“Why are you here?” It’s a question that I think every human has pondered at some point during their existence, but it seemed like a fairly heavy conversation opener from our bartender. We looked around at each other. “Umm, what do you mean by here?”
“Look around you, you see all these people? I know all of them; I don’t know you three.” Our new acquaintance scanned us over waiting for our answer. “Strangers are never in town on the weekends, they do their business during the middle of the week, and then they go home.”
“Ohhhh, you mean why are we in Hartford!” Relieved that we didn’t have to try and understand our purpose on earth over fried rice and dumplings, we began the small talk that changes strangers to acquaintances.
We tried to barter for the large ceramic lucky cat over the bar with little progress. In return, our new friend showed us a video of a black bear prowling around her property. “Look at how healthy he is!” she exclaimed. We agreed, the bear was very healthy and large.
We finally came to terms with the fact that we were in Hartford for the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. Honestly, why else would we come to Connecticut in the middle of February? Yes, on paper Hartford is a sleepy town. The business district empties like a stampede at the end of the workday, but when this contingent of the bike industry gathers it can change any dark watering hole into a festival. Rumors of three-story dance clubs, all night games of darts, and the occasional overindulgence of frothy beverages were topics discussed perhaps more than bottom bracket standards around the show floor.
A snowstorm showed up Saturday evening turning the whole city into a winter playground. We heard tales of a snowball battle involving some 60 people. Trench warfare fractured into guerilla tactics as the packable wet snow could cover some distance. The squeal of discs brakes and the hoots of happy riders sliding sideways in the snow could be heard around the corners. A drunken wheelie contest broke out here and there though everyone escaped unharmed.
As for the show itself, Saturday was jam-packed with people. A legendary game or two of Jenga went down under the guidance of Evan and Dunk at the Rotating Mass Media Booth (that’s us!), and yes there were bikes. Like lots of bikes, and they were beautiful, well a fair amount of them were. It wouldn’t be fair to single out builders because bikes are like ice cream, everyone has their own favorite flavors. I did take note that certain booths were more hopping than others. The folks at Squid Bikes seemed to be having a party at all points of the day and the man known as Poppi or Ultraromance or Benedict and his new Sklar touring Stallion seemed to attract quite the crowd as well.
There were legends of the craft, there were awards handed out, and there were lots of good times had. NAHBS is as much more of a celebration of the bicycle than it is the wheeling and dealing of the bike industry at large. Sure, some orders probably got placed with individual builders, but the orders were placed with love. I have found my people.