DENVER - Imagine you're a child again and every one of your favorite toy stores is closing shop for the winter and putting all of its shiny, mouth-watering lollipops on sale, along with every space-aged, collection-worthy, magical accessory you can imagine.Such is Denver's Veloswap, which came and went on Saturday in one fell swoop of thousands of cycling enthusiasts swarming through booths of disappearing merchandise.It was truly incredible to do one simple lap around the perimeter of the National Western complex in Denver, see several stacks of socks, bike pumps, helmets and tires, then pass through on the same route 15 minutes later and witness something akin to a looting site.
Supposedly 15,000 people turn up for the swap every fall. And if the surrounding block was any indication, I'd say that Denver Veloswap No. 17 was no exception.There were people returning to their cars with three different tires hanging around their necks, almost every group leaving the warehouse was wheeling a bicycle, and not a single person was empty-handed.The crowds are inevitable at Veloswap, wherein nearly every bicycle retailer in Colorado shows up to put the final lowest price tag on its remaining merchandise of the year, not to mention a handful of pro riders with used goods to sell.The event itself evolves and expands every year, and it's fascinating to see what the latest in bike technology retains, spits out and transforms.
One can almost always find at least one vintage booth of goods at the swap. The treasures contain everything from immaculate Schwinn Varsity bikes to rusted brown handlebar components that look as if they were fished out of a swamp a couple centuries ago.Then there are the booths sporting elite, newfangled road machines, all priced in excess of $4,000 - some of the only areas of the warehouse that remain well-stocked after 1 p.m. while just about every other booth has been whittled down to mismatched socks and swampy handlebars.The new trends in bicycles can be admired like items in a wax museum. One booth specializing in Giant bicycles had a shiny new singlespeed for sale. Singlespeeds are surely one of the most noteworthy new-school items for the cycling sub-culture, and nothing reinforced the underground nature of the scene like a cage on one bike (where normally a water bottle would fit), designed for a metal alcohol flask. Personally, I've never understood how drinking alcohol is conducive to peddling up hills with only a middle chain ring and no gears. Ironically, these little punkrock gems are priced a bit out of the subculture tradition at over $1,000.As claustrophobic as Veloswap can be, it's almost like a wedding reception where you're bound to run into someone you know and brag about the computer you just scored for $10, or the set of tubes that will last you all of next season for $1 each.
Plus, it's just comforting to know that there are so many people into cycling in Colorado. Next year I'll bring a bigger shopping bag.Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado