Friday, September 22, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike:The Long Road Home

My last Interbike trip was capped off by meeting Steve Hed and seeing his gravel bike
 Editor's Note: This is Part 6 and final post of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Making my way home from Interbike was always a big deal for me. I wanted to get back in the worst way, but first, I generally would be spending an evening at the airport. Why? There were a couple of reasons.

First, it was a free night in Vegas for me. I didn't have to spend money for a motel room I would only be in for a few hours. This was because of....

Two- I usually took either the redeye, or the last flight out of Vegas for the night, which generally took off at midnight, or the first flight out in the morning, which was generally around 6:00am. Seeing as how I had to show up early enough to get baggage checked in and get through security, that meant little sleep anyway.

Third- I had to generally opt for the earliest morning flight due to scheduling through the airlines. Plus, while waiting I could use the free WiFi in McCarren to write stories about Interbike so I would have time to sleep and be with my family when I got back instead of having to work immediately upon arrival.

I suppose there was a fourth reason, if I am honest with myself. That would be that I like to stay up all night sometimes if I feel like I am doing something crazy and it makes me feel like a hoodlum kid again. Hanging out in an abandoned airport fit that bill.

Spending all night in an deserted airport meant I had lots of time to write about bikes.
But first I had to get there. Like I wrote in yesterday's post, Grannygear would sometimes drop me off. Those were some bittersweet goodbyes. I would only see him once a year, but we were in contact via phone and email all the time back then. I always felt like we should hang out more than we have. Saying goodbye at the airport underscored that feeling. Then there were the times when Grannygear bugged out early. It was a good thing for him, since he'd get home at nightfall instead of 3:00am in the morning, or whenever he got home at night. But I think he was a bit reluctant to leave me without a ride to the airport.

It was okay though, because one year I walked. Yes. I walked from the Sands all the way out to McCarren International Airport. By the way, I like ultra-long walks in urban areas. This was also interesting since I found that there was a pedestrian way all the way up to the doors of the airport. It was obviously planned, and I was amazed that the city of Vegas accommodated pedestrians in such a car-centric atmosphere.

The year I walked out was one of the last times I got a redeye flight out of McCarren. Those were weird flights. It also did not afford me much time to write, as I was on board the plane by 11:30pm or so. I remember that flight as I saw DJ Birtch in the hallway as I made my way to the terminal. He is such a character! I'm pretty sure that is the last time I've seen him as well.

An desolate hallway in DFW from one of my trips back from Interbike
I recall that redeye went through Dallas/Ft. Worth. When we got there, the airport was still officially closed, and an airline employee was directing us to which way to go since there weren't any other employees there. She was saying a terse, "Good Morning! Where is your destination?" to all in front of me, so I dug out my ticket to circumvent the pleasantries and when I got to her I blurted out, "I'm going to Cedar Rapids, Iowa." She stopped, looked at me with that "mom look" you get when you do something wrong, and said, "No. That is not how it works. Hello! How are you?"  I answered and then we went through the conversation like she was having with everyone else. THEN she pointed me on my way. Oh, and I was the only one headed to the left.

That put me in a deserted hallway, then to an area strewn with sleeping bodies on the floor and benches of the terminal area. Weird! Janitors and restaurant prep folks gingerly stepped around as their morning of work got underway.

The last few years were the all-nighters in McCarren though. The airport baggage check in area was where I usually hung out. It was pre-security, so if I had to get some fresh air, I could step outdoors. I never did that, but it was nice to know I could. I would find a nook and park where an outlet was, spread out my stuff, and start writing. Occasionally an airport worker would come by, or a janitor vacuuming would go around, but I did not see many people there until about 3:30am or so.

Sunset over Vegas from the Sands parking garage. This year is the last year for I-Bike in Vegas
It was then that you'd start seeing airport and airline employees coming to work, which for them started at 4:00am. People with early morning flights would start showing up as well. By 5:00am there was a fair amount of hustle and bustle. I usually had to fend off the sleepies from 2:00am until all this activity would start, but once it did, I would get a second wind.

Then it was time to get through security. I did go through Vegas once earlier in the evening and security was a madhouse. TSA agents were screaming and yelling at people and it was tense. I felt like a cow getting herded off to slaughter. I vowed that I would never again subject myself to that treatment. So, I opted for these flights out in the morning whenever I could.

Generally I could walk right up and security scanning was a breeze. The TSA wasn't amped up yet, so treatment was okay, if not a bit cold shouldered. At least I wasn't being berated for some stupid move the TSA didn't like.

Then the flights home. I went through a few different airports to make connections, and usually those were Denver, (which I HATED flying in to because of the turbulence they have), or the O'Hare International near Chicago. I had quite a scare once coming through O'Hare one year. It was a year that I had left Vegas earlier in the evening. I got to O'Hare around 10:00pm. It was foggy and cool. I was supposed to be back in Cedar Rapids by around 11:30pm. My small connection flight took off and was curiously not gaining altitude. That's when the Captain came on the intercom and said we had a stuck landing gear and we needed to return to O'Hare.

Somewhere out there it lurks! The best thing in Las Vegas. Great Buns Bakery!
There was a collective gasp and the guy across the aisle from me started praying fervently with his two young daughters. When we got above O'Hare you could see all the emergency vehicles with the lights blazing lining both sides of our runway. It was weird and surreal, and scary all at once.

Of course, we made it. Otherwise I would be dead! Ha! But the weirdness wasn't over with. We had to transfer to another plane which took quite a while. Once we had boarded that plane we were told we couldn't use it because the airmen had discovered a problem with that plane. We were told to go back and board our original flight! This caused all sorts of consternation with the passengers.

That is when the Captain came out and spoke directly with us. He said he had a family and wanted to get back to see them again in the worst way, so he would never fly a plane that he didn't believe in. Whew! Instant air clearing speech! I was impressed and I got home late, but safe.

My last Interbike trip ended like many others. Mrs. Guitar Ted picked me up at the airport and we went home and I felt the relief of another Interbike trip, and plane flights, over with, this time for a long, long time. I had seen no reason to attend another show where news was non-existent and that seemed to be a huge waste of time. 29"ers were mainstream now so the endemic cycling media had jumped in to cover the now standard wheel size.

Companies no longer saw the value in "Twenty Nine Inches" coverage so we were largely ignored when it came to press releases, invitations to new model releases, and for review items. I got it. Our time was over. So, I planned not to go to Interbike in 2014 and I was right. It didn't matter. Then at the end of 2014 I left TNI for good. Earlier this year, Grannygear shut the site down and it doesn't exist on the web anymore.

Of course, I am doing RidingGravel.com these days, but again- going to a trade show is an antiquated idea anymore. With the instant news these days, dealer shows, private invitations to the entrenched, privileged media few, and social media, a trade show that gathers people and wastes everybody's time in terms of business is not efficient. Besides, business itself is changing and no one is quite sure how that will look anymore. Suffice it to say that it will likely be more automated and digital with less people involved in the transaction stream. Again, trade shows in the traditional sense are antiquities of a past that no longer exists. I don't see myself going to Vegas, or anywhere, for a cycling based trade show ever again.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The People

Just a couple of doodes hangin' out. Jeff Kerkove and I, Image by Sonya Looney
 Editor's Note: This is Part 5 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The people of Interbike were the best part of the week outside of the riding of bikes with the people of Interbike. Bikes and good folks are always the best combo! That even happened a time or two outside of the Outdoor Demo. I'll be getting to that today.

There were a few outside of the show meetings which were memorable. The first was my first year with TNI. Back then, I was working for Tim Grahl and his then partner in "Blue Collar Mountain Biking", and his name was Mike something or another, I do not recall now what his surname was. Anyway, they were total noobs to mountain biking, and we went to an after the show party where there was beer served. It was a Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame induction ceremony.

I was super stoked because all the Kings and Queens of mtb were gathered there that night to induct a few of the new folks into the Hall. I was totally geeking out. Grahl and Mike were nonplussed since they had no idea who anyone was! I found myself explaining everyone and the terms they were using in their speeches as though I was some UN translator at a high level meeting between the Soviets and the US delegations. It was hilarious. I recall I stood next to Maurice Tierney of "Dirt Rag" fame and that he had on a pair of cracking green trousers. Awesome!

There was another meeting where we met up with the heads of Jenson USA and they were top notch guys. We also had a few breakfasts with the Salsa Cycles crew over the years. One year Grannygear and I met up with the rep for Alpinstars in a motel on a high floor and we were catered to like we were some hotshots. But the best one was the night Grannygear and I went to Trump Tower and met with the BMC gang in a suite high above Las Vegas just off the Strip.

Free gourmet meal, wine, and Swiss chocolates? Oh yeah! By the way, what'd he say? Ha!
BMC pulled out all the stops on this one. There was a table in the hallway loaded with huge bars of Swiss chocolate. Not the garbage we get here called Swiss chocolate, this was imported from Switzerland. You could take as much as you wanted. Mrs. Guitar Ted was very pleased with my haul, I must say!

We had a gourmet meal, Swiss wine, and heard from the head of BMC himself. It was an odd night, but I had a lot of fun being wined and dined. I'm still not sure how we got on the guest list, but...... Hey! We were and I went.

Then there was the criterium they had a few times down at the Mandalay. One time, a "Bikehugger" social was going to take to the Strip on bicycles, ride down to the Mandalay, hang out, and then ride back to the convention center. I got invited so I was set up with a 24" wheeled Dahon folding bike. It was quite the scene! There was a DJ with a Big Dummy converted into a party rig with full on stereo power. Rocking tunes with a peloton of biking weirdos on The Strip has to rank as one of the more unusual things I've gotten to do in my life!

The other time I went to that criterium I rode this bus, and I was supposed to ride it back. However; I couldn't find the proper shuttle, so I got frustrated and just walked all the way back to the mid-Strip on my own, much to the consternation of my fellow Interbikers!

From my bike ride down The Strip. We were stopped at a red light. Note the lack of helmets!
Then there was the CrossVegas gig we got invited to by then Raleigh honch, Brian Fornes. We got free passes to the event and a ticket to the Raleigh Hospitality corner. Free food and beer was there, but being right down in the action of CrossVegas was amazing.

Back indoors we had a lot of friends to track down. I always made sure I saw Jeff Kerkove, so Ergon's booth was always a must see. I would also always stop by the Surly booth to see who I knew there. The Twin Six booth was a perennial visitation where I might stay for an hour or so. Obviously, the Salsa Cycles booth was a big visiting spot and that is how I met Grannygear.

I still remember overhearing Jason Boucher say, "Guitar Ted? Well there he is right over there!" I looked up and saw Grannygear, only I had never met him before. That started a long distance relationship that continues on to this day.

Namrita, Team Dicky, and Sonya, left to right.
One of the more hilarious meetings was when I first met Sonya Looney. She was just breaking into the scene back then and was Jeff Kerkove's friend at the time. Jeff said she wanted to meet me since Jeff had spouted off about me. So, I tracked her down in a women's clothing company's booth where she was holding down the fort while the others that were working the show were off doing something else. The minute I got there she hurriedly asked if I could stick around and watch things, and before I could say "yes", she was running away to the booth next door, grabbing a waste can, and barfing in it while she headed off to the restrooms.

Well, fortunately no one was interested in women's riding clothing for the next several minutes, and a red faced Sonya Looney came back apologizing for being down with the "bottle flu" from the evening before. That was probably the most interesting introduction I've ever experienced with anyone in my lifetime so far. I doubt that one will get topped!

Once I was supposed to appear on "Interbike TV", this ongoing "show" which most folks ignored. There was a "live taping" going on at all hours of the Indoor Show and when I was getting wired up to go on I was with "Singletrack Magazine" writer "Chipps" Chippendale. He was cracking these dry UK comments and I was jumping right in with some witty comebacks of my own. We were asked to keep it down more than once! That was fun.

29"er and mtb pioneer, Wes Williams and me with "The Pontificator" Image by Bob Poor.
A couple of years I didn't even stick around for Thursday's show. One day indoors was enough! But by 2011 I was back to doing two days of the indoor show and bailing out on Friday night or super early on Friday morning. But when I did stick around on a Thursday, I usually was winding things down by mid-afternoon and a few years I was found at the usual Ergon party which was generally the last thing going on on a Thursday.

A few times we actually stayed through until Friday, but that was generally such a waste of time it wasn't even funny. Vendors would be putting things away by noon and no one wanted to sit down and talk at all by this point. All eyes and efforts were directed toward getting outta Vegas, and fast. A couple of those years Grannygear bugged out early on Thursday and I would be left to my own devices for half a day or so. Generally speaking, all I was doing was visiting people I likely wouldn't see again, ever, or not until the following year at Interbike. I typically always had mixed feelings about these last hours of my time in the show. I get sentimental, and I often would be depressed about it all at that point. Honestly, the whole Vegas ordeal was so emotionally and physically draining that I probably wasn't thinking straight by Thursday afternoon.

So, the long road back home sometimes started right there at the show. Sometimes Grannygear would drop me off at the airport. But however it went, there was one more thing I often did that I found strangely satifying and fun to do. Staying up all night in McCarren Internbational Airport.

Next: The Long Road Home


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: Rushing In

Pounding out the text during my third Interbike with TNI -Image by Richard Masoner
 Editor's Note: This is Part 4 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Wednesday always marked the first big day of the indoor show. As an internet based blogger/writer/news person, it was my task to get images, a story line, and push out content as fast as I could and preferably before the West Coast had a lunch break.

The waiting at the door before the hordes were unleashed at the Sands Convention Center, where the show was held most of the years I was there, was always a pain in the butt. You had to get there early enough to get a spot near the front and you had to have a "battle plan" in place to gather information as quickly as possible.

One year we were let in early by way of Tim Grahl's weaseling us by security. That lasted about thirty minutes before we were ejected, but he got out a post before the show started that caused a bit of a stir. The next year we actually got invited in early. I don't recall it being that big of a deal then. I also recall being there by one of the doors before the show opened up when Gary Fisher came strolling by. It was awesome as he ranted about Las Vegas in an "R" rated tirade which had me in stitches the rest of the day.

Then there was the big WTB snafu with Niner Bikes one year there. I had heard about a new rig Niner was going to show inside on Wednesday when I was speaking with the Niner guys at Outdoor Demo. I heard that there might be a few "surprises" on that bike to note. Okay, I was definitely going to the Niner Bikes booth first.

Niner Bikes typically gave the best shwag of anyone in the industry. Image by Richard Masoner.
 Meanwhile, at the Demo, Mike Curiak let me ride his bike and strictly told me, "No images of the tires!". All he would tell me was that they were prototypes WTB had sent him to test. These tires were unmarked, so I had no idea what they were. I had to have Mike pre-approve my images of the bike before I could post them so he knew no one could decipher what tires were on the bike. It was a big deal to keep the secret because WTB had invested a lot into this project and didn't want any info leaking out to competitors. I felt pretty privileged, to say the least, and promised not to spill the beans about this new tread design and casing.

Okay, so now back to the Indoor show. I scram to Niner's booth, meet Steve Domahidy, who points out the bike. I see the WTB tires on it, with the hot patches which were pre-production samples, and I fire off several images. I then run off to post my images of this long travel Niner Bikes' rig with these heretofore unheard of WTB tires. About a half an hour later, all hell breaks loose on my cell phone. Curiak is furious, he wanted to know who let me take images of the secret tire? I said that Niner had them proudly displayed in their booth, so......????!!! Then I run back to the Niner Booth to see what the heck is up. Meanwhile, a WTB rep beat me there and is having a big to-do with Domahidy on the show floor about the tires not being public yet.

I felt really bad. While it wasn't my fault, I was caught up in a controversial situation that potentially could have gone really badly. In the end, it all turned out fine, but at that moment, it was a pretty intense situation. It turned out that WTB sent the tires over for Niner to test, not to slap on their show bike, but that's what happened and the cat was outta the bag.

