Interbike is North America's premier expo of innovation in the cycling industry. In other words, its where all the industry people rub elbows and show off. It's where new fancy touts its schmancy and the latest trends proliferate. All the drivers of the industry bus are together in the same place--Las Vegas, at the same time--last weekend. It costs a pretty bundle to get yourself a spot to exhibit at Interbike, which means that your admittance as a vendor is akin to crossing a certain threshold which is measured in dollars. And those who can't afford a table or don't have anything to show off are usually there to scope the thing out, see whose table is crowded and see what the fuss is about to be about. They claim that you'll “reach over 10,000 targeted retailers, buyers, and journalists from over 60+ countries,” and “promote your brand and innovative products to a captive audience.” There are buyers.
Bike Bike on the other hand, is for those members of the cycling community who aren't in it to win it, so to speak. The conference took place this year in San Francisco where hundreds of people from across the country came to share knowledge of community bike projects, kitchens, churches and learn from one another the secrets to keeping such a decidedly profitless venture afloat. Their mission:
Bike!Bike! is an annual conference of community bicycle projects from around the country (and abroad) who come together in order to explore and affirm our common values; to create networks for sharing tools, organizational structures, funny stories and new skills; to inspire and invigorate ourselves to continue the work we do in our many communities; and to meet athletic strangers. We particularly strive to challenge the status quo that all too often excludes communities of color, enforces gender norms, and fails to provide options for those without money to spend. Another priority of BikeBike is to demonstrate and propagate successful consensus-based, non-hierarchical models of organizing. Our member projects have a variety of approaches to serving their cities and neighborhoods. Whether it is by teaching people to fix their own bikes, direct political bike advocacy, bike education in schools, yellow bike programs, or by recycling used bikes out of the waste stream, we all work towards a more sustainable, bike-filled and bike friendly future.
On the one hand, I think the overt counter purposes of the two get-togethers prove the strength of the cycling community's diversity. Many of bike-bike's participants would have little to work with if not for the stream of waste produced by interbike's consumer-driven innovators. But as I started, the nearness of the two events this year drives home the point that the visitors and vendors at Interbike are less and less the same people going to Bike Bike and vise versa. Which is to say, cycling as an industry shares little with cycling the movement, which is to say much of what drives their increasing market. As much as the participants of bike bike are not shopping at Performance or Velocity, their work in cities across the country means that more people everywhere are needing tubes and tires and bar tape and lights and even maybe one of the headbanger helmets debuted this year.
Now I know as well as the next guy that not everyone at Interbike is interested in the free gift in the form of political agenda so often given away in community bike programs. However. In a community as closely knit as cycling, separations are rarely as clear cut as holding separate conferences in different cities. Among bikes, I'd say we're not usually about dichotomies. So why this one?