newish Civia Halsted truck bike, a classic example of another hundred-year-old design re-introduced as a lower-end bike, and made to appear very boring instead of cool and useful. The Yuba Mundo was there of course, and with ineffective sales approaches as i overheard the following: “i don’t know about that long chain”
“oh, that’s the least of your worries”
“oh, so what is my biggest worry?”
“………” silence, he had nothing, and so moved on to the next slot machine. Box Cycles was their with a Christiana trike, it wasn’t selling; Nordic Bike Project had a Pilen, and that was it! Tons and tons of high-end racing gear though: mountain, road, and cyclocross; clothing, racing saddles, sunglasses, socks, jerseys, BMX bikes, trick bikes, and little bikes; American Express was even there giving away “free” pens, actually more like shoving them in your face as you walked buy saying “sir, your pen”
“no thanks man, that thing is too sharp, i might stab myself with it”
Being at the Gazelle/Yepp booth was a breath of fresh air though, especially since it was right there with Pashley, –complete with a genuine british dude who was the real deal and not an actor; Moulton, and the re-introduced Gerry Burgess line. The Dutch overall had a solid presence with Basil, Gazelle, and Yepp. Dutch ID was there, but in talking with them you couldn’t help but notice the lack of enthusiasm and eagerness to off-load their bikes on display for cheap so they didn’t have to haul them back. –No, Dutch bikes/commuter bikes/city bikes/utility bikes were not a trend at this year’s Interbike, even though in every major city (ie: the real world) they are gaining popularity at an alarming rate. There was a noticeable trend at the show however, toward small-wheel bikes–full size bikes with 20 inch wheels, in fixed gear, road, and commuter configurations. These spanned from the awesome $14,000 full stainless-steel Moulton to various $200 chinese fixed gear bikes in 1000 different colours. Surly had a strong presence with solid, affordable, and practical goods, and their Pugsley bike has spawned TONS of, (ok, at least 5) imitators, and these huge-tire bikes were everywhere!–who knew?–They do make it easier to ride over logs as was observable at the Surly booth sporting log rollers for people to test their skills on. Carbon fiber and steel seem to be the materials of choice these days, with less and less aluminum and titanium. Modern builders and companies also seem have developed a hatred for, or at least a severe disliking for straight, round cross-section frame tubes, or maybe there was a recent tubing bender sale worldwide that i missed out on. The ground level had the most interesting stuff, most notably were not one, but two! reintroductions of the Pedersen frame design, one with electric assist front hub motor; the Tortola Roundtail bikes, (no real reason to make a frame like that other than “hey! it’s Vegas–er, Interbike!, loosen up man!” …….; the Solowheel provided a great spectator sport; and the Circulus–a mini velodrome where you could show off or break your nose.
Only in Las Vegas will you find drink holders in the bathroom stalls and a great Public Monorail that nobody uses, and only at Interbike will you see many of the bikes on display there. Go back home, and bikes people are riding and things people are using seem only vaguely familiar to what was seen in Vegas; and the city or town you go back to after the show is probably nothing like Vegas either, (unless you live in LA or Reno I guess). Only in Vegas can you walk the street intoxicated with an open container, and only at Interbike will you see a bicycle with strings instead of a chain, a 60,000 dollar carbon e-bike, and a long line at the electrolyte replacement and sports-drinks booths, as everyone is trying to cure their hang-overs with the free samples. Only in Vegas is it OK to make a fool of yourself, as i did donning my translucent green “Las Vegas” visor, promenading intoxicated down the Strip and through the Disneyland attractions, trying to blend in, and not stopping until it became painfully clear to me that my Converse All Stars were not made for walking (and it was past 3 AM); and only at Interbike do I go three days without riding my bike. But, maybe we should all be walking everywhere anyway, instead of taking advantage of the extreme low-impact efficiency of the Bicycle;–many an ex-Pro road racer suffers from Osteoporosis at an early age…….This year’s Interbike makes it clear that bicycles are still toys. No doubt, you could go to Vegas and hit the jackpot oneday, then being able to afford many of the bikes on display,– I mean, imagine cruising the Strip in the Blacktrail Non Plus Ultra(!) instead of walking, or taking a cab, or taking the monorail, or……..(gasp!)–riding a normal bicycle! I will admit, I was expecting at least a carbon cargo bike this year, maybe even a carbon rack or two, many more ultra-high-end commuters with titanium and stainless-steel frames, and more things like the string bike or the Elliptigo, alongside a good selection of practical urban commuter and cargo bikes. Nope. There’s always next year, and maybe it’s time for Interbike to be held in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Portland, New York, or Austin…..but I don’t think it will happen: we like our video-game lifestyle here; we are severely addicted to every single decadent, superfluous pleasure of Vegas/Interbike.