I got back from High Point, North Carolina, on Sunday evening. I had been there since Thursday, July 25 for The Bicycle: Art meets Form event. I heard so many people remark that this was one of the best such events they had ever attended, and I had to wholeheartedly agree.
The whole event was centered around the USA Cycling Professional Criterium Men’s and Women’s Championships. The races with preliminary events took place on Saturday afternoon and evening. The start and finish was outside the High Point Theater, and there were bleachers and large screen monitors set up to watch the race round the entire course.
There was so much going on, mainly in three different venues, all within a city block, easy walking distance. The event hotel was the High Point Plaza, right in the city center, an older building that had been recently renovated. The rooms were comfortable, clean, and the staff were great. Prices were reasonable, like the hotel restaurant that served a good breakfast at prices one would expect in a chain restaurant.
There was a Vintage Bike Show downstairs in the hotel ballroom, I felt privileged to have three of my custom bikes on display. (Above.)
If you walked out of the hotel back door and across the street, there was a Mini Hand built Bicycle Show going on. Across the street again was the High Point Theater and Art Gallery, where there were more hand built bikes on display, and paintings and other art objects that featured bicycles.
In the theater there were talks and cycling movies shown. I spoke at 3 pm. on Friday, (Top picture.) I talked about my past work and history, an hour went by very quickly. I was back later to be part of a panel discussion with current framebuilders Peter Weigle, Mark DiNucci, Dario Pegoretti, Nick Crumpton, Dave Wages.
Sitting there listening to these other framebuilders, who it seems manage to cater to a small niche market of people who appreciate something hand built as opposed to something carbon that pops out of a mold.
It struck me that I was indeed fortunate to have had my career in the 1980s when hand built frames were the norm before the big corporations took over.
It must have been like the difference between a jazz musician playing in the Jazz Era of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and a jazz musician playing today. Neither is any more or less of a musician, it is just the size of the audience one is playing to.
Just as in the Jazz Era there were many more musicians, but there was more work available. I built frames in an era when the entire Tour de France field rode on hand built steel frames.
I had to compete with the likes of Colnago, Pinerello, and Cinelli, who were larger companies and with more advertising clout than I had. However, the market was big enough that I could grab a small piece of it, and make a decent living.
I had never been to High Point before, a nice little city with a small town feel. (Population just over 100,000.) It was once known as the “Furniture Capital of the World.” There were furniture factories all around, along with many textile mills.
These furniture companies still have showrooms in High Point and there is a huge furniture business trade show there every year, but sadly the furniture is all made in China now. The same way the bike business has gone. Oh well, you can’t fight progress.