Glamorous brands like Look and Santini are all very well and they certainly attract a crowd whether they exhibit at a big public show or a more intimate 'trade-only' affair like the one we've been at these last two days hosted by Fisher Outdoor Leisure, one of the big importers and distributors to the UK's independent bike shops.
One interesting thing you soon notice, though, is that it's always the young assistant managers and mechanics you'll find excitedly firing questions at SRAM asking about the exact adjustment of the new Red front derailleur or how the cables run through a Look frame.
The owners and buyers for those shops are just as likely to be found in a huddle with the rep who looks after budget pedals or bulk-buy rim tapes. Why's that, you wonder. Have they lost the love for the shiny kit? Surely they can't enjoy talking about the everyday merchandise that makes up the 30,000-or-so Stock Control Units that make a bike shop functional and most importantly useful for the customers?
There's the key; useful. They know that when they open the shop tomorrow the first customer through the door won't be asking about the weight of Look's 695 frame. It will be a parent asking about mounting a child-seat on their bike or what tyres to choose for the daily commute. The ones that last don't just survive and put up with it, they positively relish being able to say, "Ah-ha, have I got just the thing for you?" And it's at Fisher's Expo that you find those things, once you've looked at the Look 695 frame again - did you see that naked carbon finish? And the new, more elegant C-Stem?
Hollywood have been making bike racks for cars - in, guess where? yes, THAT Hollywood or nearby - since the 1970s and the man we met yesterday, President Neil Nusbaum, is the third generation of Nusbaums that has made Hollywood racks so it's reasonable to assume he's more knowledgeable than most about it. Admittedly, it's not every car that has a tow ball but they're easy and not too expensive to get fitted and Neil says he's noticed that as more people are cycling and sometimes necessarily driving places with their bikes, the more important it becomes to do the job properly with a rack that is rigid, accessible and out of the petrol-sucking airstream. The new FT3 rack holds up to three bikes with an all-up weight of no more than 64Kg and separates them nicely so they don't scratch. The unit hinges out of the way if you need to open your tailgate and locks with a padlock so that the rack itself can't be stolen.
Weldtite is a British company from the Midlands that has been making things like puncture repair outfits, tools and lubricants for bicycles (and motorbikes! - Ed) since Queen Victoria was probably unamused by the first wave of cycling enthusiasts. Recognising the increasing call for cleaners and the like that you can safely flush down the drain without slaughtering aquatic life, Weldtite has worked for two years developing the Pure range that is absolutely 100% non-petrochemical-based and even comes in packaging including all bio-degradable clear dispensers. Every cyclist needs chain oil; it doesn't hurt to look at one that's healthy and in this case even British-made.
We've seen DZR shoes from the USA before but the range is getting bigger as the word seems to be going round that they're no more expensive than premium trainers, look cool and work as proper cycling shoes. The extra bonus is that a large percentage of the construction materials are recycled. Most visibly, on some of the models we saw like the women's Jetlag model above for £79.99, the wide strap that forms the closure is made from a retired car safety belt.