Sunday, January 10, 2010

Interesting Times

Jim and I attended the Chrono Metro Swap Meet in Madison over the weekend. This is probably one of the biggest bicycle swap meets in the country, and we have attended every year HC has been opened. We were joined by an outstanding group of gentlemen (who also happen to be customers), and from what I could tell, a good time was had by all.

We typically get to Madison mid-day on Friday so we can visit bike shops and have a good dinner before the real work begins. We always stop to visit Budget Bicycle Center, one of a chain of stores owned by the same guy for decades. Housed in an old garage, there are thousands upon thousands of bicycles on the floor, hanging by the ceiling -- literally everywhere!! They represent the history of cycling in the US and the prices are always pushing the envelope. It being cold and snowy, the manager spent a few minutes explaining their business model. "We're in the procurement business" he said and then shared that if a bike received some particular interest from customers, the owner would "come by and add a 1 before the price". The same guy owns at least 5 or 6 shops in Madison and has for decades so it must work there.

After a great dinner accompanied by adult beverages and lots of bike talk, we hit the sack in preparation for the next day. After a bit of a late start, we arrived at the show venue and got set up before the public descended on us. There are hundreds and hundreds of vendors selling everything cycling related -- old parts, new parts, vintage treasures, clothing -- you name it. The real deals are typically found before the public gets in as dealers are constantly looking for new inventory. Neither Jim or I were buying this year so I never got a chance to look around before the masses arrived.

He looks a little shady!!

The public generally starts lining up an hour or so before the start so the first hour or so is pretty hectic. Experienced swappers make at least one round of the whole show before they zero in on what they are looking for. I had brought a couple of NOS vintage Campy parts from my personal stash that drew a lot of interest. As the hours progressed, the haggling commenced and the sellers, myself included, were ready to negotiate rather than drag the stuff home. Some of my vintage stuff was heavily fondled but and not sell, but I was able to unload quite a bunch of stuff I wasn't using and made the trip home a little richer.

In general, prices seemed overly optimistic given what was being sold. Lots of well worn parts were priced at levels that exceeded what one could buy them for new on sale. This was confirmed by a number of swap veterans I know who were shocked at what people were asking. When I did get a chance to walk the aisles, there was virtually nothing I couldn't live without.

Ok, maybe this.

Its a contraption that converts a bike frame to this:

It would never replace the Pugsley as a snow bike but it would be amusing. Alas, by the time I got back there to make the guy the deal of a lifetime, he had packed up and gone.

A great time with great company. Next up, the TC Blaine Swap meet on Valentines Day.


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