First things first- Every September comes that time of the year when people who work in and around the bicycle industry converge on Las Vegas, Nevada in order to attend the American International Bicycle and Bicycle Accessories Trade Show.
There you will see all the best that most manufacturers have to offer. I say ‘most’ because these days a number of the bigger companies hold their own product launches, or forget to book their flights. Yet still a fair portion of smaller companies, or independent manufacturers who at one time or another have sworn off the event forever will recant those statements and begrudgingly arrive to make the scene anyway.
I believe with the exception of 2001, I’ve been attending for nearly two decades.
For at least two years I swore it off as well, and promised myself I would never return, but like a crack pipe, you always make your way back to it.
It was in 2006 that I opted to make an effort to provide something for people to do other than attend the typical exclusive velvet rope functions that the big companies would host, or to wander around the strip like a sad zombie carrying their fifty cent hotdog, and bar mat margarita. Secondly, I wanted to assemble a gathering that anyone could attend in the hopes that it might in some small way, incrementally include a few potentially non-bike folks into our fold. As I’ve stated from the outset, and still hold dear, ‘this is a party for the rest of us‘.
I called the new version of this gathering ‘The Underbike Industry Mixer®’, and at first it was a throw back to the S.O.P.W.A.M.T.O.S. parties of yore.
I know that most folks don’t recall those, but they were full of goodhearted derelicts, a majority of whom for whatever reason were wearing wigs.
So as an homage to those who partied in the olden days, the wig became a key componant in those initial bashes. For three years, we got down in style at The Peppermill;
There we sat by the bubbling fire pit, shooting the breeze, as we proceeded to drink the bar out of every last one of their beers.
The following year I included Ritte Van Vlaanderen into the fold, as it was their first year at the show, and at the request of the bar manager the previous year, I gave them fair advance warning that we would be arriving in great numbers, and probably pretty thirsty;
Even still, we drank them out of all of their beer again.
On the third year, I decided to bring Paved Magazine into the sheninagans because it was just after their launch and I thought it would be a nice thing to do;
Plus, I reckoned that since I was writing for them, that would be enough for a decent tie-in.
Once again, the bar ran out of beer.
So at this stage, it was us-3, Las Vegas-0. I decided to bring the event back to the place where we had the very first unofficial Underbike party in 1997;
The place is called The Double Down Saloon, and when I say that it’s a total shithole, I mean it in the nicest possible way.
Same as the previous three years, I gave the bar manager ample warning that I’d be bringing in some heavy hitters, to which he responded repeatedly that they wouldn’t run out of beer.
Throwing caution to the wind, I put our fate into their hands, and inspired by this clip;
I brought a band along for the ride;
It was loud, proud and we blew the roof off the bar. And we wore wigs.
Oh yeah, but the bar ran out of beer.
I should note that at the last minute on this year, Swobo stepped up in a huge way after Paved bailed on me for any financial support of the event, citing that “(their) advertisers wouldn’t understand them being involved in a party with other entities not involved with the magazine.”
I supposed the fact that I wrote for them wasn’t enough of an association, so flipping them a double bird, I stepped on and it worked out fine.
At the risk of spreading sour grapes, there still aren’t enough ‘suckits‘ in the world for that move.
Anyway, at that point, after caching out two bars of all of their beer over the course of four years, in 2013 I opted to bring things to Old Town to a venue I knew well enough could hold the volume in both people as well as refreshments;
Even though nobody wore wigs (the theme this year was wearing clothes that made your ass look good, and to not get a haircut for the year leading up to it), it was the funnest party ever. That is for the exception of when Roy of The Black Jetts was in the middle of a heated thermion solo and he accidentally knocked the monitor off the stage square onto Demonika’s foot.
She toughed it out far better than I would have, and as we all melted into the darkness, the bar remained stocked.
That was the foot my preverbal glass slipper needed to fit, so in 2014, Paul Component Engineering, Ritte Van Vlaanderen, new comer Superissimo and I again converged on the Bar of Beauty with a whole new bag of tricks;
As people with eyeballs can see, we hosted the big rock and roll sounds of Portland’s Gaythiest, and it was great.
However once again, the bar ran out of beer.
For last year’s seventh consecutive bash-o-rama, we had a very special surprise in store;
I’d somehow coerced the all mighty Lady Sinatra to reform for one special performance, and not a face in the crowd was left unmelted;
This year there is a very special surprise in store at a brand new venue called The Bunkhouse Saloon.
There we will have plenty of room to mingle, high five, catch up, make new friends, and if you wish, get down to the loud rock and roll sounds of the almighty Who Rides The Tiger;
It’s gonna be a good one.
So please, feel free to come one and all to the not-quite-greatest, but not-quite-worst show on earth.