The Faces of Interbike

The Faces of Interbike

Interbike is meant to be an event in which dealers see new products from manufacturers and then place pre-season orders with their sales rep. That was the point of the show and that’s the part that has ceased to work. Bike companies are being pressed by OEMs to forecast further into the future, pushing their need for preseason orders earlier and earlier into the summer. Meanwhile, dealers would surrender blood and organs in exchange for the ability to stay in their shops during the height of the selling season. And if you polled them, they’d prefer Interbike was even later in the year (November, maybe?). The technical term for this disagreement on timing is known as an “impasse.” Fundamentally, there’s a problem in the business model, and no one can agree on just what that problem is. While everyone else fights over this and debates just how useful or relevant the show is, I’ll keep going for reasons of my own.

One thing that doesn’t come through in the media’s coverage of Interbike is when a manufacturer gets excited about a product they are showing. I love that excitement, feeling that passion come through in their presentation. In some ways, that has less to do with the product in question than the spirit someone puts into their work. That’s what makes Interbike an event in which much of my own excitement is just to see old friends.

The opening image sums this up to a fair degree. From left to right, we have Gregg Bagni, Clif Bar’s Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, and Suzette Ayotte. Gregg is known as the man who revitalized Schwinn’s marketing in the 1990s before going on to found Alien Truth Communications, a branding consultancy and then taking on the role of Director for White Road Investments which is Gary and Kit’s private equity group. This is a very high-powered trio who have fascinating to spend time with, on the occasions it’s happened for me. Suzette works in PR and is currently also the development director for the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. I know lots of people in PR and the brands that hire her are lucky to have her in their corner. Perhaps my favorite feature of this shot is the look on Suzette’s face; it’s an acknowledgment that Interbike puts us in contact with people the rest of us consider celebrities. In a week full of both staged and real moments, her look is as real as they come. IMG_9157

Interbike wouldn’t be complete without a Gary Fisher sighting. Seeing him is a great reminder that this is a show, that cycling is as long on style as you choose to believe.  IMG_9158

I mostly leave the pros alone. I don’t have much in common with them—my best day ever was a recovery ride for them—so when someone like Ned Overend recognizes me, the experience is surreal. I don’t think that will ever stop being the case. Something else that will never change is my admiration for this guy.IMG_9159

The bike industry is full of very bright people. Every now and then I come across one of exceptional talent and work ethic. I don’t think I’ve met an engineer anywhere with a broader skill set than Jeff Soucek. As the head of engineering for Felt Bicycles, he’s worked on everything from Pro Tour road bikes to ultra-fast TT and tri frames. He’s also invented a patented suspension platform. Jeff is one of my go-tos for background and understanding; he’ll always give me the official company line but he’ll always explain how they come by their viewpoint. He’s also served as an invaluable off-the-record source. IMG_9165

I’ve been reading about sports nutrition since the 1980s, but Allen Lim is the first guy who has given me answers that not only match my experience, but has helped explain why when things went wrong why my body yard-saled its contents mid-way through a race. I respect him for his ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and the passion he brings to his work. There’s a reason that a large cadre of current pros turn to him for guidance. When you’re in his presence, you feel like you’re going to learn something useful. IMG_9166

I was a fan of Bonk Breaker before my buddy Greg Leibert went to work for them. The aforementioned Mr. Lim, when pressed about what energy bar he would eat, if forced, singled out Bonk Breaker for its simple ingredient list and high moisture content, points he said made the bar easier to digest. Jason Winn, right, is one of the owners and somehow this former Div. 1 quarterback-turned triathlete helped create a gluten and dairy-free bar that doesn’t taste like it’s missing something. Our nickname for Greg is G$ (pronounced “Gee Money”) and he’s one of those rare guys who will brighten any ride, and leave you feeling better about yourself than when you started. IMG_9195

Rolf Prima’s president Brian Roddy with their marketing manager Brooke Stehley. While I was familiar with Rolf Prima’s product line, I hadn’t met either of them before my trip to Eugene, Oregon, for the Oregon Gran Fondo. I got to ride with both of them and it wasn’t heard to comprehend why the bike community there is so tight, or why people love Eugene with such reckless abandon. IMG_9201

I met Robin Farina just a few weeks ago at the Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle. She’s remarkable among women athletes in that she’s parlaying her success as a racer into helping other women through the Women’s Cycling Association. At right is Chris Sheehan with whom she started Uptown Cycles in Charlotte, North Carolina. IMG_9205

When I learned that Zipp’s chief technologist, Josh Poertner, was leaving the company, I was nearly heartbroken. Another of my go-tos for engineering know-how, Josh helped me isolate what I liked about some bikes but detested about others. He’s one of the curious people I’ve met and that has made all of our conversations as enjoyable as they are surprising. Today, he’s the president of Silca, which is why I didn’t laugh at the idea of a $450 floor pump. I hear that when Chris King stopped by, some of their conversation concerned the knurling on the pump chuck. Take a geek to know a geek. IMG_9234

Speaking of the endlessly curious, this is Richard Bryne, resident genius and inventor at Speedplay. He’s the personification of creativity unleashed, but also possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of everything from pedals to bearings to training and how to grow a company into a force Shimano can’t kill. He’s a fine example of someone who gets up every day wondering what he can do to improve peoples’ cycling experience. IMG_9256

Nick Legan works in PR for Dispatch Communications. If his name sounds familiar, that’s because he spent years in the trenches as a race mechanic before joining the editorial team at VeloNews. He decided that being advocate fit him better than being neutral, and he’s found a great niche for himself. Dispatch handles Shimano, among others, and any time I’ve got a technical question about Shimano gear, Nick has proven to know the answer and can generally anticipate where my question is going even before I finish it. Nick is also one of the judges for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and he brings a warmth and regard to the process that makes him a terrific person to work with. IMG_9259

Joel Wilson is Rolf Prima’s senior engineer. The rim found in the Ares4 is his design, among others. I got to do some solid miles with him at the Oregon Gran Fondo before a flat waylaid him. He’s a strong guy, easy to talk to and has a ready smile. IMG_9276

One of the features of having a 40-plus-year tenure in the bike industry is that you know everyone and have even managed to keep some of them as friends. At left is Specialized’s Mike Sinyard and at right is Santana’s Bill McCready. They have in common strong opinions, a curiosity about life and an undying love for all things bike. They are also inherently entrepreneurial. IMG_9281

Mark Reidy was the guy I replaced at Bicycle Guide. I called him to get a clear picture of the sort of place I’d be working and he told me some of the most surprising and seemingly random observations, all of which proved to be valuable insights even before I’d finished my probation. He went on to work for Mountain Bike and Bicycling before starting TRUE Communications. Because he still thinks like an editor, when he gets in touch his ideas are invariably interesting and have me ready to chase a subject long before we’re off the phone. IMG_9282

 

Sarai Snyder is the publisher and force of nature behind Girl Bike Love, a women’s-centric cycling site. I’ve been inspired for her passion for her mission and though I’m really just getting to know her, she’s a great addition to our community of bike media colleagues. Billy Souphorse is yet another PR guide, a guy who has been helpful to me in navigating the thick forest of new gear, ever with an eye for, “This made me think of you.” It’s a compliment I’ll take any time.  IMG_9304

Don Walker is the proprietor of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show and made an appearance at Interbike to shake babies and kiss hands. Don spent out time together talking up Louisville, Kentucky, the show’s 2015 location, but he needn’t have bothered. Though I don’t find Louisville that interesting, you could put NAHBS on top of an oil spill during a hurricane and I’d still show up. I go not for the location, but for the builders and the bikes. IMG_9314

When Bicycle Guide was purchased by Petersen Publishing and rescued from its dwindling fortunes as a stable-mate to Winning, Jackson Lynch served as one of the first editors on the staff. Since then, he has worked for Trek, Ralph Lauren and even Nokia. I’ll never forget the time we bumped into each other on a ride in Central Park. He’s always got something interesting up his sleeve.  IMG_9317Jeff Zell heads up Panaracer’s efforts here in the U.S. I got to know Jeff following Issue 8 of Peloton, the issue in which my manifesto appeared. He sent me the nicest email introducing himself. That we’d never met previously was just one of those omissions. It’s a big industry, but every now and then something cuts through the noise and makes you take notice. Jeff did just that and he’s a great example of the nice people who work in the bike industry.

I love bikes and I love encountering new gear; to say otherwise would be dishonest. But at this point in my career, it’s the people who keep me in the industry. These are but a small fraction of everyone I saw. That we get to do what we do sometimes has more to do with the relationships we’ve formed than just how good we are at our desk. I’m lucky to call these people friends.

 

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