Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cross Vegas, Hot Designs and No Shows at Interbike

Yesterday was the first day of Interbike and some hot designs were on display.

First of all there was Nutcase, producing an amazing array of helmets, with stripes, squiggles, dots, painted flowers, splotches, or just subdued mat colors. These helmets are made for cycling, skating, skiiing and any other sport, and though they are not roadie style, I can see them being quickly snapped up by urban cyclists. They retail for $50.

Though we still have not had time to walk the show, we got a preview thanks to Hotvelociti (the other BBB hat,) of this terrific back drop to a booth not too far from Nutcase.

Then there's Hotvelociti of course, where we introduced cycling dresses for the first time--this is a skinsuit with skirt, modeled by Markie Ross.

 She's supposed to be on ICTV later today, Thursday, modeling the Blue Pool dress which retails for $175. Never mind that more than half of HV's products did not come in from the factory, they talked up their new team graphic styles with pictures.

Activity overall at the show seemed slightly less than 2007, but better than 2008. This is where the politics come in: show manager Andria Klinger says participation by exhibitors is up, but it is hard to see how this is true. Sections of the show were empty and big players weren't present this year for the first time, like Giant Bicycles, Castelli, and of course, Trek is not coming anymore. And I have heard of countless smaller companies not coming this year also. Some like Giant just attended the Outdoor Demo in Boulder City on Monday and Tuesday, others have either sold all their accounts already before the show, or are doing business from their hotel rooms.

It says a lot about show management who still have not come into the 21st century with the show process. Forms still have to be faxed!!!! and can't be entered on the Internet. My invoice never came to me either by mail or by email, even though I asked for it about 5 times.  When I arrived at LV, none of my booth furniture had been delivered, nor my carpeting. All the "faxed" forms had mysteriously disappeared, and I had to wait NINE hours for them to deliver everything. Mind you, there is some sort of f- up every year with GES, the furniture provider, and it makes you think that they really don't care about small companies.

Another mysterious happening, my booth was switched without my knowledge to another row (I was one row closer to the concession stand), and one of my competitors has a 10 by 20 in that row even though they were in the row I am in last year--the less desirable location. Show management's answer is to put on a big smile and pretend it never happened, but they can't imagine how many intelligent people they are dealing with who might just go and form their own competitive show that really has its act together.

Add to that, retailers seem to use Interbike as a way to shop around, but few are serious about placing orders at the event. Perhaps that's because many of them have already made commitments to the companies that don't have booths here. Which means Interbike needs to be at least 2 to 3 months earlier to really have any sales effect. I seriously considered not coming this year, and after the terrible experience I had setting up this year, I wonder if it is worth it.

Still I would love to hear other exhibitor's and retailer's comments. One exhibitor who has been coming for 14 years said that they did write orders here. So there may be a 50:50 rule, some do and some don't.  Still Interbike has come a long way, pointed out the inestimable Steve Stollman of Critical Mass fame who happened to come by from New York this year.

"The only bike show used to be one floor in the Toy  Building in New York," he said. "Now look at it." Got a good point there. Could it be that some of the big companies like Giant and Trek will come back one day?  Or will it become a bifurcated market, with smaller companies doing Interbike, and the bigger companies holding their own events? Either way, we spoke to some people who were pushing European shows, and the east coast "Interbike" equivalent (Interbike East) held in the fall in Rhode Island might start to generate more enthusiasm.

Next, to the Cyclo Cross race held at Mountain Spring Park last night. What a terrific event. At 7 pm industry riders took to the grassy course, at 8 pm were the women, and at 9 pm were the pros.

Jamey Driscoll (Cannondale. Cyclocross World) was the winner of the men's Elite race, and second place was road rider Christopher Jones (Champion Systems). The two stayed ahead for the bulk of the 10 lap race, which took them up and down a circuitous grassy course that looked harder than any road race I have ever seen.

In the women's Elite group, Katie Compton of Planet Bike took first place with Katarina Nash of Luna second. Check out the podium boys before they gifted the women!!! Ay yi yi, finally we get our due.

Cycling News has great coverage of the race.

Oh and BBB ran into Frankie Andreu at what was billed the best event of Interbike 2009, the Tweet up at Lavo's at the Palazzo, thanks to Lisa Hachadorian blogger Girl Meets Bike who invited me as one of her guests.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Las Vegas Outdoors, Giant and Trek Get the Test

So in the last post BBB spent half the space dissing the lack of outdoor activities--and the space to do them.

