It was the nightmare scenerio that bigwigs from the Bicycle Association must be dreading: a torrential downpour on the Knavesmire in York, people running in panic from the rain. It happened on the second day of Encyclepaedias Try-out Show in York, a dress rehearsal for next months National Cycling Festival 2000 to be held at the same venue.

Rain doesnt stop play in York

Sprits werent dampened too much because the show visitors were diehard cyclists unfazed by spending £7.50 to ride a load of bikes but the BA is hoping to attract a great deal of fair-weather cyclists to their show and even the lightest of summer showers can deter those sort of visitors from attending what will perceived to be an outdoor show despite the provision of marquees.

Of course, where the York Rally tag-on is hoping for 50 000 visitors, the much more modest three-day Tryout Show an independent effort will probably have an eventual visitor total of around 2000.

When BikeBiz visited yesterday there were no more than about 600 visitors in the main Knavesmire grandstand, the York racecourse building. Show organisers said they didnt yet have a visitor total from the day before.

The turnout may have been low surely surprising in a city that is so cycle friendly but the quality of the visitors was very high, most of them being readers of Open Road titles such as Bycycle and Bike Culture. The recumbent test area was busy throughout the day and there were all sorts of non-standard bicycles on display including the seven-person Octos (now called the ConferenceBike), the four person ZEM, wooden hobby horses for children, a variety of folding bikes, and loads of fully-equipped utility bikes from the likes of Kettler and Pashley.

This was the antithesis of the Bike2000 show, totally family friendly with tots bikes on stands from Winther and Puky and child-carrying bikes from the kind of German companies which appear in Encycleopedia (in fact, those companies who took out advertorials in Encycleopedia 2000 got free stands at the Tryout Show and there was an impressive number of overseas exhibitors).

The low turnout will be worrying for the Bicycle Association because it cannot be blamed on lack of publicity. There have been editorial mentions of the Tryout Show in many bike mags and Open Road took out quarter page adverts too.

Mind you, Open Road kept quiet about the large number of exhibitors they would have at their show. There were stands from B1 (bikes and scooters), Brompton, EP-X, Kinetics, Advanced Vehicle Design (formerly Seat of the Pants, manufacturers of Mike Burrows Windcheetah recumbent trike), the National Cycle Register, Sustrans and the Bike Inn (promoting the new cycle mechanics City and Guilds course at Peterborough Regional College).

And, of course, was there with a load of tandems but not yet with a fully operational ecommerce website.

For most exhibitors and visitors, the scale of the show was a surprise, and the breadth of bicycles a joy.

For IBD Andy Shrimpton of Cycle Heaven in York helping out on the Brompton stand the Tryout Show was like a breath of fresh air:

You get ground down in the process of running a business. This has been brilliant. It has re-ignited my interest in cycling, reminding me why Im in this trade in the first place.

Will the National Cycling Festival 2000 have a similar effect? Can it succeed in attracting a big enough audience to make the effort all worthwhile? Will the traditional York Rally visitor pay to get into a marquee show? Will the advertising campaign and link up with IPC Publishing bring in a new type of visitor? Has the BA created a sustainable show that can fill up its coffers every year? Does John Carrington Beard of the BA know any Native Americans who can perform reverse rain dances?

Lets hope so.


Top: The EP-X stand

Right: (l to r) Kit Gilham, Ali Roe and Andy Shrimpton of Cycle Heaven in York on the Brompton stand

Bottom top: Mike Burrows on his Ratcatcher with the recumbent test track in the background

Bottom middle: the motion alarm from National Cycle Register

Bottom bottom: the Zap-powered Brompton from Kinetics

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