VeloSwap is an annual ritual for bikers in Denver.
But outside of the cycling-centric city it’s not as legendary, which is surprising given that this gear fest—touted as the largest consumer bicycling and sports expo in the world — has been around for 27 years.Maybe that’s the way diehard gearheads would prefer it, so they can still get all the good stuff before it’s snatched up. (I know the feeling … I’m still sporting a pair of half-priced Sidi road shoes I pounced on before that girl hovering over my shoulder. Score!)
But whether you’re a local scouting the sweetest deals on spare parts or a visiting buyer just entering the scene at this unprecedented unloading of all things cycling, there are some things you should know about steering though VeloSwap.
Navigating this 130,000-square-foot space, stuffed with 350 vendors, ranging from that bike dork next door to professional bike-shop staff, non-profits and brand sales reps, can be challenging but also part of the bike-fanatic fun.
Here’s what you need to know about sorting through this “mass of humanity psyched about cycling,” according to VeloSwap manager Reese Brown.
SWEAT THE DETAILSSubaru VeloSwap is October 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the National Western Complex in Denver.
Admission is $8 at the door; $6 in advance, plus parking fees.
SWAG FACTOREndless rows of discounted cycling-related clothing, gear, parts, art and more sold direct from consumer vendors looking to unload last year’s (or decade’s) stuff, plus plenty of new items, demos, information and handouts from bike brands, local shops, non-profits and other bike junkies.
WHEN TO COME
The secret time to arrive is 9:30 a.m, according to Brown. That’s when a majority of people who have been standing in line (some camping over night) for first dibs are dispersed inside and you can stream right in.
However standing in line talking shop with a coffee and donuts is also part of the tradition. Plus, an early arrival will help you get a better parking spot in this not-so-lovely part of town.
Once you’re in, don’t leave too early; the best time to score the deal of the daily is right before closing time (4 p.m.) when shops, sponsors and sellers want to leave — without the items they came with.
WHAT TO BRING
Wear comfortable shoes for walking on concrete floors for hours. Bring a roomy backpack (and bike lock) if you’re planning to load up on take-homes.
Also, stash your cash. While some vendors will run cards, cash is still king here. Each year attendees are notorious for draining some $175,000 in onsite ATMs.
HAVE A PLANBrown’s best advice is not to wander aimlessly. Come with at least some specific items you've been needing (or wanting) — and prioritize.
It can tricky to remember a favorite item and navigate back to a nondescript table, so if you love it, buy it on the spot. If you can’t pass up a large item, there’s an attended merchandise storage area in the front of the hall in booth No. 1.
ABUSE THE USEDOne of the best parts of VeloSwap is it’s not all buttoned up like a pro branded bike show. You’ve got to love the nerdy vintage-bike guys; the ex-pros doling out gently used items (and advice) for next to nothing; and the “make me an offer” folks who still appreciate the fine art of haggling.
Follow a local: The people who come back year after year know exactly which tables and tricks of the trade will make your day.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Unfortunately, Brown's hands are tied in the concession category. The National Western Complex hosts their own food bars, which are just that—not-so-healthy lines of processed edibles. So if you can handle a hot dog, but all means get in line. If not, eat early, brings some energy bars and take a break for food in liquid form: a Dale's Pale Ale at the Easy Motion Lounge.
WHAT’S NEWMore education and information, from bike commuting to mechanics. "If you're considering buying a new bike, how do you know it's safe or a good deal?" Brown says of VeloSwap's expanded offerings. "Bike commuting is a big deal, so we'll have a seminar on that, plus basic bike mechanics. If your headset is loose, what do you do?” The goal is to have people stay all day. "This is the one time of year you get to hang out with like-minded people," he says. "You can see what's coming down the line, talk to reps and then work with a bike shop to get that product when it comes out in the spring."
BELLS & WHISTLESThere is free on-site wrenching, product sampling, random raffles, outdoor demos, electric bike giveaway, Strider bike area for kids, education center, eco center and indoor consumer crit race to take home a Bkool smart trainer.
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