Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fun in the Sun at the Outdoor Demo

Outdoor Demo
"It's going to be hot there you know..." warned the fellow next to me as I waited in line to sign the liability waiver. I had arrived in Las Vegas the day before Interbike, and there was still time to make it to the final hours of the Outdoor Demo. While attendees are not permitted to ride the display bicycles at Interbike, the Outdoor Demo provides an opportunity to do just that. Hastily, I attached my wristband and boarded the shuttle that delivered visitors to the remote location.


Outdoor Demo
Set up 35 miles outside of Las Vegas in Bootleg Canyon, the Outdoor Demo resembled a tent city in the desert. An expanse of dirt and exotic shrubs dominated the landscape, in the fenced-off center of which stood hundreds of white, black and red booths. Colourfull flags announcing brand names protruded high into the air. A distant view of hazy mountains surrounded it all. The air was scorchingly hot and completely dry. I checked the temperature on my phone and saw it was 99° F. The sky looked very strange to me - hazy in one direction, with everything in the distance looking blurry and faded, yet crisp and bright-blue in the other direction. 

Outdoor Demo
Starting just beyond the tent city was a paved loop road for test riding road and city bikes. The road was closed to motor vehicles during the event.

Outdoor Demo
And extending toward the hills was a network of dirt trails for test riding mountain bikes.

Outdoor Demo
A variety of bicycle, component and accessory manufacturers were represented, ready to demonstrate their new lines of products and loan out bikes. 

Outdoor Demo
Interbike and the Outdoor Demo are industry trade shows. Attendees tend to be bicycle shop owners, purchasers, merchandise distributors, importers, event promoters, media, and the like. Many are there to test ride bikes and try components in order to decide whether their shop should carry a specific model, or just to get a feel for the new line. 

Outdoor Demo
Being held outdoors in the sun, it is perhaps not surprising that the atmosphere was more casual than at Interbike. In a way it was almost like a village carnival: all bike rides and flowing beer. 

Outdoor Demo
The representatives at the booths were a lot more relaxed and casual than they typically are at Interbike, which made for easy-going conversations. Knowing that I didn't have the time to go around test riding everything, I decided to make my way through the demo and just get a feel for the overall event.

Outdoor Demo
Felt Bicycles had an enormous presence and one of the largest selection of bikes. They organised their space like a library, with rows of bike racks lined up like book shelves, and a bike return area. I had a nice talk with the representative about their latest line of roadbikes, including the 7 women-specific road-racing models. I've had considerable positive feedback about Felt from female readers, and now I got a good vibe from interacting with them in person. Worth a look for those shopping for a new roadbike. 

Outdoor Demo
Crankbrothers was another major presence, with small booths set up all over the Demo. 

Outdoor Demo
I use Crankbrothers pedals on my own bikes and love them, so I was excited to see Interbike 2012 limited editions of all of their models. Visitors were lining up to buy them.

Outdoor Demo
And I suppose that's worth mentioning as one of the perks of these shows - access to new models, prototypes and limited editions at special prices. There was a great deal of buying and selling going on.

Outdoor Demo
The Chris King booth was experiencing a particularly brisk trade, with crowds of people swooning over the colourful headsets and hubs.

Outdoor Demo
They do know how to present their products to maximise the deliciousness factor; the hub-kebabs looked particularly fetching. 

Outdoor Demo
A few Cielo bikes (Chris King's partner brand) were on display and available for testing as well. I've shown pictures of a friend's Cyclocross model before; they are attractive and versatile bikes.

Outdoor Demo
One of the more interesting displays was the Moots booth, with their charming crocodile logo.

Outdoor Demo
Moots is a titanium bike manufacturer based in Colorado, specialising in road, mountain and cyclocross models. 

Outdoor Demo
On occasion I get questions from readers about what I think of Moots compared to Seven, but until now I had never even seen a Moots up close, let alone ridden one enough to compare. Unfortunately, I was wearing a dress and did not bring my cycling shoes (I had not planned to attend the Outdoor Demo), so a test ride was not in the cards. But visually the bikes come across very differently to me, and I am surprised that some describe them as similar. 

Outdoor Demo
Seven roadbikes have skinnier tubes than the Moots, the forks are completely different, and most notably different are the designs of the seat stays, chainstays and dropouts. I have no idea how any of it translates into ride characteristics, but aesthetically it's hard to mistake one brand for the other. 