But yesterday I headed out to the Interbike Outdoor Demo in Boulder City to join in the yearly 24-mile ride to Lake Mead, and sample a couple of bikes on hand before heading back to Las Vegas.

Funny enough, or maybe not so funny, the clock in BBB's hotel room was set an hour ahead, so I ended up going out an hour early, at the crack of dawn. It did however give me a chance to do a bit of a pretour of the area and learn a little about the place.

After checking out gorgeous Lake Mead at dawn, I headed over to the Historic District of Boulder City. The town has a nice old hotel, and a cute little cafe that looks more like a bar from the outside.
Lindsay and Sandy
The owner Alan Stevens and his daughter Lindsay both have armfuls of tatoos, and as he sips coffee, I learn a little bit about the area. A man named Brent Thompson he said was an avid cyclist and he fought the Boulder City and Lake Mead administrations to build multiple bike lanes in the area. Thompson died last year of a heart attack. 

Stevens said he rides a 1977 Raleigh bike, and that the area has a lot of cyclists, but BC also seemed like the kind of place where people come to get away from Las Vegas--for good. Chuck Cascioepo, a patron of the cafe worked for years in Las Vegas, but now prefers the low-key style of BC.

Elena holding my Giant

Then I headed over to the Outdoor Demo to pick up the women's small TCR compact road bike, Advanced SL3. This bike has Shimano Ultegra components, and Aluminum  handlebar and stem. Glen Whipple helped me out, and explained that the bike's tight triangle geometry is meant to enhance responsiveness in a race situation.

I took this bike out on the ride, and it was a nice clean ride. It felt decidedly different from the Trek which seems a lot softer on the road. However I liked the sleekness of the bike, though I didn't not feel so aero in the descent. The first several miles of the ride was a straight downhill into the wind towards Lake Mead, and with the embedded round stones that served as road guides, I was waiting for a crash to happen.

Still the view was tremendous, and the ride seemed more like a race than a ride. Unfortunately on the way back, which was basically a 12 mile climb in boiling hot sun, i realized I was riding a bike with a 12/ 25 on the  back, not enough gearing for my legs and this massive hill.

After I got back, I went over to Trek--the brand I have been riding for the past year and a half, and tried out the Trek Madone. They gave me a bike with Ultegra parts, I would have like to have tried either the SRAM or the new electronic gear shifters, but it was not to be.

Unfortunately, Trek is still the bike I feel most comfortable on as a ride. However, as before, I find the women's specific design very bunched up in the front even though I was riding a slightly bigger bike than the one I own (I do own the wrong size). In this regard, my handlebar position relative to my leg and seat position was much better on the Giant's women specific bike. I immediately felt very comfortable on the Giant and rode without any pain or issues, even though I didn't feel too fast on it (could be my fitness).

The Trek on the other hand is not as comfortable, even though the headset had about 5 spacers to bring the handebars closer to me. Still the ride is practically unparalled smoothe, with only a slight warble when I braked to take a turn.

I asked Trek's marketing coordinator Sam Foos to explain the warble, but didn't really hear an explanation. Trek designers and marketers came up with a very angled new design for the tubing on this bike, and even though you can pick and choose your colors for free on the Madone level, the paint jobs on these very both very ugly and very compelling at the same time.

I could say they have an aggressive, masculine race sensibility even when using purple and white, but both the angular tubing--meant to make the bike lighter, stronger, and more responsive--started to grow on me.  Still I could see these colors going out of style in a couple of years. Foos said the reason for the Project One approach is so that every cyclist can enjoy their individuality, but the number of choices makes bike shopping a little more difficult. Still, for high end bike uses like the Madone buyers, this makes sense.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Cyclist Nerd hits Las Vegas

Arrived at probably the worst cycling city in the United States, Las Vegas, NV for Interbike.

The giant jaccuzzi in my room

The show, if you don't know is one of the biggest gatherings in the U.S. for cycling business to show their products and for the press and bike store owners to come and see what's new. More on this later.

I don't have entirely negative feelings about the Las Vegas, even though it's completely unbikeable. Every inch of road space is taken for cars. And there are thousands of them. There is not enough sidewalk space for walking, and there are no shoulders for bicyclists.

Add to that, the intemperate weather (too hot) and the locus of the joint--exploiting working class people, and basically stealing their money. The whole recipe makes me want to puke. But okay there are some things I have come to like since I first started coming here.

A sideways view of Las Vegas from the plane: the only time Vegas looks cool. Like some kind of giant, underwater sea animal maybe.

