Even on a day when the air bites at the skin with -20 wind chills, there is something that can bring hope to the frozen heart of a cyclist. The Toronto International Bike Show unofficially marks the beginning of the cycling season. Each year I go not to shop, but to see familiar faces, see what's new, and who's new. The last few years I've wrote about my experience. You can find links to those event reviews below.
All trade and consumer shows have there ups and downs. And this one is not immune to it either. When I used to go as a kid, it seemed like the grandest of spectacles with BMX flat ground demos, half pipes, and bikes, bikes, bikes. They’ve got bike polo and test tracks, but the Toronto International Bike show is far more tame now.
Each year you'll find the usual suspects. Local bike shops taking up half the hall with truck loads of inventory for bargain hunters to poke at. In the market side of the show floor you can find anything from kids bikes to mountain bikes, commuters to serious road bikes. And all the apparel and accessories still left in the bargain bin back at the shop. The other half of the exhibit hall is split by manufacturers beside local and international tourism boards, ski resorts, and cycling hotels promoting their cycling destinations. In one afternoon you can buy your new bike and plan a trip to ride it.
There is always a sprinkle of new vendors on hand. In fact, these are usually the ones I enjoy the most. In the past few years we've seen Quoc Pham shoes, No 22 bikes, and this year, Smith Optics came on strong. It was rad to see them with a full presence at the show. Not just a local rep with a quick pop up backdrop and some demos out of a bag. I'm a fan of their shades off the bike and have been thinking about making a switch to them on the road. Overall booth traffic was quiet on Friday night so I got to spend some time learning about the tech, trying them on, and getting prices.
Trek has a local flagship store in the city so they're usually at the show too. This year came big with a well designed display of flagship whips. To be honest, I only cared about the road bikes and was drooling at the Trek Segafredo Madone SLR 9 Disc eTap. She was dripping with the new SRAM Red AXS that everyone is clamouring for. It's been a while since I've ridden a big box brand, but hey, I wouldn't throw this one out for eating crackers.
All. Things. Titanium. Local folks from No 22 were nowhere to be seen but Litespeed filled in the category with a booth showcasing their Ti lineup and a bit of Rolf Prima. For those looking for new wheels. The branding on Litespeed has never been my thing, but since off road riding is on my mind right now, I was interested to see their Ti gravel frame set aptly named…. Gravel.
But something about the overall vibe was off this year. It all sort of felt like we jumped the shark a little bit. Amongst the manufacturer section I found a few factory direct brands. I have no way of saying for sure, but maybe the cancelation of Interbike this year forced manufacturers and small brands to seek new venues for reaching customers and dealers. To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it.
The local bike show tends to pull a very diverse crowd. And a large 20'x20' booth with loud paint jobs and low prices can draw a lot of attention. That's not a problem in itself, but I'm not convinced that everyone knows exactly what they are looking at, or what they are buying. I took a quick shot that exemplifies the problems that I saw. From a far, the full bike looked ok. The closer and closer I got, the more concerned I became. Hopefully the allure of the low sticker prices may have been offset by the event specials in all the local shop booths.
Will I go back next year? I honestly don't know. It's hard to say no when you've been stuck inside all winter waiting for signs of spring. The next day I woke up glad that I went and got to spend some time with the guys from, Blacksmith Cycle, chatted with Canadian Cycling, and talked to some friends about this years upcoming Northern Pass. Maybe I need to look at it more like a cycling social event with some shopping potential.