On The Road – NAHBS 2015 – Part I

Mar 7, 2015 by

 #NAHBS2015 – (evidently a hashtag defines things now…)

I’m back from a whirlwind trip to Louisville, KY. for the 11th edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show.

If you have been listening to the past few Outspoken Cyclist broadcasts/podcasts, you will have heard several frame builder interviews.  From Rody Walter, ( Groovy Cycleworks) and Steve Potts ( Steve Potts Bicycles) to Chris Connor (Chris Connor Wood Bicycles) each in his unique way shared his excitement and passion for the work that he does.

Here is the first of probably 3 posts about the show:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Arriving in Louisville, KY midst snow-covered streets on Thursday, we checked into the Galt House in downtown.  Turns out Louisville suffered a rain to ice to snowstorm that pretty much shut down the city on Wednesday which explained all the cars abandoned on the sides of the highway on our way down.

Many folks never made it to work on Thursday, deliveries of food and other supplies were somewhere in the ether, and many of the upscale restaurants were closed.  We opted for a café in the hotel for a small but more than adequate buffet and a glass of wine for dinner.  Everyone was gracious and apologetic and showed all the guests outstanding hospitality.

We retired early so that we could be up and ready for…

THE FRAME BUILDERS’ PANEL

Builders_Panel

 (left to right)

Don Walker, Kent Eriksen, Steve Potts, Rody Walter, Tim O’Donnell

My assignment for NAHBS from show director Don Walker was to pick a panel of frame builders, develop some questions, and then moderate said panel to anyone who wanted to attend.

My picks were: Tim O’Donnell from Shamrock Cycles, Rody Walter from Groovy Cycleworks, Steve Potts from Steve Potts Bicycles, Kent Eriksen from Eriksen Cycles, and DonWalker – founder of NAHBS and owner of Don Walker Cycles.

Had I known then what I know now (because hindsight is always 20/20) I would have thought much longer and harder about the time and day for this panel.

The five builders were outstanding.  They freely offered up advice, information, ideas, and encouragement – each in his inimitable way – but, alas, the time (8:45am) and the day (Friday morning) proved to be ill-conceived and we had only a handful of attendees.  Too bad though because the content was amazing!

I keep ruminating about what other time, day, and even venue would have been better and find failing with all of them.  (Asking for help here!)

For example: if we had chosen 6:00pm, after show hours on Friday evening and, after being on their feet all day and talking with potential clients and other attendees, would these 5 guys really want to spend another hour sitting and chatting? And where would we do that?  In a bar -no one would object – but would anyone be able to hear? In a ballroom with a portable bar? (Maybe… that’s been the favorite so far so we may explore this for 2016)

Or, should we consider the same time (8:45am) different day (Saturday? Sunday?) but then many of these guys wanted to go for a run or ride, or SLEEP an extra hour.

For those who are saying, why not offer this after the show opens? We could not take 5 frame builders out of their booths for that length of time while the show was in session – that’s a no go.

So, while the panel was a “technical” success – the end result was a kind of failure and for that, I am really sorry because it was terrific.

So this takes us to:

THE OPENING OF THE SHOW

 Set-Up_1_small(Friday, March 6th 8:30am)

If you’ve never attended a “trade show” – and in this case it’s actually a consumer show, but from a veteran bicycle dealer’s perspective it LOOKS a lot like a trade show, it is a sight to behold.

As a journalist, I was able to go in to the hall before the show opened early Friday when many booths were just in the first stages of set-up.  You look around and wonder how (or if) they are going to be ready in an hour or even two hours.  Many of the booths look totally empty or are in such disarray that you aren’t sure if anyone knows what goes where.

To be sure, someone’s stuff always gets hung up somewhere – UPS, or FedEx, or a freight company doesn’t get your bikes, boxes of stuff, literature, and whatever – to you on time and you just have to wait it out. Usually, the stuff shows up and sometimes it doesn’t; but, what is so interesting is that people always find ways to make-do and often it’s THAT kind of seat-of-the-pants thinking that turns you and your company into a rock star!

Opening Line Up

And, so the attendees begin to line up for tickets, the show opens, the registration line flows smoothly, and Don Walker gets to finally take a full breath!  His show is rollin’!

First impressions are a bit overwhelming as there are 6 aisles of booths.  On the far right, the first-time builders’ tables showcase a special project by a heretofore unknown frame builder.  This is always a popular part of the event because you know that each of these guys (and they are usually all guys) put their hearts and souls into these bikes.  They are also the future of the craft.
First impressions are a bit overwhelming as there are 6 aisles of booths.  On the far right, the first-time builders’ tables showcase a special project by a heretofore unknown frame builder.  This is always a popular part of the event because you know that each of these guys (and they are usually all guys) put their hearts and souls into these bikes.  They are also the future of the craft.

There are always hoards of people poring over these booths, so it’s difficult to get a good shot of them…

I spent the first hour or so just walking up and down the aisles and chatting with folks – most of whom I’ve known – and getting a sense of the overall “theme” of the show.

When NAHBS first began 11 years ago, you would see mostly road bikes, mostly steel, and always U.S. builders.  Today, the game has changed: there are exhibitors from all over the world, fat bikes and cyclocross are HUGE categories now, and titanium, carbon, and even wood are evident in many booths.

Exhibitors like Campagnolo, Shimano, and SRAM are interspersed with suppliers such as Paragon Machine, CycleMonkey, and Challenge.

 

 

 

 

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