by Jared Williams, PCI # 1214
Tacoma (WA) Police Department
Interbike. This event has conjured up dreams for me for well over a decade. It is touted as the largest annual gathering of the Bicycle Industry in North America. I entered into the bike industry as a poor college student in 2004, getting my start as a bike mechanic at a shop in Tacoma, Washington. This year is the first year I have had the opportunity and means to attend. I was told by prior attendees that it is not as big or fun as it used to be, but I didn’t let that discourage my excitement. In fact, I found it to be quite fun and a wonderful experience.
I attended the event with fellow PCI Jason Bain from Saint Paul, Minnesota. We began our first morning at the Industry Breakfast, meeting up with Clint Sandusky (retired IPMBA member and former PCI). After breakfast, we quickly made our way to the exhibition hall in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. While past conferences may have been larger, I was still quite impressed with the size of the expo. Seeing all of the shiny new technology on display made me a bit giddy, like a kid in a candy store. We began walking through the conference hall, stopping to greet and thank our current affiliated vendors and industry partners. Along the way, we met with numerous other vendors and began the process of building new relationships within the industry. Throughout the following days, we learned about new products and technology, test rode some e-Bikes, and I even competed in the 2nd Annual Mechanics Challenge!
It was impossible to walk 100 feet without encountering an exhibitor offering their own take on the e-Bike craze that seems to be sweeping the nation. If you don’t know what an e-Bike is, you’ve probably been living under a rock. For you under-rock-dwellers, an e-Bike is any bicycle that is assisted by an electronic motor. Interbike featured an entire test-ride track set up where you could ride a whole variety of e-Bikes. I rode full suspension setups, hard tails, and rigid setups to see what the craze was all about. I can definitely see a place for e-Bikes in a first responder world. Most of the bikes have pedal-assist technology, which kick in when the rider is pedaling. Other setups have a throttle button that allows the bike to speed along with no pedal input from the rider. I found it quite amazing how little effort it took to pedal at seemingly break-neck speeds. My favorite test-ride was a “drifter trike” – although I don’t think these setups have much of a place in a public safety setting.
I believe e-Bike technology can be a benefit to police, security, and EMS. Police officers can respond to priority calls with much less effort and still have gas in the tank to engage a threat upon arrival. EMS can utilize the technology to help them easily haul around the heavy weight of their equipment. I certainly think there is a learning curve, and e-Bikes should not be implemented without further research and training.
In addition to seeing plenty of e-Bikes, I was able to make contact with numerous vendors in hopes of setting them up with the Product Purchase Program, and to secure products for test and evaluation. This includes numerous types of products, including gloves, grips, pedals, bags, tires, armor, saddles, lighting, and plenty of other accessories. I also contacted some other non-profits including Project Bike Tech (bringing the skills of bicycle mechanics into high-schools and after-school programs), and the PBMA (Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association). My hope is that IPMBA is able to become affiliated with both of these non-profits in the future, as I believe we can mutually benefit each other.
One of the companies I am personally excited about getting involved with is G-Form. G-Form is well known in the mountain biking industry for their armor. The armor is very flexible and comfortable, yet offers superior protection. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like the armor would protect that well, as the pads are soft and flexible. However, the pads harden upon impact (this happens at the molecular level), absorbing the energy and protecting the rider. Thanks, Science! G-Form offers numerous types of pads, ranging from full body protection to something as minimal as knee and elbow pads.
My most memorable experience of the show was participating in the Mechanics’ Challenge. There was plenty of stiff competition, as some of the participants were racing team mechanics, where time is of the essence for repairs. My method of repair is more along the lines of “slow and steady wins the race.” This method didn’t translate as well as I thought it would to a competitive setting. There were four stations, all mostly basic bike shop routines. Of course, changing a 700c tire blindfolded is not something I typically did during my shop days. Although my heat competitor beat me in three of the four stations, I smoked him on the water bottle cage and mirror installation station. My overall time was 17:30, which was well outside of the semi-final qualifiers of nine minutes and some change. But, at least I didn’t place last, and I had a great time representing IPMBA in the process.
For 2018, Interbike moves to Reno, Nevada. The Interbike crew is hoping this move will revitalize the show, drawing more vendors and promoting innovation along the way.
Jared is currently a Police Patrol Officer for the Tacoma Police Department. He loves to tinker, and can often be found obsessing of the mechanical state of his bicycles. Jared is the owner and operator of Piggies On Wheels, LLC, which exists for the purpose of public safety bicycle education. He can be reached at email@example.com.
(C) 2018 IPMBA. This article appeared in the 2018 IPMBA Product Guide (Vol. 27, Issue 1, 2018)