Monday, September 12, 2011

Interbike 2011 - Outdoor Demo Day One

I woke up with a start when the alarm went off. It was 6 AM local time, 9 AM back at home. Groggy, I got ready for my first long day here in Vegas - a nice hot day outside, from 8 AM to probably about 6 PM.

First, the shower. Before I hopped in I realized I forgot to pack shampoo and a razor - inevitably I forget something if the Missus isn't with me. The hotel conveniently provided some shampoo, but the razor I'd have to buy later.

Once in the shower stall I almost slipped on the granite floors. In my shower at home it'd be okay, I'd just stick an elbow out and lean against the wall, no different than a little bump in a tight crit.

In this shower, though, it was a bit more spacious. In bike terms the walls were a bikeathon rider away. I'd have to extend an arm and I'd have a chance of putting my hand through some plate glass or smash my knuckles into some more granite.

Fortunately for me I managed to get out of the shower alive and well.

Luckily I didn't forget too much other stuff, and I managed to dress myself and get out the door.

Sans a cap, a critical accessory when outdoors in the desert.

Yet another thing that I missed, the Missus didn't not miss (since she's not with me), and therefore that I lacked. I had a tough time even with sunglasses but luckily I managed to score a precious cap.

Another cap for the household.

I also forgot any kind of waterbottle, especially the nicer insulated one. A savior dropped by and gave me one of these, filled with cool, refreshing water.

Great for use when walking around in a desert.

With that I was set.

We ran into an industry icon early on - Leonard Zinn, the framebuilder guy and tech advisor guy on the VeloNews site. He had a sweet custom frame set up. Looking at it I realized that he has to just unscrew the couplings, throw everything into a box (since the tubes are titanium it's pretty tough), and get on a plane.

Five S&S couplers. Five!
Don't forget the one in the stem.
He needs some insulated bottles.

Of course you need to back up your writing. Zinn does - he rode from the Strip to the Outdoor Demo area in well under two hours. Incredibly it seems he didn't drink anything on the way over - he arrived with two full bottles.

I couldn't get here in two hours this spring. In fact I couldn't get one town away from here in two hours. So Zinn did a good ride to get here.

I found a few interesting sites, my favorite one here.

The cowboy hat helps.

I love this picture because of the incongruities. I understand the hats - anyone who's been to an Outdoor Demo here will understand the need for a hat under the powerful sun. But the hat, the non-technical clothing, on the most technical of bikes... I had to take the picture.

I set off to recon the beginning of the Lake Mead course, to make sure that the route would work okay for a group ride. Since I didn't plan on riding here I had no kit. Someone suggested riding an electric assist bike. In sneakers, regular shorts, a nice, comfy electric bike should work well, allowing me to coast past riders on uphills.

I figured this would be a great test for the electric bike, me dressed like a casual bike rider, riding up a really long hill (3 point something miles).

On the way to the booth I stopped by the free ice cream stand and got a free popsicle for the uniformed guard standing at the entrance to the show. He really appreciated it, shook my hand. He never asked for it but, standing in the 95 degree heat, in uniform, he looked uncomfortably hot. An ice cold popsicle really helps.

Remember the others, right?


With that done we went to the booth with the electric bike (it's not an electric bike company, just a booth with an electric bike).

What I didn't consider is that as the day closes at Outdoor Demo any electric bike batteries out there will be pretty depleted. I asked the guys at the booth if they thought it'd make it. 3 of 5 bars, the red E on the battery meter lighting up (none of the greens).

One guy, who'd checked the battery, said that he'd play it safe and ride a different bike.

I thought about it.

Heck, you only live once. I took the chance, slammed the seat all the way down (of course), wobbled mounting the bike, and rolled away.

How did it go?

Let's put it this way.

It's amazing.

I pedaled lightly and the bike would roll along virtually effortlessly. I'm seriously considering commuting on an electric bike. You can carry some heavy stuff, so going and buying a bag of sugar doesn't seem too outlandish.

There are different ways to do this but it's just cool. Electric bikes only need to gain a bit more traction, get a bit lower in price, and they'll be all the rage among non-racers.

They'll be the focus of race by racers too, because racers will get tired of being passed by recreational riders on steep grades.

Seriously, it's that good.

However, and it's a big however... if I have doubts about a battery's charge, I'll now carry an extra battery. And I'll try and have another electric bike bike-rider on standby to literally tow me back.

As it was, we got down to the Lake Mead access road (all downhill), turned around, and the battery decided to quit.

Now I had an extra-heavy regular bike with extra drag (the electric motor will try and charge the battery if the motor is off, adding a lot of drag to an already draggy bike). I could barely get the bike moving on the small grades. I figured if I switched it to "On" at least the motor wouldn't try and charge the battery.


Drag cut in half, I managed to crawl up the hills back to the Outdoor Demo area. When I said the battery quit, the guys didn't seem too impressed.

Boy, they're tough. I wonder what they'd consider tough if riding a low level hybrid bike with batteries and a motor and a front suspension up a three mile climb.

Then, after a few more questions, one guy pointed behind him.

"Did the battery give out there", motioning to the parking lot, "or did it go there", pointing down towards Lake Mead.

"Down by the lake."

Jaws dropped, eyes boggled.

"No way! You rode the bike back from there?!"
"Well, I got partway up before the battery died totally, but, yeah, I had to climb a while."

They laughed and grinned.

"Did you have to walk?"

With them properly impressed (with my foolhardiness and the fact that I rode the thing back) I could leave.

Hot, sticky, sweaty, I could only welcome a brief shower. I say "brief" but it was pretty hard, leaving behind a double rainbow.


Withing 15 minutes we were basically dry, after a thorough soaking. I was thirsty, again. Hot, again.

Things just seemed unreal.

A fitting sunset.

After the Outdoor Demo ended for the day, we headed out to wet our feet in Lake Mead, then headed back to the city for a private vendor-provided BBQ. We finally found the house, just as the hosts rolled up in a nice stretch limo. The doorway had a fountain around it, the door was unlocked, and we walked in.

We asked if our host was there. We got some negatives, everyone was doing their thing, there was no industry people there, and we realized something.

Wrong house!

We went next door, the correct house, and laughed about our mistake, more so when we learned that a couple others did exactly the same thing.

After some food we headed out. My friend Kevin was waiting, having rolled into town this evening.

Tomorrow would be Day Two of Outdoor Demo, with the first day of real work.

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