The past few weeks have been lovely for cycling in Edinburgh, down to long-sleeved Helly Hansen temperatures at times and almost no rain at all. The only problem is, I've been battling a cold (like everyone else I think) and then battling a cold that turned into a cough, which went into my lungs and into my sinuses. By the end of last week riding every day was getting to be just too much, when my usual chestfuls of fresh air were met with coughing fits and and endless supply of tissues. I would've admitted environmental defeat and taken to the VFR, but it was still in a garage having its exhaust mended.
But never mind my health, I wanted to support Laid Back Bikes in only their second proper public display at a bike show. I missed the more local show at the Royal Highland Centre near the airport, but I did make it through to the SECC in Glasgow. Having been a fairly frequent visitor to the Weege in recent months for other bikey stuff involving Bromptons, ferries, trains, snow, and beer, it was a pleasant but headwindy two mile ride from Queen Street railway station down a mobbed Buchanan Street to the River Clyde, out past the Meccanotastic Finnieston Crane and along to the venue. I was last at the SECC for a camping, biking, boating outdoorsy show, so long ago that I was writing about it in English class at school.
Being a clever little girl, I had already researched the bicycle parking facilities, revealing them to be somewhat limited: a couple of racks at each of the main doors, and each rack good for half a dozen bikes at the most; not that much capacity for somewhere hosting a bike show, I thought. But I rode my Brompton, so I didn't need to bother with all that tedious locking up outside stuff, or worry about security. It turned out that they had actually set aside the entirety of Hall 5 for cycle parking inside, but even by my fashionably late standard of 12.30pm it wasn't what you would call stowed out. Like most exhibitioney places, the SECC is well served with car parking, but unlike Birmingham's NEC, which is convenient only for powered transport, you can actually walk to the SECC very easily, or you can take a brisk half-hour walk from the railway station, or you can take a bus, or even hire a bicycle. The SECC was built on the old filled-in Queen's Dock, which is on a fairly central and therefore accessible bit of the Clyde, instead of being a barren patch of tarmac eight miles from the city and on the wrong side of an airport and railway line.
Fold-fold-fold-fold and in I went, left the little bike under guard and collected my ticket. I'd paid £7.50 in advance rather than £10.00 on the door, which felt like good enough value to me, and so I wandered over to Hall 3 to visit Laid Back Bikes. And y'know, maybe check out the other stuff going on there too. No sooner than I'd arrived and unpacked my camera than I bumped into my friend Susie, who'd already been round the exhibition and was just leaving. Then after two shots my flashgun's battery died, which at least lightened the load on my neck; unlike the outspoken Ken Rockwell I'm still using the undoubtedly awful standard Nikon strap, which to his credit is actually quite uncomfortable. Laid Back Bikes was doing a roaring trade by all accounts. I said hello to David and Irene and was about to wander somewhere else when I bumped into George the Cameraman. I didn't recognise him at first, but we'd met six years ago when I helped out (she says, modestly) with a video he was making with Laid Back Bikes. And then I bumped into Keith, the very happy new owner of my infamous Speedmachine. I miss that bike, actually, even though my knees don't. On display at the LBB stand were two trikes and three bikes: I'd seen the silver Challenge Alize trike before, parked outside The Bicycleworks back in Edinburgh, and enjoyed its 'jet plane' looks. The dark red ICE Sprint possibly stole the show, though, even alongside a bright orange Challenge Fujin SL. Of course this was Laid Back Bikes, and the Nazca Fuego—almost David's signature bike now—was on prominent display and resplendent in a deep blue that was like looking into a river.
So I went wandering around, past Ironwood's build-your-own-wooden-bicycle stand and past some slightly anonymous and not very memorable stands demonstrating roadie stuff (too much carbon, not enough money) and BMXey stuff (too much radicaldudeness, not enough gears) and arrived at The Bike Chain's display, and bumped into Adam who'd much earlier furnished me with a long-handled allen wrench for my Brompton; TBC's owner Mark was flitting around between bikes and customers and being busy as, well, a bee. I like The Bike Chain a lot. By then some of the Edinburgh contingent from the citycyclingedinburgh forum bumped into me and we powered around the place, taking photos of the BMX area, complete with a quite impressive ramp setup and some daring riders. I only saw one accident in which the unfortunate rider landed backwards and fell hard onto the floor on his back. There wasn't an awed silence from the crowd, half of whom wouldn't have seen it anyway, nor from the riders themselves, who were all well hard. I did wonder though if he would be wearing a back protector in future; that's something that's on my shopping list for motorbiking to replace the foam thing in the back of my Hein Gericke jacket, and the excuse for a foam thing in the back of my leathers.
Later on two more of the Edinburgh forum arrived, having cycled all the way, and into the wind, and we decamped to the back of the arena to drink fruit juice, eat incredibly sugary, fattening things, and try out some of the Electra crank-forward(ish) bikes. Not as crank-forward as RANS builds, but enough that you could immediately feel the sit-up-straight, shoulders-back, relaxing riding position. We took turns to ride to and fro, while taking photographs and smiling and shouting encouraging things.
After being shown how to clean my sprockets using some very hi-tech long flexible bristle brushes with fleece woven into them (I think someone actually invented them a century ago, and called them pipecleaners...) at one stand, and being really impressed by Trakke's locally made messenger bags (like Crumpler without the sexist, vulgar advertising, or Carradice with cheery primary colours), and had I not already bought my Timbuk2 bag I would've been very tempted to buy, I ended up back at the Laid Back Bikes stand and chatted to a lady who was most taken with the ICE trike. She told me all about her cycling history and how much she'd enjoyed riding her custom built touring bicycle back in the day.
I still hadn't had any lunch though so I visited the little cafe for a hugely overpriced chicken and mushroom pasty ("D'ya wannit warmed up, luv?" "Yes please.") which I promptly discovered was so warm it burned my tongue, although it was actually very tasty. After leaving a pile of pastry flakes on my napkin and saying a farewell to some of the Edinburgh people, I was back in the sunshine on Henrietta Brompton and rolling along towards the station again.
Next year for the Scottish Bike Show? Probably, but to support local businesses more than anything else. Apart from the Trakke bags, I wasn't tempted to buy anything at all, or put in an order for anything. To tell the truth, these days I kind of have everything I need for cycling these days. But 2011 was the very first Scottish Bike Show, and the organisers took a pretty good stab at it.