Monday, March 16, 2009

The 2009 Seattle Bike Expo

The sign on Pert's Deli says they'll be open at 8:00 AM but the sign also says something about "Summer Hours" and the deli is still dark at 8:20 AM. Perhaps the big flakes of snow coming down were giving folks excuses to linger somewhere warm and dry but on the ride over from Issaquah I'd determined that, once again, things looked worse from the inside looking out than what I actually found when I was out and riding. I retreat to the Starbucks across the street for a coffee and a bowl of oatmeal to wait for my intrepid companions.

It takes a bit of electronic cajoling to lure my companions out. Text messages from Mark mention snow and slick roads. I text back the single word "wuss!" and call him back. "Yeah, it's not sticking," I explain. Mark seems dubious, but I convince him. It'll take some time for him to get to the coffee shop, but he commits to the trip. Brad is just double checking "oh we're still doing this, eh?" He decides to meet up with us by the UW. "I'm packing the cello, don't give me any crap!" Brad is a musician and has a gig in the afternoon.

Thermal regulation can be tricky. While Brad and I manage to get too cold waiting around, Mark is bundled a bit too warm for climbing and has too peal off one layer en route. But we get to the Expo and leave our bikes under the watchful eyes of Melanie and some helpful Bike Works volunteers. The weather is changing, a bit of snow becomes rain becomes clear and always with a some increasing wind.

The Expo is a mix of bike vendors, shops, magazine crews, bike clubs, tour organizers, snack bar makers and other randomly bike related folks. Put on each year by the Cascade Bicycle Club, the event fills a damp and drafty old airplane hanger at Magnuson Park and spills over into several huge equally damp and drafty tents. Despite the less than cozy conditions, the event is always a lot of fun.

For me the event is always at least as much about bike people as it is about the bikes. Willie and Joe are telling the kinds of stories that inspire people to get out the door and the place is packed with everything you need to get out and roll. While there is certainly the usual high dollar eye-candy, this year's Expo also features lots of transport bikes. At the Sammamish Valley Cycles booth, multi-thousand dollar carbon and titanium wonder bikes are on display right next to one of the bike world's great simple bikes, the Bianchi San Jose. It's probably a good thing I don't work at Sammamish anymore, I was always much better at selling San Jose's than Serottas.

I meet many more friends at the Expo and fill up on junk-food flavored healthy snack bars. The Clif folks have an awesome White Chocolate Macadamia Nut bar, while the Larabar people have bars flavored like Cashew Cookies, Pecan Pie and Coconut Creme Pie. I'm nuts about nuts and these things could almost lure me away from Payday Bars and Peanut M&Ms.

I thought I'd been smart by not bringing much money to the Expo but my pal Matt has a wad of cash and he guides me to a booth that has a big selection of Vincita bike luggage. These guys have things like really cheap panniers for five bucks and packs that can morph from being a pannier to a backpack to a rolling bag. I'm a sucker for things that become other things and wind up spending fifteen of Matt's dollars on a seatbag that folds out to become a backpack. It'll be just the thing to go on my Dahon.

REI is showing off this year's FlyBy, which is a Novara branded Dahon folding bike. Last year REI sold through their batch of FlyBys in the first couple months of the year so I think they upped their order for 2009. If I didn't already have my Curve D3, I'd be pretty tempted by the FlyBy.

By 2:30 the wind is really picking up, threatening to blow down some of the big tents. My Bike Works buddies have already folded up their tent and with the strong wind out of the south, I opt to ride home via the north end of Lake Washington. Even though it's a bit longer, I'd rather be on land in high winds than deal with the crosswinds on the bridges. It's a bit of a slog southward from Woodinville to Redmond because the Sammamish River Valley works like a wind tunnel but at Marymoor I stick to the west side of Lake Sammamish and am mostly sheltered from the wind.

Fifty-eight miles of riding and a whole lot of bike geeking isn't a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Keep 'em rolling,

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