Bikes, bikes, and more bikes!
I remember running around getting images and heading back to the "Media Center", which was a curtained off area on the show floor which was catered and had coffee, pastries, and if you were there at noon, food to eat. It was all gratis too. Which, in the grand scheme of things, was kind of weird. Everyone else in the joint was stuck paying exorbitant prices for bland cafeteria style food. It was almost as if I was in some higher social class than everyone else, and it was an uncomfortable feeling. Later years saw Grannygear and I eschewing the media center and its freebies. Granted, by this time the media had their own room off the show floor, but I still felt uncomfortable taking advantage of that. I always felt more like a blessed shop rat than some high falutin' media wonk, and I think the high falutin' media wonks would agree with that assessment!

Typically I was running around doing social visits between snapping off images, meeting with vendors for appointments, and chasing down my co-workers or in later years, Grannygear. We would meet up on the show floor, assess what was up and where we wanted to go next, and the depart and do whatever we were doing that day. At the end of it all, we would meet up, plan a dinner, and then head back to our room and pound out some posts until about midnight or 1:00am and then hit the hay. I wish I would have had a FitBit back in those days. I bet I'd smash some badges out with the amount of walking I did back then, all carrying a heavy laptop and a bunch of junk in a messenger bag. Interbike really screwed with my posture, I'll tell ya that much!

We were never much for the after party scene. I think I hit a blogger meeting one year, and I maybe went out a couple of other times, but those were super rare. Even back in the Grahl years, it was all business, no play. We often had early morning appointments before the next day's show, and those often were nice meetings with great industry folks. There were lots of other people I used to see there once a year too. Tomorrow, I'll delve into that.

Next: The People Of Interbike


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Bikes And The People

Crowds gather and ready themselves for Day Two of Outdoor Demo
Editor's Note: This is Part 3 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 Day Two of Outdoor Demo was usually the day that the roadies did a big loop out of the Demo area to nearby Lake Mead and Hoover Dam and then back again. The ride started early, so sometimes we had the opportunity to beat the crowds and the heat if a demo vendor was going to be there anyway supporting the road riders.

I remember one time we did this in the early years of my Vegas Era when we got to saddle up on some Raleighs, or maybe it was Diamondbacks...... Both the same parent company, so I cannot recall now, but we were there so early on the trails that you couldn't see in the crevices and ravines because the Sun wasn't high enough in the sky yet!

'07 and '08 were probably the busiest Day Two Outdoor Demo experiences that I can recall. The hordes of dealers and shop rats would be there by noon and the trail would literally be like bumper to bumper traffic. I recall trying out the then new Gates Carbon Drive belt on a Spot Brand single speed one of those years and that I had to stop several times due to folks not having the skill, muscle, or both to ride the trail. Meanwhile, the hot shoes were railing by you one after another. It was insanity!

I didn't like Day Two all that much back then and typically I was done after about 1:00pm or so with riding due to the competition to get the bike I wanted and even if you did, the read you got on any bike was colored by having to jockey with all the yahoos out trying to get around the demo loop.

"Demo Ken" Derrico of Trek- He was always a smiling face and a helpful guy at the Outdoor Demo. 
Even though things could be literally out of control at times at the Demo, many of the people manning the stations were the finest folks you could ask for. The Trek tent usually had "Demo Ken" and one of my predecessors at Europa Cycle & Ski, Vance McCaw. Familiar faces in a land far away. But there were others I never knew the names of.

Never got his name, but this guy was super helpful and kind to me at the Outdoor Demo.
I recall a guy that worked the BMC booth who painstakingly set up the dual suspension rig I was going to demo despite the utter chaos of the crowd all around us. His patience was that of a saint and he was so calm. Amazing!

Then there was this guy I have pictured who was at the Specialized trailer. He was another one that was so kind and patient that I felt compelled to take his picture when he wasn't looking so I could remember him!

Brian Fornes was another who never made me feel anything but wanted and important when I visited him at the Raleigh tent. Gary Mendenhall went out of his way at the J&B Importers/Origin 8 tent to be friendly and show me all their latest wares. Of course, Jason Boucher and Kid Reimer of Salsa Cycles, along with their varying crews, were always welcoming and we were often seen hanging around their tent at the Demo. Devin Lenz of Lenz Sport Bikes was another super kind soul at the Demo. Then there was Mike Curiak, who basically sneaked in himself and his bike to the Demo for me to try it out, who cannot be left off this list. There are others I am sure I am missing, but you get the picture. It was like a family in many ways. The people part of going to Interbike was always one of the best, if not the very best parts.

