28 Feb Frostbike–A bicycle non-professional at a bicycle industry trade show
A guest post by Laura Colbert of Loose Nuts Cycles in Atlanta, GA
So, I know my byline up there says that I represent Loose Nuts Cycles when I write. The truth is that I am by no means a bicycle industry professional. I ride my bike to work and around town, love a mountain bike ride, help out at the local velodrome and am marrying a bike shop owner, but I have never been paid to ride or work on bikes or to be knowledgeable about bicycle-related things. I am a bicycle non-professional.
This weekend, my partner (owner of Loose Nuts Cycles) and I flew to Minneapolis so that he could attend Frostbike 2013–QBP’s annual conference and trade show. I originally signed up because I have some family in the city and wanted to visit with them, but I was also curious about what went on at bicycle industry gatherings. I’m in public health, so I’m used to peer-reviewed abstracts, break out sessions, suits, and networking events when I go to a conference.
Before we even left Atlanta for the frigid northern lands of Minnesota, I knew I was in for something different than the expert-packed, abstract-ridden, brain-overwhelming days of public health conferences. Chris forwarded an email to me with the subject line “2013 Frostbike Beer Hunt”, which described a scavenger hunt-type activity that you could complete at the vendor expo in order to earn “a 22oz. bottle of limited-edition Frostbike beer that was brewed and bottled by the QBP Vendor Sales Team”. It’s not that we public health folks don’t have fun at our conferences, but we’ve certainly never hosted a Beer Hunt. I could tell that Chris’s “professional” trip was going to be a very different kind of professional than I was used to.
Essentially, our schedule was this:
Friday–arrive in Minneapolis and find hotel. Go to All City Bikes party (via a party bus called the Night Rider) and have beer- and bike-related fun.
Saturday–Go to QBP headquarters. Check out the vendor expo for the morning. Eat delicious lunch provided by Thompson and QBP. Ride Surly fat bikes in the snow. Back to expo. Return to hotel for dinner.
Sunday–More expo. Take tour of QBP headquarters. Eat more delicious lunch. Ride more fat bikes (Salsa this time). Win stuff at a raffle. Back to hotel.
Monday–Sit on butt. Fly back to Atlanta.
After4 bicycle packed days, these are the things that stuck with me:
- Fat tire bikes are awesome, especially when used for their intended purpose–snow.
- QBP likes girls. My name tag said “Dealer” which probably helped, but all of the brands and bike professionals with whom I spoke treated me very equitably, like I knew as much as Chris did. They made sure to look at both of us when talking about products. I liked the feeling of not being talked down to and treated knowledgeably, even if I wasn’t actually knowledgeable. I hope that Frostbike 2014 includes seminars for bike shop owners about how to make women cyclists feel like that in their shops. It seems pretty rare in the bike world.
- The bicycle apparel industry apparently hates women–I’ll rant more about this in a later post, but women’s bicycle clothing continues to be made to look exactly like men’s cycling apparel but with an added flower or ruffle. I saw not one piece of clothing at the entire show that I would be excited about wearing.
- POC Helmets look awesome–awesome enough to reduce how dorky I normally feel when wearing a helmet.
- Brooks still makes beautiful, drool-worthy leather products–I fell in love with this Brooks bag. Oh yeah, and this bag is pretty amazing in the grape color.
- The Surly display. They had obviously put a lot of thought and design into their space, even though it was just temporary. Plus, the new Big Dummy cargo system premiered, which was exciting.
- There is a common sense of purpose between the Frostbike attendees. Even though people didn’t know each other, they shared a priority and experience that connected them. It sounds like hippy talk, but it made Frostbike feel welcoming and warm. The feeling helped to re-energize a lot of attendees (including myself) about riding, even in the middle of winter.
- Kenda’s new tube vending machine–this is being tested in several pilot areas before it will be available to the mass market. Pretty fun product.
I was prepared to come back and report that professional bike trade shows are just an excuse to have a good party and talk about bikes all weekend. While partying and talking about riding bikes and actually riding bikes was essentially all that we did for 3 days, I was surprised at how much actual business got done. Vendors with whom I spoke were really excited and helpful when talking about their new products. Bike shop owners were stoked that these new products met the needs of their customers (with the exception of women’s cycling clothing–ugh! Still unreasonably pissed about this). Everyone wanted to ride bikes and generally the atmosphere at Frostbike fueled that fire. It was fun to come home and be stoked to get on my bike and know that thousands of other people were doing the same thing as they returned home from Frostbike too.