The Interbike trade show offers free admission to bicycle retailers and working media, except for special events. I chose to attend one and dropped $75 for the Awards Dinner. The logo from the cover of the flyer which was handed out, also the design for the award trophies, is in the image at the right. It's an "i" and a "b" mashed together but to me it looks like a Segway inside a hamster wheel.
I intended to write mostly about the awards, and I expected advocacy awards – but there were only two of those, for the best facility, to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a mixed pedestrian and bicycle use sidepath, and Best Advocates, to Tim Blumenthal and Jennifer Dice of PeopleforBikes, the industry lobbying organization. I would have chosen differently, but that's a topic for another time.
I decided also to write about my experience at the event itself. So, here you go.
Before the dinner was a schmooze event, where people were supposed to meet and greet, in a hundred-foot long, dimly-lighted room with five wet bars at the periphery. The scene was, schmooze, booze and -- noise. A DJ with his equipment up on a sort of altar played relentless, loud disco music with the usual BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM bass drum beat. Nobody was dancing, so, what was the point of that? From time to time, louder but unintelligible announcements interrupted the music.
Conversation was barely possible by yelling over the music. I hung out instead in the hallway outside the room, talked with people and got started writing this article. The room itself reminded me too much of what an outer circle of Hell might be like..
The Disco DJ from Hell
Attendees filed into an even larger room for dinner, and more din. As we sat down, a video of Interbike's Outdoor Demo Days played, accompanied by loud rock music. I had made the mistake of sitting near the front of the room where the loudspeakers were. I fashioned earplugs from pieces of a paper napkin I fished out of a pocket.
Next, a reminder that the date was September 11, and a video tribute to the Ride for Recovery organization, which gets veterans onto bicycles – a laudable effort, and effective in recovery from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Endorphins are very effective medication. There's nothing like a good, long bike ride to quell stress, anxiety and anger. I know this from my own experience which, I'm sure, doesn't begin to match that of the veterans. Some of them were riding handcycles, need I say more.
But while making announcements, putdown-comedian master of ceremonies and (huh!?), Wikipedia says, motorcycle fanatic Alonzo Bodden made repeated casual use of the the S-word (over the salad course!), as in "enough of that "s***" -- an attempt, I'd say, to establish a feeling of community by dragging everyone down to a level below the waistline. This didn't go well or me. I try to keep my language cleaner except when I'm swearing at my computer and nobody else is around. Bodden also leaned into the microphone, blasting the PHHHP sounds of his PPHHHPPatter over the sound system -- rather astonishingly poor microphoen technique from a professional actor and standup comedian.
The din continued right through to dessert and the awards ceremony. The top contestants' names and photos were shown on a screen, in lettering which was unreadable from some parts the room -- accompanied by the modern equivalent of a drum roll – a blast of loud, bass-heavy rock music. Only the winners' names were announced verbally.
Awards were made to international road racing cyclists-of-the-year and race of the year, presented by the estimable Greg Lemond, who was introduced as the only American to have won the Tour de France. (Fair enough. He's a real gentleman, and count me as a fan.) Of-the-year awards also went to mountain bike and BMX racers and triathletes, but there were a couple dozen categories with something for everyone. The majority of awards went to products and businesse in categories such as Mountain Product Innovation of the year, Best Brand Service to Customers and Best Women's/Female Friendly Shop. Applause, hoots and hollers for winners followed each announcement at various levels depending on the number of supporters in the room. The complete list of winners from the handout flyer, and of sponsors of the event, is at the end of this page. Detailed descriptions are linked from Interbike's Web page about the event.
The presentations to local bicycle shops reminded me that people who own small retail businesses have to address issues of customer service, reputation and demographics every day. Rewards can be substantial, but there are no guarantees of success. There is a premium on thinking ahead of the curve and outside the box, if it works. There is nobody to answer to except for oneself. Our free-enterprise business climate promotes innovation, but also many businesses fail. So, my hat is off to people whose passion for bicycling drives them to serve the public with products and services. The bicycle business is a tough one, too. The market for bicycles has been flat for over a decade, and the number of bicycle shops has declined substantially. That unfortunate fact clouded the celebration for me.
I only got this one photo, of a woman posing thumbs-up with her trophy on the stage after the ceremony, because I had been recording audio on my smartphone to help with my reporting. I couldn't use its camera at the same time. Videographers were recording too. I'm glad that I'm not the video editor who would have to tame the blasting audio. If you would like to get a taste of the awards ceremony, the an official videois now online. It is mercifully much shorter the actual event, and stripped of the s words. You can adjust the sound level to suit yourself! And that comment leads me to my final topic here.
About that DIN. Here's where the electrical engineer in me, with specialty in acoustics, takes command of this article. Possession of high-powered audio equipment does not a sound reinforcement expert make, any more than possession of a speedboat makes a sailor, or possession of a Porsche makes a proficient racecar driver. Fortunately, audio equipment is only capable of deafening people rather than killing them outright. Perhaps the guys operating the sound board had already deafened themselves, not improving their discretion in setting up and adjusting equipment. The popping P's of Mr. Bodden and others could have been avoided if they had the slightest idea of how to use the microphone, or with a microphone designed to be pop-proof. The portable loudspeakers on low stands near the front of the room blasted people sitting nearby. The audio guys at the rear of the room, even if they still had good hearing, would have no check on the sound at the front.
Did the ballroom have its house sound system, and Interbike brought in an outside contractor anyway? I don't know, because the room was too dark for me to tell whether there were speakers in the ceiling. Even better would have been an array high over the stage. There certainly was a place to hang speakers on the booms which supported video projectors.
Well, Hunter S. Thompson, there's one more little story to append to those in your cult classic book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...I'm outta here!
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Last Updated: by John Allen