For one I have a soft spot for the people who work here. Many work so hard, and they make very little, in the $20K to $50K range (kinda like how much I have been making since I became a "journalist'").

I have two friends that work in the casinos, and every hotel worker, restaurant worker I come across has a deep layer of real kindness, and many an under layer of pathos or sadness too. They have long stories to tell of why they have made this their home, and why they can't leave.

Like those bell hop guys who sent me in search of a Mexican restaurant two years ago. When we tried to come back, there were no cabs, so I tried to hitch. I thought it very strange that all the cars were slowing down but no one came to a stop.

Later I was told it was a famous strip for hookers.

Ah, but I had such a good time, I really mean that.

Another time I was walking down Flamingo Road, again looking for a good Mexican restaurant, and men who literally could have been infants when I was in college were stopping and asking me if I wanted "a ride. "

Flying in as the sun was setting this evening was spectacular. The patterns of the rocks, and the man made developments looks like Inca patterns from above. It was truly a beautiful view of Las Vegas I had never seen or imagined before.

Tomorrow before I put on my hat as CEO of Hotvelociti and try and sell my 2010 line,  I will have my BBB hat on for the Outdoor Demo being held a half hour away out of the city in Bootleg Canyon.

It will be the first time that I get to ride a bike out here and I am really looking forward to it. I have appointments lined up with Giant and Trek for the 24 mile ride from there to Lake Mead.

One year I did visit Lake Mead, and got to see firsthand how the water has been drained from the Lake by over use by Las Vegans (oh that does have a funny ring to it, doesn't it?), and a declining water table.

It was really frightening, you could see the layers of old water marks like the marks inside a tree, more than a hundred feet down. And though we swam in the water, it was murky, dense and concentrated with sediment and other roba that was the result of lower water.

I also got to see the Valley of Fire, a large red rock formation that we got completely lost inside of. It's not hard to get lost: all the rocks are endless and look the same. I had an opportunity to stay in a friend's camper out in the desert that year, and it was one of the most magical times I have ever had, with the soft pink tones of the desert at sun fall, and the full moon over the rocky terrain.

And I have met really terrific people here, like the people who work at the Hotvelociti booth every year, and who make it feel like coming home.

But to make this the gathering spot for cycling every year? It's an oxymoron: Interbike in Las Vegas.

Here is a pic of BBB taking advantage of her mirrored ceiling over the King Size bed. How a cycling nerd sees Las Vegas, replete with computer instead of some hired sex God. (Yes, that is my skin sticking out under my shirt, it's apropos, isn't it?)

And a few steps away from my bed is a giant jacuzzi, I mean, GIANT. It's bad Feng Shui really, I wish they would put a curtain on it, how am I going to sleep? And do you know why I am in this room?

Because otherwise I would have been on a SMOKING FLOOR (and paying $25 less), with smoke coming out of every crack and crevice, invading my room, my lungs, my clothing (well, forget it, I already reek of cigarette smoke, and all I did was walk through the lobby three times.)

Really, they should just move the whole meeting to New York, the cycling facilities are so much better there. I asked them to two years ago, and they said after "extensive consideration" they had decided to keep the meeting here over other more amenable slots.

For anyone who is interested, BBB is having talks about expanding its media coverage on cycling to an around the world format. Stay posted. It's gonna be big!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cyclist's Ashes to Be Spread on Route 9W

An observance ride is being planned for Patrick O'Donoghue, long time New York City cyclist who died of brain cancer late September last year.

During that ride, his ashes will be spread along Route 9W, the route he loved the most.

The ride will be held next Saturday, September 26, leaving at 9:30 a.m. from the front of Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee, NJ.

It is being organized by Jim Boyd and other Century Road Club Association members, who will be meeting after the regular am race held in Central Park at the Central Park Boathouse at 8:30 am that day join others in New Jersey.

Originally from Ireland, Pat was an amazing cyclist and an amazing person. He was the only cyclist I knew (at least around here) who could get me up to 35 mph on the flats coming home from Nyack. The last I saw him he told me he had cancer, but he was so strong, I never thought it would kill him.