From my ride with Sonya Looney. She took the picture too!
At the last Outdoor Demo I attended, athlete/social media queen/super rep Sonya Looney insisted that we needed to go for a ride at the Demo. I kind of poo-pooed the idea as her being overly kind and making statements to make me feel good, not really intending to ride with a slow, fat old man like me. By this time she was a well known, race winning athlete and spokesperson for several brands. She had better things to do, I was certain of it.

Then on Day Two of the demo she kind of got tweaked at me for not tracking her down the day before and pretty much told me to go find a bike ASAP and meet her for the ride we were to do. Well, it was one of the most gracious gestures ever made to me at Interbike. She clearly was lollygagging along while I was nigh unto exploding into a sweaty mess, but she really, honestly was enjoying my company, nothing more, nothing less. What a great way to leave Outdoor Demo behind, and something I'll never forget.

Biffed on the hard rocks of Bootleg Canyon! Image by Tim Krueger, then of Salsa Cycles.
The bikes I rode at the Demo I mentioned a bit about yesterday, but I recall some others that were significant rides. The Raleigh XXIX Pro which I flatted on one year. It rode soooo nice! I recall that the demo guy at the tent and Brian Fornes were floored when I apologized for being so long with the bike, but I had to repair the flat I suffered. I guess no one did that usually. Most of the time folks just returned the bike with a flat. I could never do that! I always carried a spare tube, pump, and tool kit at the Outdoor Demo.

Not all the bikes I rode were winners either. I recall perhaps the worst dual suspension bike I ever tried at Outdoor Demo, which was early on in my Vegas Era. A GT of some sort. It rode so awful that I never got out of the demo area with it before I realized it was a poorly designed pig of a bike. The rig I rode with Sonya Looney was another weird dually. It felt like it was about to fold in half on every G-out. It was a Devinci, as I recall. I was not impressed too much with that one.

Later years saw the crowds drop off and it became sort of a joke to read Interbike's press releases saying how crowds were big and that there were more vendors, etc. It was painfully obvious that quality vendors, brands like Trek and Specialized, Cannondale, and more, weren't there anymore. The crowds that once caused bumper to bumper trail riding conditions were gone. You could have the trails all to yourself there by 2012. That is, if you could get a bike. Many vendors who stayed on were facing increased pressure for demo bikes at the Demo due to the brands that had left and obviously those bikes that would have been there were no longer available.

I met Krampus at the Outdoor Demo, and it was a good meeting.
Talk about a niche sector of cycling.......
My time at the Outdoor Demo went from 29"ers being the odd duck to those wheels being the dominant choice. 26"ers were everywhere, then they weren't. 650B started in fits and lurches, but by 2012 every new design was a long travel trail bike with B wheels. Were 29"ers on the ropes? Then it was fat bikes, 29+, and when I quit going the beginnings of B+ was happening. What a ride!

Rocks and dust. Heat, and sometimes sitting in a car waiting out a rain shower. Wind! Oh my, that blast furnace wind! How could anyone survive in that environment? I barely made it out whole a few times out there myself, and we had copious amounts of water. I recall those folks from Park Tools handing out water bottles when you rolled up from the Demo area with a dusty test bike. The Gu and Powerbar tents set up near the trail head. Couldn't have survived without those handups.

But survive it we did. Then it was time to dust ourselves off, take a shower, dig out the casual clothes and messenger bags, make sure you had the laptop ready to roll, a camera or three, and your TNI business cards because the Indoor show started the next day. Ooof! Now the real drudgery was looming in the headlights. No more fun riding bikes.

Next: Rushing In

Monday, September 18, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Furnace

Tim Grahl, then owner of TNI, with a desert tortoise at Bootleg Canyon.
Editor's Note: This is Part 2 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

 When I went to Interbike the best part of the whole week, (other than leaving Las Vegas at the end), was riding bicycles at Bootleg Canyon. That was the venue for the Outdoor Demo. It was primarily mountain bike oriented, but no one seemed to mind.

