Friday, September 16, 2011

Interbike 2011 - Indoor Day Three

I got up a bit slower and later than the previous days. The Sinclair party tired me out a bit more than expected, and, honestly, I didn't think I'd be hitting the sack at two in the morning. Or 2:30. Or whatever time it was.

Nonetheless I roused myself out of bed around 8 AM (or was it 9?) and headed down to the show.

This guy looks like I felt.

The head above is from the SRAM pART PROJECT. SRAM gave bits and pieces to a bunch of artists. There was a rollerskating robotic Aliens/Predator kind of guy too, but I missed it. Full list here.

I tried to boost the attendee count. These are my SprinterDellaCasa mates.

Those folks above were part of the assortment of weird stuff I found in the show office. No idea where they came from but they'd sometimes disappear for a bit, returning from destinations unknown at a later point. They look more fit than I do.

A 70 tooth ring!

The largest chainring I'd ever dealt with before was a 59T, on a teammate's dad's bike. He and his son would ride up to New Hampshire from southwest Connecticut, a 19-24 hour ride (depending on wind, weather, and fitness). When the dad described the massive descents and trying to hit higher top speeds, I jokingly suggested getting a bigger gear.

I should have known better because he already got a Specialized TriSpoke wheel to increase top speed (he learned the hard way to skip the front for those gusty 55 mph descents). I happened to be looking at chainrings and spotted some oddities, like a 60T. I let it slip that these 60T monsters existed.

"A 60 tooth!?"
"Order me one!"
"When will it be in?"

Since I brought it up, I finally gave in. I tried to order a 60T but it was out of stock - I had to settle for a 59T.

I think I already posted these pictures but I can't remember.
These are from back in the day.

On the bike.
I think it's a 45T for the small ring, giving a 14T difference.

Anyway the large 70T ring caught my eye. I'm glad they weren't around when I had the shop - even with really aggressive gearing the small ring would have to be as big as 53T or so (for a difference of 17T between the small and large ring - it's kind of like shifting from a 53T to a 37T. To ride to New Hampshire with a 70/53 would be a bit much.

My main goal today, with not much on my agenda, was to go really fast at Circulus. They closed at noon so I had to get my act together. Unfortunately my stomach wasn't cooperating - apparently the late night at Sinclair was a bit much for my fragile (pronounced "fra-gilly") body.

Nonetheless I persevered, getting to Circulus at about 11:30 AM.

From left (with camera at face) Kevin, Rich, Julie, and...
The guy with the white shirt, I forget his name but he's the one that convinced me to do this.

It's not bad. The surface looks slick but it's pretty grippy, treated with a secret agent that really improves traction, to the point that I was thinking of it for things like garages and other polished floor surfaces.

They even treated the concrete just inside the wood, helping those going up or down from falling when their front wheel hits the slick looking (but not) concrete.

It's the Circulus track, a small (50 foot diameter) track built by the pdw folks.

Here are some stills from the helmet cam footage I took. I didn't do any on Day Three as I'd lent out my helmet cam mount out on the evening of Day Two and hadn't retrieved it yet. But I did do some on Day Two, just slower than Day Three. Ultimately I'll have a clip together, but that's ultimately, not right now.

My view.
Actually taken on Day Two, when I was warming up to the idea of going fast.

The camera's view of the same shot (iPhone low res, from Kevin).
Again, Day Two footage, therefore I'm going pitifully slow.
I'd lean more if I were going faster.

Note that I'm going backwards. Yes, if you go backwards you help unwind the dizziness.

At least that's what I told myself.

So how does it work?

It works well. I mean, obviously, right? I'm here, writing about it. I didn't fall off the banking, even when I got going a bit faster. Here's how I got going on the thing:

First, ride around in a circle on the flat part. It takes only 4 mph to stay on the wood, 11 mph to go "fast". I'll get to the "fast" in a bit. 4 mph is not that fast so it doesn't take much to get up to speed.

Second, when you want to get on the Circulus, you need to kind of aim up it. The guy there said to do it like you're "walling" on a BMX bike. I nodded like, "Yeah, I know what you mean," but I've never done that ever. I figured it's like riding up a... wood track.

Third, once you get going on the wood, commit. It takes power to commit, at least for me on the BMX bikes. They didn't have any allen wrenches nearby (and I didn't feel like walking around to the tool booths to borrow one), so I only rode the low-seat-height BMX bikes. On those bikes it takes a lot of quads and hamstrings.

Fourth, once you want to stop, fight the "Holy smokes I'm going to crash!" vibe. Instead, coast and allow the bike to slow. I found that I'd come down off the banking a little too fast to stay on the concrete so I'd let the bike veer back into the banking, go up, then really turn a bit to come back down. By then I'd have slowed down enough to avoid going back up.

Fifth, if you want to go fast, stay below the blue line. It's not as glamourous but it's a heck of a lot faster. For a 5 lap sprint it's about 6 seconds slower if you're up the banking versus down near the floor. It helps to be able to extend your legs a bit more than I am in that picture above.

Sixth, stop after 10 laps or so. You get pretty dizzy when you stop. I found it helps to go backwards on the track for a bit (clockwise) to kind of "reset" the brain. If you've never ridden the track then do a backwards set as soon as you finish your first forwards set. This way you don't get your body hardwired to only go counterclockwise. If you keep going in just one direction, and it's easy to fall into that trap, it get to be pretty difficult to stand up without tottering like a drunk.

