Interbike is over and we are just killing time for a day before we fly back to the UK. For Chipps this was Interbike number 17, for Jon it was his first. I’ve now done three. Vegas is an amazing city, but don’t let the use of that adjective fool you into thinking it’s necessarily meant in a positive way – the fact the common cold is still incurable is amazing; the viewing figures for The X Factor are amazing and similarly Vegas is amazing.
It shouldn’t exist. It’s a big irrigated city in the middle of one of the most arid and inhospitable places on earth. Death Valley is just a short tour bus ride away. People drive, breakdown and die out there. Riding bikes in the desert is great anecdote fuel but the truth is it’s extremely uncomfortable and if as press we couldn’t blag our entry to the one air-conditioned tent with water and food out there I just wouldn’t do it. There’s several thousand US based dealers who do that though. They stay out all day and queue at the booths (stands) for bikes to demo. That’s amazing.
The city itself is like nowhere else on earth. The strip consists of endless huge hotels so big they are called resorts. They are often linked together so you can walk for several miles from one to the other without exposing yourself to the heat of the sun. Stepping outside is like walking into an oven. Every indoors area is air-conditioned and chilly, designed to differentiate outdoors where there are few opportunities to spend money from indoors where there are limitless temptations. And that, in essence is what Vegas is all about. Like no other city I have ever been to, every part is designed to extract money from you. From the endless casinos and incessant slot machines to to the multiple shopping malls and bars. Nothing is free here and you are made abundantly clear of that fact wherever you look. The staff (or team members as they are known) are all incredibly polite and welcoming but I get the feeling that we are all just cash cows ready to be milked to them and with so many chances to spend or lose your cash here they will take every desperate opportunity to make sure you lose yours with them. It’s so noisy that we’ve found it practically impossible to find any part of it quiet enough to film our roundup videos at the end of each day. The only place that you can call quiet is our hotel room and even that is at a constant level that would keep me awake back home. It’s a 24 hour city too. The casinos have no windows or clocks – a tactic designed to offer no visual clues that you are still losing money at 4am and you should go to bed. On my last trip here I ate a stack of pancakes with cream, butter, bacon and maple syrup at 3am in a crowded restaurant! We fly tomorrow but I’ve really had enough now. I just want to go home to Vicki and the dog. I want green views. I want it to rain. I even want vegetables!
So why the hell has this been the home of Interbike for so many years? It’s a horrible city to ride bikes in. In almost every way it seems to be the most unsuitable place to hold what used to be the world’s largest gathering of the bike industry (Eurobike is now considerably bigger and earlier)?
Last year Interbike organisers decided it was time to move out of Vegas and after considering the likes of Salt Lake City they settled on Anaheim in California. Now I’ve never been to Salt Lake City or Anaheim so I can’t really compare either to Vegas, but there was almost a revolution in the industry! There were threats of none attendance from so many dealers and exhibitors that the organisers, with just weeks to spare, cancelled all the plans and very quickly rebooked everything for Vegas – situation normal. It seems the industry is in love with Vegas – One of the hottest and most un-environmental cities on earth. It seems almost shameful.
But the thing is the bike industry is small – in a relative sense. There are few ‘conglomerate’ sized companies and the bulk of the industry is made up of people who rode bikes, fell in love with them and then made it their life by working in it. The vast majority are cyclists who make a living from cycling and having that commonality means there’s an awful lot of friendships and relationships linking so many people who for one week a year get to meet up in the most jaw dropping of cities in the world. The opportunities for meeting up and catching up here are endless and that’s why they are here. Cyclists are a social bunch and the bike industry compared to many others is not cut throat. Any company rivalries tend to be restricted to the money people – the staffers just see other people who ride bikes and as such meeting up in bars, going to amazing shows (amazing here in the good sense) and generally eating your own bodyweight in food over a week is something they (we) all look forward to for the whole year. Despite the reputation of the city for gambling – and there are certainly plenty of opportunities to give it a go – I’ve never actually seen any bike show people at the tables or the slots. It strikes me that this is because they are not here for that but to meet each other. That’s why the bars overflow with bike industry every evening. After the show there’s lots of hugging (handshaking if you are British) and promises of meeting up before next year but the truth is most of us know we won’t see these people again for at least 12 months.
It’s decadent and over indulgent definitely but an industry that comes together for a week once a year, has fun and goes home happy I think is a good thing for the industry. That’s not to say that work is not done.. An awful lot of deals are done, new stock ordered, meetings are arranged (I had a particularly lengthy and extremely productive publisher type meeting as well as showing off Singletrack to a lot of potential advertisers) but If the fun side spurs people on to love the jobs they do and to keep their love affair with bikes going for another year then I think we all ultimately benefit from that. Any business needs to let it’s hair down once in a while, from the small shop to the huge corporation. The bike industry is no different. And that’s why they come to Sin City each year.
Oh and this year I break danced with a woman who looked like Connie Huq in a country and western bar after Willie Nelson popped in to do one song on the Kareoke. There’s video out there… That could only happen in Vegas.
Now… enough about bikes. Here’s my touristy flavour of Sin City for you.