In the early years of my Vegas Era, Bootleg Canyon during Outdoor Demo was far, far busier than it was toward the end of my time at Interbike. That said, Monday was a slow day, in relative terms, for the demo. It seemed that a lot of folks used Monday as a travel day and didn't get out to Bootleg Canyon at all, or showed up well into the afternoon hours. So, we being the news hounds that we were, got the heck out there ASAP and rode as many bikes on Monday as we possibly could get our hands on.

But first you had to get on 'The Bus" to Bootleg Canyon. Standing in that line was something that brought meaning to "hurry up and wait". I recall one year that someone noted that we had media credentials and we were whisked out of the long line of folks waiting to sign waivers and were put at the front of the line. Whoa! I felt odd and embarrassed that we were made to be special right in front of the dealers and shop rats waiting patiently for such a long time. But, it wasn't of my doing, so......

In later years the check in was more discreet for the media folk and we ran out to Bootleg Canyon in Grannygear's rig on our own. Free to do whatever we wanted, instead of riding a bus, we ended up finding a really cool place that became a ritual of sorts for our Bootleg Canyon trips.

Great Buns Bakery: I spent a lot of time staring at the pastries there!
Grannygear got the hankering for some of this swamp water stuff that is in the health aisles of some grocery stores. We went down Tropicana Boulevard looking for a grocery store as it was on the way to the road out of town through Henderson and then to Bootleg Canyon. We found his swamp water and then, I cannot recall how, we found Great Buns Bakery.

This place is the single most redeeming factor I can think of for Las Vegas' existence. If you ever go to Vegas, go there! Grannygear and I were never ever let down by the goodness found on the shelves there. In fact, it was so good we had to share it with others. We would buy a flat of random pastries and take them to the boys out at the Salsa Cycles demo tent.

Anyway, getting to Bootleg Canyon was not tough, but usually it was crazy hot. And windy to boot. That in combination would wilt the average Mid-Westerner. Well, it even roasted Grannygear, who was somewhat used to dry and hot. Bootleg Canyon was a tough, rocky, gritty place to ride anyway. Add in the hot weather and well....... It was nuts.

Sometimes folks stuck doing the demo would have special goings on after Monday's opening round. One such vendor was Chris King. One year they had Chris King himself, the Chris King, barbecuing beef for anyone that stuck around after the Monday demo. We decided to stay, and this was one of the years we rode the bus, to check it out. We had no idea if we'd get back to our hotel room or not, but the prospects of a free barbecued beef brisket meal outweighed being stranded. As we stood in the long line we wondered how late the last bus left the demo area.

Chris King himself tending the grill in the blazing hot Sun over Bootleg Canyon.
We got some crazy tasty brisket and we still made it back to the motel on a bus. That was a pretty memorable evening. There were other times when Grannygear and I would eat at a fast food restaurant in Bootleg Canyon and we almost never left the demo without a trip to the local DQ for a chocolate malt.

I don't recall doing anything spectacular in the early years of my time out there after the Demo. Usually, it was high tail it back to the time share we rented, or the one year we rented a house, and then bang out as many words and images as we could.  Grahl. the original owner/creator of TNI,  was all about flooding the web with as many images as we could. It wasn't unheard of for us to upload 500 images or more in our Interbike Gallery. So, no fun, no partying, just lots and lots of uploading and writing of text.

Of course, riding the bicycles was the highlight. I got to ride so many great sleds and see more that were so cool. I really could not pick out a single bike, but if I had to pick one that most influenced me, it would be the Salsa Cycles Fargo I got to ride at the demo in 2008. But there were several other super rad bikes I got to ride. Mike Curiak's personal rig is one. It was just like being the kid in the candy store, like you would think it would be. So many bikes, so little time!

Next: The Bikes And The People


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The Vegas Era

A view of Vegas from Circus-Circus 2009
The end of an era is happening this week in the cycling industry. It probably will not affect you, and it certainly doesn't matter to most riders, but Interbike is finally leaving Las Vegas, Nevada after this week's show.

I was blessed to have attended nine Interbike shows in Las Vegas and one in Anaheim, California during my stints as a shop rat and media/blogger/wonk. I went there more times than I wanted to, but many of you out there have never been to a cycling industry trade show, so you may think that I am/was the luckiest guy in the world. Or.......you may have pity on me, or you may think I am less than worthy of consideration. (In which case, I doubt that you read this blog) Anyway......

