I really don’t know what to make of the Rouleur Classic bike show. On the one hand it’s a very small bike show that costs at least £50 (yes, fifty pounds) for a ticket, while on the other it’s an opportunity to look at some of the best kit, and mingle with the great and the good of cycling, in a relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere.
The Corbynista in me rebels at the idea of charging people between £50 and £175 (yes, one hundred and seventy-five pounds) for a ticket to a bicycle exhibition, but look…there’s Eddy, and Spartacus, and Kenny van Vlaminck. Crikey, isn’t that Ernesto Colnago talking to Alberto Contador? Hi Lizzie, congrats on The Jersey. And who’s that over there with the halo, the bloke turning water into wine? It’s Saint David of Millar, of course, the man who turned a Skoda team car into a Maserati Ghibli.
At this point, any self-respecting cycling journalist would have done a quick vox-pop to gauge punter reaction. But self-respect and cycling journalists are not comfortable bed-fellows these days. Plus, those finger-foods won’t eat themselves, you know. More Champagne? Well, why not. So I’ve no idea what any of the paying customers thought.
Held at Vinopolis on London’s Bankside, the venue is a collection of brick-arched cellars (although on ground-level) in which were housed stands from the likes of Assos, Lightweight, Canondale, Zipp, Colnago, Trek, Castelli, Canyon, etc.
The show had a cozy, intimate feel and wasn’t particularly crowded which meant you could actually get to talk to the people on the stands. And they got to grab all your details from the RFID wrist-bands we were all given. There was interesting stuff on show, and some very lovely stuff that I can’t afford. I was particularly excited to see Tinkoff-Saxo team chef Hannah Grant doing some cooking for visitors to try, and signing copies of her Grand Tour Cookbook (I’ll be reviewing that in due course).
As well as new shiny stuff, there was also a room full of old bikes and jerseys. But not just any old bikes, and not just any old jerseys. Look…there’s Fausto Coppi’s World Champs jersey! Look…there’s Indurain’s time-trial bike. Strangely, the thing that moved me most was seeing Lucien Petit-Breton’s 1907 track bike. It’s impossibly decrepit, and looks like someone dragged it out of a barn in rural France, but it is imbued with an historical resonance that I find very appealing.
After a couple of hours of looking, talking, eating and drinking, and listening to the celebs doing Q&As in the theatre, I’m pretty much done. And it was a very pleasant and interesting couple of hours, immersed in something that I love and find endlessly fascinating. But is it worth £50/£100/£175? I guess that rather depends on whether you have that sort of money to spend on something like this, and what you expect to get out of it. A certain amount of what was on display can be seen at other bike shows, albeit in a less intimate atmosphere. But £50+ is a lot of dosh for a bike show.
Or is it? A decent dinner in the West End can easily cost £50 a head. It costs me more than £50 to get up to the NEC for the Cycle Show. As an occasional visitor to Premiership football, I am accustomed to spending £50+ for a ticket to see a match of variable quality. And on the few occasions I’ve been to the opera, £100 doesn’t get you a particularly good seat at Covent Garden.
Ultimately, I got more pleasure from a couple of hours at the Rouleur Classic than from dinner, or Götterdämmerung, or Ryan Shawcross. And you do get the latest copy of Rouleur free.