I have been thinking a lot about Pat lately, and how much energy and gusto he put into life. He was a big man with incredible leg power, he had a big personality, and he was much loved. Wrote Boyd in an email message,
"Pat left word with his wife, Patricia (affectionately known as ‘Trish’), before his death Sept. 23, 2008, that he wanted his ashes scattered on 9W, the road he traveled most. This will be done on Rte. 9W after the observance.
      Pat left an indelible impression on those who knew him. Sometimes one meeting was sufficient. Pat was iron-willed, straight-ahead guy with a fine sense of salty humor spoken in Irish brogue. He was a CRCA board member for one year and raced in club races for many years until he was diagnosed in 1998 with brain cancer."
    Strictly Bicycles is located on Hudson Terrace in New Jersey just north of the GW Bridge. Rain date will be Sunday, Sept. 27, same place, same time. (Thank you Nelson Gutierrez, owner of the shop.)
      Please pass the word to those who may not be regular readers of the online site of CRCA.  Questions can be directed to Jim Boyd, 212.865.5488.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Update on Fallen 9W Rider, Purcell: Title 39 Murky on 9W

There is still no word on the outcome--and health of rider Jessica Purcell who crashed on Rte. 9W more than a month and 13 days ago today.

Phone calls to her family have not been returned. The last communication from her father, Gregory Purcell, who wrote into BBB soon after the accident stated that she was in critical condition, but "knowing Jessica," she will probably be doing triathlons again as early as next year.

Purcell crashed into the back of a car while coming down the hill before State Line on Rte 9W at the exit to Palisades Interstate Parkway on August 1 at about 11 am.  She was airlifted to the Westchester trauma facility across the Hudson River for injuries to her brain and face.

One thing is clear, reports by a passenger in a Red and Tan Bus that was turned away from the scene that morning have been verified. That passenger alleged that four bus passengers repeatedly derided Purcell for riding on Route 9W, and talked about cyclists loudly in general, that they "do not belong," on the road.

The bus was traveling south, not north, as previously reported, and was slated to arrive at 42nd Street in New York's Port Authority station at 12 noon. The driver of the bus was also implicated in the more than 15 minutes of talk with the passengers.

Comment from the Red and Tan bus company is being sought.

Meanwhile scores of cyclists around New York City and in the New Jersey area who have learned about Purcell's accident and followed her story continued to express concern about her recovery, and to wonder how such an accomplished and experienced cyclist had such a terrible accident.

One cyclists speaking off the record at the New Amsterdam Bike Slam held yesterday night at Cielo, an event in which two teams competed to present the best ways to make downtown Manhattan more bikeable, said he thought that perhaps the driver had stopped short before the light.

Other cyclists have theorized that Purcell thought the cyclists in front of her were going to continue through the intersection, but they stopped.

And still others have said that she may simply have hit the side of Steven Spiegel's car because she ran out of space at the bottom of the hill. But we won't know the answer to any of these questions until either Purcell is well enough to tell us, or her husband, Steve Zebrack, who was riding with her that day, speaks publicly on the issue.

In the meantime, Purcell's accident was brought up at a meeting among cycling advocates at the Rutgers University Voorhees Transportation Center where modification of aspects of the law regarding safe passing and other portions of title 39 of New Jersey traffic and safety code were being discussed.

BBB then submitted a general letter to the New Jersey Department of Transportation's Bicycle and Pedestrian Office and Transportation Demand Management Office, regarding the area where Purcell had her accident, and outlining the area's alleged deficiencies including a narrow shoulder all along the descent to Exit 4N.

In that letter, BBB also identified two other hot spots on Rte 9W that they believe need to be addressed by the DOT, including that section of road where Camille Savoy was hit and killed by a driver when she wandered a foot and a half over the fog line; and the section from Palisades Ave. to Clinton Ave. where a few years ago the entire shoulder was engineered out in a road redesign.

It is almost a year since Savoy was hit and killed on 9W, but nothing in that section of road has changed since then: it is still narrower, and the bend in the road seems to encourage drivers to drive over the white fog line into the shoulder.  This summer, BBB stood in the same location for 10 minutes taking photographs of motorists repeatedly driving over the white line on both sides of the roadway, some of them chatting away on cell phones.

Add insult to injury, inconsistencies in how the law is interpreted continue to occur. Three weeks ago, two cyclists riding two abreast on the shoulder were ticketed for riding side by side by the Alpine Police. There were no problems with the road ahead and they were not in traffic.

"That is just wrong," agreed several members of the Rutger's Transportation team that discussed the ticketing: "The cop just does not understand the law," said one member off the record.

Yet, amazingly a sign on Route 9W a few miles south of where the two were ticketed says cyclists must ride single file. "The sign is wrong, and against the law" said the member: "It needs to be removed."

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11: A Moment of Reflection and Upcoming Bike Events

A moment of silence for the fallen people in the World Trade Center disaster eight years ago. With their memory, it is a time to reflect how far as a world, a nation, and a city, we have traveled from nature.

