Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Herding cats

About 5-6 years ago a guy named Don Walker created a bike show specifically for small framebuilders. Much discussion of such a show had been made over the years but nobody could agree on the location, vision , requirements or really anything at all to create such a show. This is the world of framebuilders, opinionated, individualistic, sometimes downright bristly folks who although all involved in the same livelyhood cannot seem to get together on much of anything, at least when it comes to doing something as a group. Along comes Don Walker who pretty much says :" O.K., folks, we have been kicking this around for years, its time for somebody to actually stick thier neck out and make it happen." Stick his neck out he did and as a result we now have the premier framebuilders expo, the North American Handmade bike show. Don's creation is arguably the best place for a small builder to show what they make and some newer builders owe a lot to Don and his creation. One would think that all would be harmonious now that a travelling show ( it travels so that framebuilders who are scattered all over the country can some day count on having the show at or near where they live ) would tame all of these stron individualistic builders into a somewhat cohesive group for at least the 4-5 days of the show. In the last two years this cohesion has broken down and a few smaller shows have been popping up here and there, a couple in Portland , Oregon , one in Denver , another in Ashland, Oregon ( Connected to the United Bicycle acadamy , a school that is perhaps the best place to learn framebuilding on earth) and now one in San Diego, California. Why more shows ? Well.......it's like this: A group of individuals ( Framebuilders ) who really couldn't agree on much as a rule now have issues with Don Walkers show . Don's style , although heavy handed at times evolved from having some really daunting problems putting on his show. Eevry year Don hosts his show he gets a lttle more savvy at figuring out what will make it successful but the very things that make the show financially viable can be at odds with what some of the framebuilders want. If the show is to survive it has to make a profit , regardless of what that might mean in terms of turning some of the framebuilders off. This year the show was held in Indianapolis, Don's home town. While a bunch of west coast framebuilders opted out of the show, it still was well attended and turned out to be quite a sucess. Not to be outdone, the west coast contingent....or at least a small portion thereof has created a smaller framebuilder show to be held this weekend in San Diego. I will be exhibiting at this show and I am curious to see weather it will garner anywhere near the attention from the public that Don's show attracts. A very established and talented framebuilder Brian Bayliss along with David Ybarolla and some others has created this show and I have no doubt that the organization will be good and that the amenities will be top-notch. Don's show will probably continue to be the largest and most important show of its kind but these smaller shows will allow each demographic to try and see who has the best response to such shows and which of these shows will survive in the future. It's all symtomatic of trying to herd cats, otherwise known as framebuilders.

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