Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I went to Las Vegas and all I got was this stupid fatigue...

I've been totally wiped out since returning from Interbike in Las Vegas! It feels as though I'm sick, but without any other symptoms... just straight-up tiredness!

Vegas, for whatever reason, despite the upbeat mood and atmosphere was a black hole! My friend Martha lost a very valuable-to-her notebook, another acquaintance lost a wallet, my bro-ham Stevil lost his camera and my very own lovely wife lost her wallet. I knew of a few more such occurrences, but I have forgotten them at this moment (a residual effect of the black hole experience, I am sure).

Anyway... I'm still trying to regain the mental capacity to write up a proper recap of the Vegas adventures, so please be patient as I allow the battery to somewhat recharge for another day or two. I will be back... as soon as I can stop yawning and falling face first onto my laptop keyboard.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Hello? Anybody there?

Ok- so I'm not dead. Promise... though I did once again try to kill myself; Saturday evening while getting ready to pack for demo, I sliced my right thumb (yes- that thumb) with a very sharp knife and spent the evening in the ER getting stitches... stoopidity is a dangerous thing.

Anyway, Interbike was awesome. Had a great time and the bikes got a great reception at both Dirt Demo and the actual show. Lots of good buzz and conversations and time spent with my friends from the industry. I was once again reminded why I love this silly business.

My brain is far too fried to recap it all, so I will simply leave you a few links for now and then I'll be back later with a more comprehensive retelling of festivities. Yes- I still love you and I hope you know I've missed you.

New stuff worth knowing about.
Little video interview.
THE coolest schwag from Interbike!


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome to Interbeast!

Interbike is nearly upon us and the stress levels at Bike companies across the US and the globe are through the roof... unless they're not attending. Eurobike is the biggest of the bike trade shows, but it can still be argued (possibly flimsily) that Interbike is the more "important" show in terms of global impact. Many of the newest products from manufacturers are still officially unveiled at Interbike- though more and more are being introduced now at Eurobike. If for no other reason, the products that were not ready by Eurobike for their launch, sure as hell need to be ready by Interbike if the companies want to have a chance at reaching the global audience effectively. Like Eurobike, Interbike commands the attention of the world's cycling press and with the success of the Dirt Demo component of things, test editors can also get knee deep into the fun and sample numerous products all in one spot- perfect for instant "side by side" comparisons. Needless to say... both shows are a big damned deal. Maybe because we're still primarily "an American company", Interbike carries the greatest amount of stress for us each year.

Over the past few weeks and months, we've been ratcheting up the work and preparations in anticipation of Interbike... or Interbeast as some like to call it. Our creative guys have been working nearly 24hr shifts getting all the needed signage and other art needs ready. The Product Managers have been scrambling to make sure all of their samples are ready to be displayed- using duct tape and bubble gum to make them work, where necessary. Lots of hand painted and hand decaled items exist this time of year. We Brand Managers have been scrambling to coordinate the efforts of our Product Managers and assist where we can while providing the creative guys with the copy they need, or other direction. We've also been working with the sales folks to make sure we're all getting ready for the same things- communicating the right messages and delivering what is needed to make the show a success. We've also been getting demo fleets of bikes ready for test riders at Dirt Demo, as well gathering up the various sundries required to pull off Demo.

That's just a small part of it all too. Countless hours have been spent gathering the catalogs, building the booth, packing the supplies, making sure things work and are ready, etc, etc, etc... and a small army is required to make it all happen. We have a particularly small army, so it's always a matter of "all hands on deck". Sunday morning I will be part of the caravan driving the big rental trucks to Las Vegas. One half of the fleet will be headed to the convention center to set up the booth and all of the displays and the rest of us will be heading to Bootleg Canyon in Boulder city for the Dirt Demo action- we're not setting up the booth, but we are standing in 100+ degree heat, with sand being blown into every crack or crevice. It's a fun job... but a hot, dry and dirty one. Every year I leave Demo and head to the show totally dried out from the sun, possibly a little burned, and usually pretty sore from all the standing and running around. It's fun... but it hurts.

One might ask, "then why do all this?" We've all been asking that question for decades! Interbike- and other shows like Eurobike in Germany and ExpoCycle in Montreal- still remain the most effective ways to launch products to the retailers, media and ultimately consumers. A few brands are skipping Interbike in favor of smaller regional shows just for their retailers, so that they have a captive and focused audience. Show dates are moving farther and farther away from the dates of product releases and selling seasons (selling to the retailers), so they are losing a little of that particular power, but they still remain the "necessary evil" that works more than it doesn't work. Shows continue to evolve or devolve as demos prove more successful and regional/ private shows become more popular, but for now the shows still remain the best option available- especially for small brands still growing dealer base and with limited funds that make regional shows unaffordable... brands like Masi.