I figured that on the occasion of the last show in Las Vegas for Interbike that I would recount my memories of going there in a way that might bring a bit of the experience to you out there. This will be a series that will last the entire week, so either plan on a different story to appear every day till Saturday about Interbike or just plan on not looking here till this coming Saturday!

I'm going to break it down in to five parts which will reflect each day's experience. This is the intro post, but it is also going to serve as the "Getting There" episode. So, here is a bit of remembrances about getting to Interbike from my perspective........

My first trip to Vegas was the first Vegas Interbike in 1996. It was Schwinn's 100th anniversary, and they had a parade of 100 Elvis impersonators led by Father Guido Sarducci. It was pretty crazy. But first, I had to get there. It was only my second ever trip involving air travel, and I wasn't digging it. This comes from my reminisces about the trip which I wrote down here several years ago. 

"Grand Canyon.....Lake Mead.......30,000 plus feet......Las Vegas!  We're going down real soon real fast!! And just as that thought crossed my mind, the plane nose dived and went careening towards McCarren International Airfield. Yikes! The whole plane suddenly shuddered with a great vibration. I saw out the window that the pilot had applied the air brakes to break his free fall. I about came unglued! And it happened twice more before the pilot slammed the landing gear so hard onto McCarren's runway that I thought the wheels would surely break off. You know, the sheer terror of that flight put me off from flying for several years afterwards". 

The hustle and bustle of The Strip
 My love of air travel didn't get a whole lot better over the years. In fact, I hate it. It was the single worst thing I experienced every year when coming or going to Interbike. To this day, I rue the thought of ever flying anywhere again. But that has nothing to do with Interbike, in particular. I say that just to point out that every year I knew I had to go to Vegas, a dread was on me until the trip was over.

Vegas itself, and more specifically, The Strip, was another dread of mine. "Soul sucking" is what I can best put down as the reason why. It just felt slimy and bad. Again- just me, but it was another downer for me. I didn't need more depressing circumstances, especially in 2009-2011. That era was absolutely awful in regard to "Twenty Nine Inches" and what we had to go through to keep that site going. But anyway, this is why I was not excited to go to Vegas with the exception of the first two years with TNI.

Air travel..... It was crazy post 9-11. The first Vegas trip was nothing, as far as the getting there. (Well, other than the exciting descent and hard landing!) But post 9-11 the security at McCarren was so brazenly bad tempered and mean it was down right despicable. I once saw an airline attendant berating foreigners because they couldn't understand the self check in procedure at the kiosk in front of baggage check in. They were South Americans that didn't speak English. It was just another example of the dehumanizing effects of Vegas and getting there. There was a lot more than that I could tell you....

In the latter years I always looked forward to seeing Grannygear at the airport. He would drive over from the LA area where he lived and meet me there. We had some issues with finding his car in the car garage a couple of times! But usually it went smoothly and we would get checked in, maybe grab a quick bite to eat, and hit the hay to get ready for the big Outdoor Demo ride on Monday.

Next: The Furnace

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Minus Ten Review- 37

A sneak peek of a Rawland for and frame from ten years ago.
Ten years ago on the blog I was yakking about my impending trip to Interbike and all the leaked information ahead of the show. Of course, I was going to attend again and this time as an "official" person with "Twenty Nine Inches". This was still during the Tim Grahl era and I was going to be spending my time in the time share we used the year before for this trip.

The other thing that I also was talking about was the spectacular win by Jesse LaLonde on a single speed 29"er geared 36 X 17 in the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40 event. It caused quite a stir, not only due to the nature of his wheels, but because he did it with one gear. Jesse still rocks a single speed most times these days and still crushes out wins and top placings.

I guess one gear is really all you need!

There was one bittersweet bit of news I announced back then as well. It was this week ten years ago when Jeff Kerkove made it official that he was moving to Colorado. Of course, he was basically gone already, but this was a chapter closed with a bit of finality now. He moved permanently, and he wasn't going to come back. He has never left that state since then either.