Sunday, January 24, 2016

Iowa Bike Expo 2016: Meh

Yesterday was the Iowa Bike Expo here in scenic Des Moines, and -- as your source for all the bike news I happen to notice in central Iowa -- I girded my loins against the cold, saddled up the old steed, and headed downtown to check it out. After all, last year's Expo yielded a phone full of photos and not one, not two, nay, not even three, in fact, not even four, I dare say not even five, but yes, a whopping six posts. Yep, a critically-yawned six-part series. So it was with high hopes and a fully-charged phone battery that I breached the threshold of the exhibit hall, figuring a couple hours walking the aisles could keep my reader(s) happy for months.

Um, not so much. In fact, when I left the hall, I realized that nothing had caught my eye to the point that I even bothered taking a picture. If you were looking for the sort of eye candy you saw in last year's first Tom Teesdale Handbuilt Bike Show, you'd be left scratching your head (as I was). Iowa builder Jeff Bock was there, showing the orange bike I photographed at last year's show and a couple more like it. Other than that? Bupkis. I literally left the show thinking that maybe I'd missed another row or a room off to the side where all the custom handbuilt bikes were hiding, but roving local correspondent Steve F. tells me there was no such row or room and that the small builders just didn't show up this year. Disappointing. Maybe the cost of a booth wasn't borne out in orders last year.

That left a lot of booths which were little more than local bike shops loading up inventory from their showrooms and trucking it down to the convention center. Even Ichi Bike (one of my favorites from last year) only brought a few electric bikes, leaving their more interesting and unique creations at the shop. Beaverdale Bikes (another of last year's favorites) brought in a few things that caught my eye (including a 26"-wheeled Long Haul Trucker in one of the older and, to my eye, nicer colorways), but my overall takeaway was, "I froze my genitalia off for this?"

Granted, as an elder curmudgeon, maybe I find the inventory of bike shops less interesting than most folks might. I'm convinced that I have a rare form of narcolepsy that is triggered by disc brakes, fat bikes, or electronic shifting. In fact, even proofing that last sentence is enough to...


Oh, sorry, where was I? That's right, disc brakes, fat bikes, and elect...


Anyway, given that most of shiny new things that bike shops want to sell you feature one of my sleepy-time technologies, I guess I'm not entirely surprised that I was able to buzz by their booths without hearing the siren song of commerce. I guess I can only hope that the organizers are embarrassed enough by a handbuilt bike show where only one builder competed that perhaps they'll offer better incentives to participate next year. Otherwise, it's kind of a sad commentary on what passes for bike culture in central Iowa.


Steve Fuller said...

I went down as much for the social aspect than anything. I have friends that work in shops from all over and other than the RAGBY, this is one of the few times of year when I can see everyone at once.

I would LOVE to see more use made of the meeting rooms for presentations. People from Iowa surely have done some interesting things or taken trips over the past year - have them give a 30 or 60 minute presentation. Have a shop or vendor talk about setting up tubeless tires, fixing flats, or basic bike maintenance. Have the DOT come down and talk to people about getting properly licensed to drive a RAGBRAI bus, and the things you can or can't do. It would give people a chance to learn.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that there wasn't much of interest this year. It's kinda like looking under the Christmas tree and finding only socks and underwear.

I'll certainly agree that being a cranky old guy does dampen the enthusiasm for some of the shiny baubles at a show. It's the same for any industry. If they can't come up with something truly advanced, they will try to promote anything that is shiny and new. In my industry, the "Internet of Things" is the latest shiny object, despite it not really meaning anything.

On the plus side, at least the biking world does have a few new-ish niches to keep things fresh. The fat bikes seem to keep people a bit excited (saw a few when we got snow), and people seem to like electronic shifting. Fatter road tires are an interesting trend too. However, none of these are new enough to get you attention at a show.

Are the framebuilders seeing less work, and therefore less to show off? Maybe due to the poor stock market performance? I'd certainly be more hesitant to splurge on a new frame.

Steve in Peoria, where the last new bike entered the stable in 2009.