An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oregon Handmade Bike and Beer Festival

I've had a few days to absorb the weekend, but I'm still flying high from it all. I'm sure the full impact of the two days won't be evident for quite some time. Most likely they're only a beginning launching point, a brick in the foundation on which greater things will be built.

While this wasn't the first time I had shown my handiwork to "the public", it was the first in an environment meant to showcase the specific genre of handmade bike frames. I was excited and nervous, and more than once referred to myself as the geeky freshman trying to hang out with the varsity football team. The nerd at the cool kids table.

I had attended the two previous editions of this event as a looky-loo (2013 and 2014), visually taking in some of the best builders in the Pacific Northwest (at least the Oregon chapter). I had started doing some framebuilding in 2013, and at last year's event made the goal (promise?) to attend this year as an exhibitor. It was in my thoughts all year, with each file stroke on a tube, each drop of brass added to a joint. What would I take with me? And more importantly, what would I bring back?

Two days prior my car decided to have issues with an ignition coil. A tense several hours ensued where I wasn't sure if I would be scrambling to rent a van to make the trip south. But a local repair shop had my car back on the road by noon Friday, and I had plenty of time to pack up for the early drive to Portland.

My car isn't a moving van by any means, and my original plan had to be altered due to lack of space in the vehicle. Packed in were: my road bike, fully built save pedals; the recently-finished triathlon bike in partial build (fork, wheels and handlebars); my all-road bike fully built and ready for the Sunday morning group ride (I hadn't planned to actually show this one, so I hadn't even cleaned it); and one bare frame/fork. My wife suggested late in the afternoon that maybe I should bring my daughter's kick bike, just as an interest-getter. Turns out that was a good idea.

I arrived at about 7:15, nearly the first person there. I unloaded my displays, set up, then helped others where I could. By 10:30 I was biding my time until the gates opened to the public at noon.

But when the clock struck 12, the people filtered in, and the rest of the day went by in a blur of conversations, photos and smiles. I don't think I even looked at the clock again until 4:30, half the expo time gone for the day.

I had put my all-road bike out front, with my daughter's kick bike, matching paint schemes. Best. Move. Ever. This combo caught so much attention. Many people taking photos, asking questions, a great ice-breaker. One gentleman asked me to pose with the kick bike, holding it like it were a baby. I obliged. Who knows where that picture will turn up. Late Saturday, one gentle soul came by, admitting he'd had enough beer to make him a little buzzed, and started poring over the two bikes... Tearing up, he told me, "I've got to tell you, this is just $%@&ing ART, man."

The triathlon bike also generated a lot of attention, with the seemingly long wheelbase. I explained many times that the smaller wheels made it look that way, but that it was actually fairly conventional. I explained the reasons for the design, and it was replied with nods of understanding. People realized that there's a thought process, not just a cookie cutter, behind each build.

Heading to my hotel at about 9:30, I showered and got to bed, drifting off quickly. In the morning, I realized I had not spent the night alone...

Getting to the Sunday morning group ride was an adventure in itself, as all the north/south roads were closed due to the Portland Marathon. I did finally get there, after nearly 30 minutes of wandering around, following bad directions given me by one of Portland's finest, and stumbling on a highway entrance ramp.

A beautiful tour of the Washington Park, Green Hills, and Marquam Nature Park ensued before dropping back to Goose Hollow. A very nice ride I hope to repeat. A quick load-up and dash back to Hopworks, and I was ready for the afternoon crowds.

Day two was very different -- fewer people, more mellow, music not as loud (thankfully), but just as interested. And the day rolled by fast.

By 6:30 I was loaded up and on the road headed home, having thanked those in charge for welcoming this newbie hack into their midst.

The next day I received an email from Hopworks with a link to the photo spread in the Oregonian. I had spent some time with the photographer, and it turned out that of the 80 photos in the spread, six of them were of my bikes!

Take-aways? Comments were all positive. Maybe that's just a case of "if you don't have anything nice to say...", but I think I would have heard something negative if people were finding my wares faulty. I think I should have some to show that aren't just rattle-can painted (though they looked pretty good, having a fully-dressed model catches more attention). I also got some great ideas for future displays.

I guess that means I'll be back.

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