Airplanes used as weapons of destruction: a notion so twisted. But it also reminds us that airplanes, cars, trucks--all are man-made elements that are far stronger than the human body.

As much as machines have made travel and commerce easier, they can destroy human beings in a split second, and they do so every day. In simple strikes, or long-term through cancer, and other diseases to humans and animals.  The damages to the environment are incalculable.

With the background of the relentless and sad reading of names of those who perished on 9/11, and the relentless rain, this should be a day of reflection on how we as cyclists, and human beings, can help make the world a better place.

And so this weekend good people are putting reflection into words, and action.

For one, Transportation Alternatives is outdoing itself by hosting an extravagant four days of events dedicated to cycling in New York.

The apogee of the four days of events is the TA NYC Century on Sunday, September 13, which allows bike riders to ride various distances, from one to all five boroughs of New York City. The longest distance, about 100 miles, takes riders to Staten Island over the Verrazzano Bridge and then back to Manhattan by the Staten Island ferry. You can register the day of the event for $75 by showing up at 7 am at the Harlem Meer in Central Park on 110th Street. Download this brochure for more info.

Leading out the weekend today is a symposium being held all day today Friday, September 11, until 5 pm at Cooper Union Center for Architecture. The event called Global Trends in Sustainable Mobility is sold out, but you can add yourself to the waiting list or just show up and see if you can get in--it's raining, some people may not show.

The event will host city planners, mayors, and others knowledgeable in bike planning.

Among them in the morning will be presentations by Frans Timmermans (Minister of European Affairs, The Netherlands), Enrique Peñalosa (Former Mayor of Bogotà, Colombia), and several others.

In the afternoon, there will be workshops with Pieter de Haan (Institute for Shared Space), Herman Gelissen (OV FIETS), and many others including Paul Steely White, head of TA

On Saturday, Sept 12, TA and Amsterdam's Vélo Mondial will be hosting the New Amsterdam Bike Slam at Cielo, 18 Little West 12th St, 10:00 pm - 4:00 am. It will be a mix of bike planning presentations, poetry and live displays of how to improve cycling in downtown Manhattan (New Amsterdam).

If you caught the Channel 13 piece on New Amsterdam last night you will understand how important historically, socially and architecturally lower Manhattan is, and why these presentations are so on cue.  The competition is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival on the land that would become New Amsterdam, and eventually New York City.

Making the presentations will be members of the New Amsterdam Slam teams who were asked to come up with the best cycling designs for downtown Manhattan--the challenge was to make it as good as Amsterdam, Netherlands, and their presentations will be judged at the Bike Slam on Saturday night.

The winning team will be decided by a jury including Renaud Dutreil, Chairman of Louis Vuitton - Moet Hennessy (LVMH) and Alexandros Washburn, Director of Urban Design the City of New York. 

If you read the NY Times yesterday, you will have caught the article "Whose Bike are you Wearing," where Renaud Dutreil was pictured riding to work on his Gazelle Dutch bike, and the CEO of Fendi Michael Burke was quoted talking about the Fendi bike adorned with fur and leather, "It harkens back to everything Fendi was at the beginning.'

The slam will be followed by a late night dance party at the Meatpacking District club, with DJ John Julius Knight.  Tickets for the event range from $10 (TA members) to $30 (get a membership and get in at the same time).

Also this weekend will be the New York Bike Jumble, being held on the Lower East Side between Aves. B and C and 4th Street on Sunday, Sept. 13, from 10 am to 4 pm . This is a big flea market with lots of cool bikes, paintings, postcards, accessories and bike jerseys. Hotvelociti will be there as well as the bike painter, Taliah Lampert, and several other bike suppliers like Recycle A Bicycle. These are pics from the jumble held in Brooklyn this summer.

Boy have things changed since the old days. When I was a kid, this area was full of destroyed buildings--they looked a bit like post 9/11 or post Dresden. Crime was rampant, drugs were exchanged with impunity and poverty was implicit.  Now we have Bike Jumbles and $3,300 a month apartments (are they crazy?) Okay, to be fair, the Bike Jumble is much more in keeping with the aura and history of the Lower East Side!

And the great ambiance is still there, along with the Polish kielbasa and cake store on 7th Street and Avenue A, the cute little side streets lined with interesting shops, and the great nightlife.

Hoping this weekend events will help cheer some of you, and perhaps motivate you to not only enjoy yourself, but help make the world a better place while you do.