Another reason why we subject ourselves to the torturous amounts of stress is because we're a pretty social group of people, we bike industry wankers. We still suffer psychologically from an inferiority complex compared to other industries/ businesses, so we tend to do many things "the old way"- meaning tradeshows that no longer really meet the function they were originally created for. I can count the number of actual orders I've written at a tradeshow in the past five years on one and a half hands. BUT... the follow-up business has been significant as we've worked to rebuild the Masi brand. Most of our retailers have already gotten their catalogs and sales information long ago and are already placing orders now, so Vegas becomes a social event, if they chose to attend. Vegas is much more party than business function, but that's the whole point of evolution.

So, yes, I'm down to the last weathered tatters of sanity now. The show is looming large on the horizon and sleepless nights abound. I know I'm going to forget something or mess something up- it's just a matter of "what"... not "if". BUT... I will also see friends I only see once a year if I'm lucky, I'll get to look at really nice bikes (even the ones that aren't a Masi) and I'll hopefully get to see that new product that becomes the BIG THING. Most importantly, hopefully there will be that one conversation with a friend or somebody new that I walk away from the show remembering for years. Some years it's as simple as chatting with a "hero"- like the year I talked with John Tomac for a long time, or the time I hung out with Bob Roll- or maybe it'll be one of those quiet sidebar conversations that are too many to remember and too few to be satisfied with. In the end, the main reason I go through this nutty nonsense- aside from not having a choice because it's my job- is because I love this stuff. Every Interbeast comes and goes with so much fuss and calamity that I feel like I need to change careers... until the the anxiety fades and I remember the fun and the cool stuff. Between all the chaos lies my favorite time of the year. Go figure...


Monday, September 14, 2009

Spokesmen Podcast- #43

The Spokesmen podcast #43 is up and running! We just recorded tonight, so it's hot and fresh out of the oven.

Also, we mention the Daily Mail's publication of James Martin's hate-filled, anti-cyclist review of the Tesla Motors Roadster. David Bernstein of the Fredcast and Spokesmen podcasts was able to secure an interview with Rachel Konrad of Tesla Motors which is a great piece of follow-up.


Montreal BTAC/ Expo Cycle- 2009

So another great tradeshow has come and gone- the 2009 edition of the BTAC/ Expo Cycle in Montreal, Canada. The Montreal show is considerably smaller than Interbike or Eurobike, but then again Canada only has roughly 33 million people, versus the over 300 million in the US... so it's forgivable.

I've gone to the show several times over the past 5 years I've been with Masi to support our distributor there- Norco. Norco IS the 800lb gorilla of Canadian cycling- they have a huge line of bikes of their own and distribute nearly every product any consumer or retailer could possibly ever want. As a shameless plug for my friends up north, their Axiom line of accessories is simply top-notch and is some amazing stuff. I highly recommend it and personally endorse it!

Anyway... the folks at Norco and many of their suppliers are good friends of mine, either newly or from several years. Needless to say, it's never hard to get me to go to Montreal to support them and meet with their retailers. Plus, being the mega-bike-nerd that I am, I love being around bikes and bike people.

As I expected, traffic at the show did appear to be down from previous years- though I have no real data to prove that. The traffic in the booth was good, but the overall number of people walking the show did seem to be fewer than previous years. The Masi section of the booth was in prime real estate, so the bikes got great visibility and I had some outstanding conversations with people. I've been to shows in the past, when the economy was bad, and all retailers would talk about was how bad things were and how they were scared for their businesses... which makes for a long and very depressing show. However, this year, dealers were surprisingly upbeat. Sure, they are feeling the pinch of the economy- except for the ones having their best years ever and there were a few- but they felt very optimistic about the coming year. Many expressed having more inventory than they wanted to for this time of year, but they were confident the product would move and then they would have room for more new stuff. In the end, they were expressing a belief in a recovery- though they openly stated that they felt the US economy had been hurt much worse than the Canadian economy, so recovery was likely easier for them.

All that said, the response to the new bikes was exceptionally good. Many folks came back by the booth several times to look at bikes multiple times or to bring other members of their shop by to see bikes. I had more than one retailer say, "that's the best bike of the show, right there"... and that was said about more than one model. Needless to say, as always, that makes my heart skip when I hear stuff like that. We do work very, very hard to create the bikes in our line. It is no superfluous exaggeration to state that a little piece of us goes into each bike. In some cases, it's a really big piece. Having shops say glowing things is great and fills me with great pride, but one of the best things is when they take pictures of the bikes... especially when they use their phone to save the picture. One young shop kid took a picture and gleefully proclaimed that it was replacing the picture of his girlfriend as the wallpaper on his phone! THAT'S the stuff that really makes me feel pretty good... maybe not so much for his girlfriend though.

