I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. Weighing up the idea of looking at bikes and gear versus being out on the bike was something I’d spent time on. After all, my time is limited alongside working full time. Is it worth it? Should I just cancel? In the end, I went. I’d spent the money on parking already so it seemed to make sense.
The NEC Cycling Show seemed like it might be a laugh and it wasn’t a million miles away so, with bleary eyes from the early start, I packed up the camera and grabbed some stickers to hand out before meeting with Scott and heading off towards Birmingham. Neither of us really knew what to expect but we’d read online about some of the retailers and thought we’d find something interesting there. If nothing else we’d ogle at some bikes, chat to some interesting people, and then head home early.
My initial reaction, after driving through the town that is the NEC – with its intertwined roads and roundabouts – was that the Cycling Show was small. Really small. We’d walked past Gardener’s World Live on the way and spotted all the people. The exhibition at the Cycling Show paled in comparison; we could see all four walls of the room from the entrance doors. I imagined, at that moment, we’d be around the stands in about half an hour and on our way back to Yorkshire. Still, we were there so we decided to make the most of it… with a sit-down fish and chip dinner from the cafe. You know, because that’s what you go to a cycling show for.
With the renewed optimism of full stomachs, we decided to give the show a chance and made our way around the exhibitors. Whilst the event was indeed small – much more so than I’d really have liked – there were some fantastic people there. Atherton Bikes drew the biggest crowds with their additive manufacturing and sleek bikes. Either that or the fact that Gee, Dan, and Rachel were all there taking selfies. Either way, catching up with some of the folks behind the scenes there was great – I’d not seen them since I’d almost ended up with a job there back in February of this year. The ‘fireside talk’ with the Atherton siblings was also an interesting listen, even if I did end up spending some time explaining to Scott some of the references they were making.
Kendal Mint Co. and Styrkr were also there. I’ve worked with both previously but never actually met anyone behind the logos. Getting to put faces to the email names is a pleasure that, because of covid, hasn’t been something I’ve been able to do much. Of course, thank you was in order to both for sharing their brilliant products with me in the past.
Otherwise, we spent the day visiting just about every other exhibitor with any kind of interest to us. We chatted to Kat, a custom bike painter; had a good look at the Niner Bikes stand; and saw some of the Shand bikes in person. From Odd Outdoors socks to South Coast Roast coffee, we spent every minute eeking out as much enjoyment from the relatively small room as possible. The Fusion Extreme demo had us stopped for a good amount of time before turning around to find Raven Hill Brewery right behind. Obligatory sample, and four cans purchased, we decided to call it a day and head home.
Overall, I left happy. The day was a decent one and I don’t regret my decision to forgo a day on the bike. It wasn’t exactly what I’d expected but, from what I understand, it was the first National Cycling Show at the NEC – or at least the first one run by this particular company. And, with that in mind, I thought it was satisfactory enough. I’ve been asked a couple of times if it’s something I’d go back to and my answer is yes. I’m sure, especially with more time and money, it’ll continue to grow and grow. I’d really like to see more bike brands there: I think that’d pull in a bigger crowd and the whole atmosphere would boom because of it. Some more retailers, even if they’ve also got direct competition there, would give people more reason to visit. But, in summary, it was something I’d do again even if it means giving up a day actually riding my bike.