Outdoor Demo
Oh and that alligator! Apparently modeled after a pencil eraser the company's founder had as a child.

Outdoor Demo
While I wasn't able to test ride any roadbikes, I did try a new step-through Tern folding bike model (a separate write-up of this coming up later) and found it pretty interesting.

Outdoor Demo
I also very briefly tried a Surly Pugsley, on dirt (though not the Bionx version pictured here), and found it simultaneously amazing and completely un-bikelike. The tires are fatter than anything I've ridden before and it almost did not feel like being on two wheels. 

Outdoor Demo
Later I met the representative of Urbana, which I've reviewed here before

Outdoor Demo
They were offering the new Bionx e-assist versions of the bikes for test rides, but at this point I needed to head back into town and was also on the verge of heat stroke - despite having drank water non-stop and tried to duck inside shaded booths every chance I got. 

Outdoor Demo
The intense desert heat was not to be messed around with. 

Outdoor Demo
Cycling here must be pretty tough, and I am not entirely clear on how the locals are able to stay hydrated on long rides. I drank 3 bottles of water in the course of an hour and a half, and it barely felt like enough. Not all Interbike attendees come to the Outdoor Demo, and speaking to some of them about it later the heat was cited as the major factor. Some find it simply impossible to walk around the canyon for hours, let alone to test ride bikes in any meaningful way in 100° F temperatures. 

Outdoor Demo
I am glad I was able to stop by the Outdoor Demo, if only to see the desert landscape and to get a sense for how the event is run. I would say the Demo is most useful for those who want to test ride and compare a variety of road or mountain bike models. Most of the mainstream manufacturers were represented, with a sprinkling of smaller ones. The Outdoor Demo is a two-day event held immediately before Interbike. For those interested in serious test rides I would suggest planning to be there for at least a full day, to bring cycling clothing and shoes if applicable, and to apply powerful sun screen. 

Outdoor Demo
Observing the dynamics of the event, it seemed to be at least as much about the socialising as about the test rides themselves, which is probably just generally how these things are. Watching from the sidelines, it is fun to think that major purchasing decisions of bike shops across the country are based on deals struck over beery, sunburnt conversations in the desert. Of course it is not really that simple. 

30 comments:

  1. Speaking about Moots - if you happen to wonder, which road bike to review in the nearest future, may I suggest Vamoots, if possible?

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    1. I was told the Wheelworks in Belmont is now a distributor, so you might be able to test ride a demo model yourself!

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    2. Ah, yes. I am well aware of it. But I was hoping on comparing it with your Seven.
      Well, I guess I can still do it myself if I visit Ride Studio for Seven and Wheelworks for Moots.

      And of course they are not the same - Moots has a much nicer logo! ;)

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    3. The alligator is very cute. Last night I talked to the man whose actual gator it was. He is no longer at Moots, but makes his own Ti bikes (Kent Eriksen).

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  2. You went to Ibike unprepared to ride all kinds of bikes?

    About a year or so ago I remember some interweb outrage of WSD and bloggists' comments of "sexism". Some things never change.

    Moots is not a 7, yes.

    Sorry to not see more "useful" bikes repped.

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    1. You can't test ride bikes at Interbike funny enough. I had not planned to go to the Outdoor Demo (which is a separate event technically, held before Interbike and in a diff city), but ended up arriving in LV to catch the last hour and a half of it or so.

      Moots is not a Seven, but I cannot tell you how many times I've heard them described as "basically the same."

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    2. You need to stop listening to those people.

      I like very much where Tern is going. Very cool Swoop, plus they are doing collabos w/xtracycle. Talked to a guy yesterday who was able to put his XtraTern into an elevator on public transit with a partial drum kit.

      Oh yeah shorts ftw.

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    3. Had a chance to ride that same one, didn't. And I had shorts on.

      WTF was I thinking?

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  3. Three cheers for Felt. I purchased one as my first real roadbike about 18 months ago, and I've been very satisfied. I'm a woman and did not purchase a WSD model, but the smallest men's size fits me just fine.

    I think they're a great value. I test rode models from other manufacturers at similar price points (Trek, Cannondale, Giant...). The quality of the others was nowhere close to Felt and the components were one or two levels below what came stock on the Felt.