I have to give the usual thanks to all the folks at Norco- I don't even know where to begin so I'll just thank everybody. Rather than omitting somebody in a list- as I always do- I'll just leave it as a big thanks to all. As always, my friends, it was great to see you all and I sincerely enjoy and appreciate your kindness and friendship.

It was also great to make new friends like Taylor from Burley and Sonya from Ergon, as well as see great friends like Kendall from Ritchey, Chris (Smithers) from Lazer and Karl from Thule- to name a few. It is the people, much more so than the product- which is saying a lot- that I love the most about the work I do to pay the bills (well, most of the bills anyway). I may not be wealthy, but I can sincerely say that I am rich.

Over the course of my 5 day visit, I was able to get out and ride 3 times through the magnificent city that is Montreal. I love to experience a city via bike and I have been blessed to be able to ride in Montreal on multiple occasions. The city is raucous and hectic with some crazy traffic and drivers sometimes, but it all seems to work out. I've managed to avoid many close calls in Montreal and it always leaves me feeling a little bummed that I couldn't ride more. I love to ride on wide open roads in the country, but I live in the city and riding in the city is a part of who I am, so I am used to it and I have grown comfortable with the spastic poetry that is urban cycling. It may not be pretty in the usual sense, but there is something to it that fills me with a lot of joy and peace. Sure, I'd rather be miles from cars and stop lights, but since I can't always do that, I've grown to live with and appreciate the energy and flow of honking horns, brake lights and absentminded drivers. It's less Miles Davis and more Ornette Coleman, but it's a music of its own. I really enjoyed those few rides and seeing the city from angles I would never get otherwise. It's been said many times by people with far better skills than I, but seeing a city from a bicycle gives you a perspective that is somehow better and supremely more enjoyable.

After 5 days, it was time to come home and finish preparations for Interbike in Las Vegas... I leave on Sunday to drive out for set-up for Dirt Demo at Bootleg Canyon before heading into the city for the show itself. Montreal serves as the perfect "warm up" before the big event in Vegas and after my trip to Australia in July, I am pumped up and ready for a great show and excited to see what the US retailer feedback is like for the new bikes and the state of the US bike market.

Sorry for the infrequent posts lately- I'm trying to get back into the swing of things with this crazy workload and travel schedule... hopefully more regular posting will materialize soon.

Here are a few pics to wrap things up;

The Masi section of the booth... where all the magic happens!

Yep, that's me! Part of an old display poster from a previous Norco/ Masi booth a few years ago. Pretty funny...

Sunset from atop Mont Royal on the first night of the show. My good friend Paul Burnett and I got out for a very short spin just at sunset. The view was spectacular, as always.

Paul looking over the city- it was a great view, for sure.

It's probably best that I am a little out of focus- the flab is harder to identify that way.

Yep, I forgot to bring a water bottle with the bike and had to resort to regular bottled drink bottles... but the view is still great!

The view in the daylight- it was a super warm and clear day on Saturday. The view of the city is always so incredible. Down in the distance is the Olympic Stadium from the Montreal Olympics of 1976... which it is rumored was only recently finally paid off.

A family of raccoons- not sure if they spoke French or not- was mooching snacks off the tourists at the lookout point. They looked well fed...

The Olympic Stadium up close- I got to ride by it during my long, getting lost, journey through the city. It is pretty cool up close and looks very modern even more than 20 years after it was built.

My faithful steed at rest along one of the wonderful views along the Saint Lawrence river- the bike trail along the river is gorgeous.

(PS- yes, I ate nearly my entire weight in poutine and Montreal bbq... )

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Montreal 2009

At 4:30 tomorrow morning, I'll be sleepily wandering through the airport looking for my gate so I can fly to Montreal for the BTAC/ ExpoCycle show for another year. The bike is in its case and the suitcase is packed.

I'm looking forward to returning to the wonderful city of Montreal and hopefully getting to ride my bike with some of its many great people. The ride up the great Mont is fantastic. Hopefully this year the cold rain will stay away and I can actually get a ride in!

Time to get ready for bed and an early, early start to the day!


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries

Today I received my advance copy of the new David Byrne book Bicycle Diaries that comes out 9/21.

I just recently finished a really good book (Rick Braggs' book, All Over but the Shoutin') and I am about to be spending a lot of time on airplanes and in airports/ hotels, so I'm looking forward to this. I've been a fan of David Byrne's work for years, so getting a chance to read the book is pretty exciting. I was thrilled to be contacted by the publisher, so I'll certainly be back with comments and thoughts as I read the book... promise.