The dust has settled. The bikes have been packed up and sent back to wherever they came from. 2012 NAHBS is over and I was there…at least for a few hours.
I drove west on Saturday morning, after a relaxing morning with the family that involved walking behind my 3 year-old as she rode her Skuut to Starbucks. The weather was fantastic and by the time we were heading back home the four of us were taking off coats and throwing off blankets an, more or less, wondering what ever happened to winter.
It was with a small amount of regret that, at around 10:00, I loaded myself into the car and started the trek downtown. I was going to NAHBS. That basically meant I’d drive downtown, park in a garage and spend a good portion of the middle of the day inside the convention center. Needless to say, it was a little difficult to put all those exclamation marks I’d been seeing on Twitter on my departure.
The irony of an avid bike commuter driving fewer than 15 miles to a handmade bike show is not lost on me. But time being what it is and parenthood being what it is, I decided to forgo a ride into the city in exchange for more time with the bikes.
I half expected the area around the convention center (a neighborhood I’m very familiar with thanks to the many years my wife worked directly across the street) to be filled with bearded men and women riding fixed gear freestyle in the streets. It wasn’t (though I did, almost instantly, see bearded men and women*).
Without much effort I was credentialed and walking into the exhibit hall through the media entrance. Later I would find out that the show had more visitors (8100 total) than any other year and that Saturday was the most crowded day of the three days, but as I entered the exhibit hall I was completely overwhelmed, first by the throngs of people, then by the bright shinny bicycles.
I’m one of those bloggers who continues to surprised by my inclusion as a “member of the press” and I as I approached the show I realized I had no idea what I was going to see or what I’d write about that wouldn’t be covered in print on 27 other bike blogs. I’m not a talented photographer and I didn’t even bother to bring a camera (except for the one on my iPhone) and I really had no plan of attack.
So I wondered around aimlessly for a few minutes and half hoped to run into someone I knew (despite the fact that I wouldn’t recognize any of those people unless they were holding up photos of their Twitter avatars next to their faces).
To recap: I had no plan, I was overwhelmed, and I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. Or, it was like just about every long ride I’ve ever done.
It was Cyclelogical.
I managed to get my barrings and pointed myself at a booth with a familiar logo. They don’t build bikes and it was pretty clear that they were a little stressed out about selling enough T-Shirts to cover the cost of the trip, but they were having a good show and told me to come back in an hour for a look at something new that they’d put together just for NAHBS.
Having reviewed a Cyclelogical commuter bag not so long ago, I was excited to see what the small company would have in store for me when I got back. So I left.
Probably the only person at the show to stop at two clothing booths before I bothered to look at bikes, I headed from the Cyclelogical booth to Twin Six and landed in a long conversation with Brent Gale.
He did the thing he was supposed to do, he showed me their new knickers (we already knew about those) and a nice merino hoody (want). He talked about the show and the DeLorean (which he had to remind me about) and midgets. And then, just about the time he mentioned the fact that other people didn’t find his tweet humorous, he started talking about design and work and how difficult and rewarding the whole thing was.
Then he pointed me towards the Signal Cycles booth where I spent a good amount of time talking to Nate Meschke, one of the 2 builders who ran the company. We talked about Portland and the show and how hard it was to do every year and how they probably wouldn’t be back in 2013, unless the show was in Denver, then they’d probably have to go…Nate told me that NAHBS is a must for new builders, but a difficult and expensive weekend for small, established shops like Signal.
Like a good amateur journalist, I talked to all these people and failed to take anything resembling notes. This is because I was distracted by how much friendly and honest and open all the builders I talked to were. I wondered around, introducing myself and just chatting about what they were doing, what they liked, what you could ride over with that bike with 36 inch wheels. I didn’t even bother to take but a handful of photos.
I did go back to the Cyclelogical booth to see these new, American made, SPD compatible shoes. I think he said they’d be about $250.
As I exited the convention center I heard a guy on his phone, “the commuter bikes outside are way cooler than anything they have inside,” he might have been right, but the builders and exhibitors inside were way more interesting than both.