What made MADE?

Photo from TheRadavist https://theradavist.com/2023-made-bike-show-review/

With the show over and the dust settled, we’re back in the office, settled in, and looking back. If you’ve followed any social media or attending media in recent weeks you’ll have a pretty clear picture – this show was epic. Attendance was killer, the vibe was high, events well-attended, and of course, the bikes
were stunning. The inaugural MADE was a show you’ll be hearing about for years to come.

With some time to reflect, here’s our take on what made MADE one for the history books.

1. Billy Sinkford: Gets it, Got it, Good.

It never would have happened without him. Billy, aka Souphorse; the man behind the show. MADE was his brain-child, his dream, and his execution. As co-founder and president of Echos the PR firm responsible for the show, his intimate understanding of our corner of the bike industry came shining

As a marketing and public relations professional, Billy can’t quite be described as working “in” the bike industry, but then he certainly isn’t “outside” of it either. We could perhaps best understand him as “of” the industry. He is from it, among it, part of it and looming beyond it. A former bike messenger, bike shop employee, passionate rider and devoted fan of custom bikes and now responsible for marketing and activation efforts for several trend-setting brands; he was uniquely suited to build an environment which catered to both the public and exhibitors.

I don’t know how many custom bikes Billy owns, and if I did, I wouldn’t publish it here. (I like Billy, and want him to stay married). Suffice it to say, he understands the process, and craft this world rides on. Working with and representing multiple USA-made bike brands, he also understands the inner workings of these companies, the constraints, marketing needs and most importantly, culture.

As a fan himself, Billy understands the thrill of following, gauking over, ordering, riding and loving custom bikes. He has been through the process many times over and understands what customers are experiencing. Thus, he was able to design a show which perfectly captured that energy while also meeting the needs of the maker’s themselves.

Many shows provide a good user experience at the expense of brand support, and others have catered to the particularities of the custom bike world while failing to engage the crowd – MADE did it all.  

Photo from TheRadavist https://theradavist.com/2023-made-bike-show-review/

2. Connection. If you saw someone you’ve known for more than 20 years as this show, raise your hand…

Hugs, high-fives, tears, laughter, chicanery and fun. The show was absolutely filled with industry professionals old and new, connecting, scheming and building relationships.

I’ll let you in on a couple secrets. First, the bike industry isn’t where you go to work if you want to make heaps of cash. Second, most long-time industry professionals are only moderately excited about advancements in bike gear. We’ve simply been marinated in it for so long that it’s lost some of its luster.
So what keeps us in it? Love, and connection. Love of bikes and riding them? Sure. But the relationships and friendships with all our bike-weirdo friends is what keeps us inspired and coming back for more. That relationality was on high display at the show, and it was contagious.

With two bike industry and media days baked into the show, the vibe was extended to all our friends and adopted family in this cooky industry which made for a stoked group of builders when it came time to open to the public. We were all in it together and there to show what we had to every bike-lover that walked in the door. From neophytes learning the basics of the custom world to seasoned vets shopping for their next ride, the scene was set for a positive, welcoming environment for all that entered.

Photo from @TheRadavist

3. Location: Hot, stuffy, poorly lit, dirty and perfect.

Despite initial concerns, the for-mentioned “downsides” all played a part in creating a perfectly fitting atmosphere. This is a bike show in Portland, Oregon after all, not a board meeting in Boston.

Held at Zidell yards on the South water front, the expansive shipping yard was a perfect venue. High ceilings, dusty rafters, rough floors and strings of holiday lights mimic’ed the feel of a turn of the century carnival. Just the right amount of seedy, the venue had an appropriate edge that felt like its own world. All this while tucked in an easily accessible central location with ample parking for bikes and cars alike. It was intimate, human, raw and alive, exactly like the characters and brands that filled it.  

4. Trust and Buy-In: The handbuilt community bought in and got onboard.

I’ve seen the mood at large events turn from optimism to acrimony in no time at all. Collective energy is a fickle master and once things start going south, the willful suspension of disbelief cracks. The narrative changes in a hurry. Conversely, if the experience is positive, exhibitors reflect that back and forth to one another and positivity grows. In any case, buy-in, trust and belief of the exhibitors is simply essential.

Leading up to MADE, expectations were high. High enough, I’ll admit, that I was nervous. “Can it really live up to all this?” I wondered. “And if it doesn’t, how will the crowd go south?”

My concerns were unwarranted. The show started positive and that sentiment only grew. As the show closed the final Sunday, vibes were high. “Epic,” was a descriptor regularly tossed around.

When exhausted exhibitors are breaking down a show on the last day after working numerous 12+ hour days over the weekend and they’re in high spirits, you know the show was a raging success. Such was the case with Made.

We sat with our friends from Paul Components over our last cold beers in the parking lot, the last day of the show and all agreed – it was a raging success, we were fortunate to be there. The bar is set for years to come. I can hear future conversations starting now – “were you at the first Made…?” We consider
ourselves among those fortunate enough to say we were.

Words by: Loren Mason-Gere

Photos Courtesy of Josh Weinberg, The Radavist