Monday, March 06, 2006

Bike shows abound

This weekend there were not one, but two bicycle shows that have impact on my business. The first one I'll talk about was the Minneapolis Bike and Travel Expo. This was a first year for this show, so it was a little on the small side, but very worthwhile. It was held in the Minneapolis Convention Center on the same weekend as one of the largest events at the center, the Home and Garden Show. I'm sure the idea was that visitors to the Home and Garden show would trickle down to the lower level to check out the bike show, good thinking. The big downside was that if you drove there for the bike show, parking was a mess. I wanted to stop by the show to see what it was about and see if I should have a booth there next year. When I pulled into downtown I was immediately greeted with gridlocked traffic, bad enough that I decided to just turn around and go home. I mean I just wanted to see how big it was, I wasn't really interested in looking at vendors booths. But as I was heading out, I spied a parking spot on the street, took it and walked a few blocks back to the convention center.

I headed in and was actually surprised at the size of it. I was expecting it to be pretty small since this was the first year, but it was bigger than I anticipated. I don't honestly know how many booths were there, but I spent some time walking around. There were a lot of travel destinations, chambers of commerce, that sort of thing. Not too many manufacturers, but a few of the bigger places. What was nice was the amount of bikes available to test-ride. They had set up a big area in the middle of the show with a test-track for riding. You could ride the concrete around the perimeter, or there were obstacles in the middle from some pseudo-off-roading.
There was only one framebuilder there, Dave Anderson, who is brand new to the game. I got to meet him for the first time and he seemed like a nice guy. He's only a few miles away from me, so I look forward to talking to him more. I think this show was ripe for more builders showing off their work to the local audience, So I'll probably try to get a booth here next year.

Secondly, the North American Hand Made Bicycle Show was this weekend in San Jose CA. This is basically a bragging rights show among builders. Period. I can't think of any other purpose it serves. Honestly I really wish I could go to this show just to met other builders, but realistically it just doesn't make sense. The show is in CA which hurts in two ways; first, I can almost be guaranteed that there won't be a single local customer for me there. I really don't feel any need to grow my internet based work, I've got plenty of that, I want to be working with local customers who I can meet in person and work with in person. Secondly, it's in CA, that's not exactly next door to MN. Sure the plane ticket is expensive, but when you add it up, that's actually the cheapest part of the show.

Flying to CA for the show would have been about $350 with a screaming deal on airfare. But the Booth would have cost $700, then add in a hotel for several nights and you're well over $1000. That's still the cheap part of the show... In order to have a proper display, I'd need to have a handful of bikes to show. Right now as dumb luck would have it, I could have had 3-4 show-quality bikes to bring, but next year I probably won't be in that position so I'll have to build something for the show. Then have components on all those bikes. Then take a week or so to carefully assemble, then partially disassemble and pack all those bikes. Ship them all out there, then have a day or two to re-assemble them (which is always fun in a hotel room). Did I mention I'd need to take time to build a display which could travel too and ship that out there.
Ok, so now I"m at the show and display my wares for the weekend to a bunch of other framebuilders, not a single one of which will ever buy a frame from me. Then I get to pack them all up (another day of work in CA) and re-ship them back to MN. Then fly back home and spend another day unpacking bikes, hoping they all made it back unscathed.

In the end I would have spent the equivalent amount of time as building two whole frames, so consider that $4000 in lost sales, plus the cost of all the shipping and handling, this thing adds up to about a $5-6000 investment when it's said and done. All to show off to other builders and probably not reach a single customer I want to reach. Hmmmm.

I just browsed through a few photo albums take at the show, and I have mixed emotions about that too. The work displayed is really over the top. It's readily apparent that many many builders spend a lot of time making show bikes for this event. The creativity is outstanding, I think it's great that the show promotes that. On the flip side I saw an awful lot of really ugly crap too. At some point people need to realize that just because they can do something doesn't mean they should do something. The theme of the show seemed to be gaudy paint jobs, or what can I do to this frame to hide how ridiculous it is. I like intricate details, but they need to be refined, elegant and perfectly executed, not garish for the sake of being different.

One of my biggest pet-peeves about much of the work I see is that it's not actually hand-made as the show's name should imply. There's more and more lazer cut parts out there. It's cheap and easy to do these days, but it doesn't actually showcase any skills on the part of the builder. I see dropouts, headbadges, downtube logos, and all kinds of other stuff that was programmed into a machine the machine cut. Where's the art in that? Am I sounding too old and grouchy yet? I just don't see how slapping some pre-cut crap onto a frame shows talent. Ok, I'll stop before I offend anyone too much.

Even with all my whining about this show, I still really do want to go. Maybe next year, if they don't have it the same weekend as the Minneapolis show.....


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