Speaking of which...

Seventh, and this is strictly optional, do NOT drink a lot of vodka cranberries the night before. Or tequila or rum or beer or any number of fuzzy brain drinks available around here. I set out on Day Three to do a couple flying 5 lap time trials, trying to come close to the 20.3 second time set on Day Two's competitions. When you do a hard effort, on a 50 foot wide circle, leaning at some absurd angle to the floor, on a bumpy surface, pedaling with the saddle too low, going totally anaerobic, it hurts if you've had fuzzy brain drinks in the recent past.

Although I felt pretty queasy for a bit after my first flying 5 lap effort (I mentally calculated where I had to run to get to the bathroom, or, worse, a garbage can), the feeling passed enough so I could do a second one.

Day Three footage was a bit faster but I never broke 20.3 seconds. Unfortunately I rode about a second a lap slower. I think my final two laps were much slower than my first three, due to the low pedaling position. I couldn't stand because I wasn't able to control the bike at speed while out of the saddle.

Kevin giving it a go.
He's tall enough to use the fast bikes with 700c wheels.

With Circulus on the way to Quality Bicycle Products (if your order has some weird errors in it, you may wonder if the picker just did a few laps on Circulus), I don't know when I'll be able to ride it again. But if I do, I'll know to come prepared with a few allen wrenches and a full helmet cam setup.

And, I have to admit, I got that hankering to get a BMX bike again, just to practice wheelies or walling or bunny hops. I'll probably get over it but still, I hadn't thought about that in a while.

After Circulus I had to chill a bit, literally, as I had overheated a bit. I got to talk again with some of my "IB2011" finds, the products that I figured were really cool. I'll write about them coming up, but they have to do mainly with small companies offering innovative products. With a bit of development, usually a cash injection, and a network for distribution, these products have a chance of really affecting the market. I also thought of some future trends for the industry (okay, one, for the road market), although again I'll write about them in future posts.

At 4 PM a voice came over the PA. I didn't record it, maybe I'll remember next year, but basically a female voice (IB staff) said that we'd finished up Interbike 2011. I could hear small cheers from around the hall. Small cheers because, by now, most of the vendors were close to losing their voices (like I did one year, with 15 minutes to go). Those folks must have applauded because I heard some clapping too.

All the hard work for the show management folks had finished, at least 99.9% of it. A few details, a post-show meeting or three, and that would be it. They could start thinking about and working on 2012. But, ever so briefly, they could think about relaxing just a bit. For the Interbike folks it's really hard work, putting things together for the whole year, culminating in just a few days of show, all their efforts for this one magical week in September.

Two of the Interbike ladies, Lindsay and Jenni (I hope I got that right), in the show office at the end of the day.
Those are foot massage things under their feet.

For the attendees it was like when a movie ends - the lights go on and everyone files out. All the scenes and music and parts and bikes and emotions and excitement from the show become a bit muted. Dealers stand around, blinking a bit, wondering what just happened. They could now relax with the only immediate task ahead being not to miss the flight home.

For the exhibitors it's the beginning of the final bit of the show - packing and leaving, like what race promoters do when the races finish up for the day. Having been there I know that some of the hardworking souls would be there until the wee hours of the night, working hard to pack stuff up before the show floor had to be cleared. The years I worked with an exhibitor ended up the hardest years of Interbike, and the hours following the show were the hardest of the hardest.

And, yes, I've lost my voice at Interbike, although it went with only 15 minutes to go. Dismissed for the rest of the show (all 15 minutes of it), I immediately headed over to the race DVD booth and, using hand gestures, bought a few DVDs.

When many of the lights go out you know it's done, and when that happened, we finally accepted that it was all over. As we walked out booths start coming down, revealing the mystery of the wizardry, the guts of the booth magic. It's a bit of a let down each year for me, this disassembly, at least until I worked with an exhibitor. I liked seeing the booths full and complete, nice displays and all. Seeing them start to come apart... it just meant that the show was ending.

In contrast to the Sinclair party the night before, Friday night ended up very tame. A bit exhausted, Kevin, Julie, and I went out for dinner at the Grand Lux (Venetian one, not the Palazzo one). Rich, caught up in some business, missed out on our early dinner, so we finished without him.

Kevin and I called it a night at that point. He had an early morning departure time (4 AM) to get home for real life stuff, and I had a slightly less early breakfast date. We talked about stuff, did some packing, packed away the various schwag, and texted and called and emailed friends and family.

I only had to get home to return to real life again. As magical as Interbike always is, it always has to end. Magic can't last forever because if it did it would become just "life".

Or, as the various vendors joke to each other at the show, where the incongruity of being surrounded by your passion yet working your butt off...

"So how's it going?" (preferably asked when booth is half set up or half brought down, or when it's 2 PM and the crazy busy booth has obviously kept the vendor from eating any regular food for 5 hours).

"Livin' the dream," with a big sigh.

Eyes meet. Grins all around.

"Oh, right. Livin' the dream."


Still, though, it is a dream. It's got to be, right?

Once again, dream or otherwise, I got to experience the magic of Interbike.

Here's to a great 2012 for all the exhibitors and attendees, to the media, and, finally, to the show management. I heard someone talk about coming back to Vegas. Therefore...

Viva Las Vegas!

Can't wait for Interbike 2012.

1 comment:

Yokota Fritz said...

Good to see you Aki. I regret I didn't try Circulus -- looks like fun!