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    1. "I'm a woman and did not purchase a WSD model, but the smallest men's size fits me just fine."

      You know, I got home and looked at the geometry charts in detail. The largest two WSD sizes and the smallest two men's (or unisex?) sizes appear to have identical geometries.

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  4. "I have no idea how any of it translates into ride characteristics, but aesthetically it's hard to mistake one brand for the other."

    I don't know the range of your audience, but I think the Moots and Seven look very similar to my less than trained eye--especially when comparing Seven Axiom S to the Moots Vamoots CR. Neither can be mistaken for a Cannondale or Trek or Specialized, both have minimal graphics, titanium tubing, and sleek looks. I get your point, just saying.

    A lot of my triathlon friends are riding Felts and love them. Apparently they are very affordable.

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    1. Interesting. So if two random steel roadbikes were painted red, would you also process them as more similar than not? or does the bare Ti have a special way of dominating the aesthetic?

      Honestly, I look at the two bikes and all I see is differences. Skinny tubes vs fat tubes, curved fork blades vs straight fork blades, curvy stays vs straight stays, and so on. But then I see dozens of Ti bikes several times a week, so my eye has learned to factor that common factor out.

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    2. Precisely. I think it's hard for you (especially since you own a Seven) to mistake one brand for another but can understand how it would be easy for others to mostly notice the dominate similar characteristics. You are a connoisseur.

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  5. Did you make it to Red Rocks? I'll be the heat was a lot, but at least you're heading home to a New England fall! Thanks for sharing all the great photos!

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  6. " I checked the temperature on my phone and saw it was 99° F."

    Only 99° ? I thought it would be more like 110° for sure!

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    1. Well I was there from 4pm, so around mid-day it was probably hotter?

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  7. An LBS carries Moots. For a bare Ti look, they come across as rather fussy to me. DeSalvo, Ti Cycles and Black Sheep do Ti the way It seems the metal begs to be used.

    The Moots cinch seat post is quite nice.

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  8. I finished my first metric in 100 degree, high humidity heat... The morning started out around a comfortable 80-ish, but soon climbed quite high. Four hours later, I had drank three 20-oz bottles and a 16-oz bottle of water/Gatorade, and still ran out around the 52 mile mark. Vomited from heat exhaustion when I got home, and slept for the rest of the day.

    Just add it to the expanding list of stupid things I've done on a bicycle...

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  9. In Texas we call 100° F "Good riding weather". Understand, when the weather is always like this, to a point your body adjusts and like a jackal, you become adept at shedding heat. I get cold in 70° F, though.

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    1. That's fascinating. I wonder how long it takes for a person's system to switch over. I think 50-60° F is ideal riding weather weather for me. Though I prefer a dry 100° F to a humid 80° F.

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    2. As a former New Englander and current southwesterner, I can confirm that you do adjust. But I don't think the temperature per se is the big issue, it's the sun exposure for me. And not just because of sunburn. There's something about all the UV light that will just suck the energy and general feeling good out of you. I find very light clothes that actually cover more of your skin helps more than the slight loss of cooling. Not sure how technical wool fabrics do out here though. And yes, it is stunning how much water you can go though without ever once having "been sweaty".

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    3. "I think 50-60° F is ideal riding weather weather for me"

      Sounds like you need to move to San Francisco or Portland!

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    4. The Portland I know is in Maine : )

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  10. I did not know about the Outdoor Demo! Do you plan to return next year and test ride multiple bikes? Can you know in advance which bikes will be available? Are regular folk allowed?

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    1. You don't have to be in the industry to attend. There is an entrance fee and a waiver thing you'd have to go through at the main site in Las Vegas.

      Not sure whether I will do any of this again next year. And to do both Interbike & Demo would mean taking a lot of time off. The Demo on the one hand seems like an ideal opportunity to compare multiple roadbikes. On the other hand, there is only so much you can do in that short time. I wonder how many roadbikes I'd be able to try in the course of 2 days and still retain & record my impressions of them. I'll certainly think about it.

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  11. 118 degrees F. is our normality in Malta... and people wonder we don't use our bikes from June to September.... heatstroke is a possiblity.

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  12. so... what did you buy? ;)

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    1. Ha. I don't like shopping under pressure, so not much. A couple of things as gifts for friends, and pedals for myself.

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