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.
Custom painted Moonlander just outside the Surly display area
New Surly Big Dummy bag and top plate
- 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.
For all those times when you need a tube and your local bike shop isn’t open to help you
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.
My Bikes: Foundry Cycles Auger B1
As a rep for Quality Bicycle Products I have many bikes that are ridden and driven all around the Southeast. They are *all* considered demo’s, so if you are in the southeast and want to try out one of my bikes let me know in the comments or drop me a line on the contact page.
The newest bike in my fleet is a cyclocross bike from Foundry Cycles. When looking through all the brands I rep for my next cyclocross bike for the upcoming season I was automatically drawn to the Auger. Late last season I had raced a Ridley X-Fire, while I enjoyed it immensely (and will probably end up on a disc version this year) the geometry was more race driven than I wanted to ride this summer and I also wanted to try something different.
At War with the Industry I Love
It is no secret my history with the bike industry. Without coming from parents in the industry I am as close to growing up in the industry as you can. At 15 I was a shop rat, living my life in some way or another around bicycles since then. In two years when I am 30 I will have spent half my life revolving around bicycles and all things that are the culture of bikes. This is where I mention that I wouldn’t change a thing.
I have spent half of my life preaching the word. Answering the call. The call that bicycles can solve everything. It can make you happy, make you skinny, allow you to drink more beer, require less gas, give you independence, teach you adventure, become a family affair and so on.
Quietly fighting the good fight. Never taking up the arms of advocate as the word advocacy is a dirty word to me. We don’t need advocates, we need lovers. Everyone hates the politician but loves the hero’s. We need bike lanes that connect schools and grocery stores. We need to empower our children to pick up their bikes and go forward safely.
Two things came to light today that have made me struggle with the industry and culture I love
The death of an innocent freshman, riding his bicycle to school in Charlotte.
The “elephant” of the bike industry that our sales our flat for the past twenty years.
Two different stabs, two different pains, and two different fears.
I have two children that have no way to ride their bikes to school. They are lacking the freedom and the adventure that 10 & 11 year old boys should be given by the gift of bicycling away from home.
I make a living in the bike industry. I have sold bikes to first consumers and now bike dealers. Margins are tighter, and instead of expanding the bike industry and taking market share from golf, or soccer, or football. We are flat and fighting each other. From bike brands, industry standards and bike shops at war with their local community.
The elephant in the room is the bike industry is full of selfish folks lacking business sense and caring more about their piece of the pie than the pie that they are cutting from.
What do you believe in? When did you last fight for something you believe in?
I believe in bikes and if you know me – you know they are my life. I know a few other things and hopefully these all will be able to come together to make the pie bigger for the cycling industry, and for people to be able to ride their bikes safely to and from wherever they want to go.
Here I am, standing to fight a war against the industry I love. This war is why I work for the company that I love, Quality Bicycle Products. A sleeping giant, the backbone of the bike industry. This is why I love my co-workers, quietly pushing things along in Minnesota. I believe in bicycles and here I stand to fight the good fight of putting more butts on bikes. Carbon fiber doesn’t do that, fancy new bottom bracket standards or fighting over wheel sizes..sure some good marketing can help, but empowering the industry will. Empowering your local cycling community, finding a new word for advocate and allowing other people to drink from your passion.
All Over the Place
I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.
I’ve been everywhere. – Johnny Cash
I’m feeling like Johnny did so many years ago. Last Friday was a great monthly demo party at Spoke Easy in Charlotte. The rain scared some folks away but no fear it was a great attendance! The Surly Pugsley, as always, was the main attraction!
Where am I?
That’s a good question! Currently I am sitting in Charleston, SC. I’ll be here until Sunday morning when I’ll head to Memphis. Roughly a 12 hour drive, so I’ll be trying to get started as early as possible while still spending last hours and moments with my girlfriend until I see her later in the week. I’ll be in Memphis until Wednesday, when I’ll then drive back home to Charlotte, NC for final prep for the 6 Hours of Warrior Creek that I’m doing with partner in crime, Melissa.
Eating well is still going strong. While traveling I’ve been packing my lunch box, making sure I have a good stocked fridge and etc. I’ve expanded from the 17 day diet to Matt Fitzgerald “Racing Weight.” I’m feeling good and the few times I’ve been on the bike while cutting calories over the past week and a half I’ve felt okay. Better now that I’ve reintroduced some more carbs in to daily intake. Simply watching when I’m eating them, trying to eat earlier (tonight I failed at that) and still no coffee or other drinks other than green tea and water.
There’s other things going on, tomorrow afternoon after I figure out how to install the new SiriusXM radio (gotta have entertainment for my 12 hour drive) I’ll be sitting down and writing up a few thoughts bouncing around in my head about women’s geometry, and tech geekiness.