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Julie goes to Frostbike

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Dreaming of a trip to Minnesota mid-Winter? I didn't think so. Coming from the 42nd parallel North, heading to the 45th doesn't sound too appealing, unless you're going to ski, snowboard, or play hockey. So how does Quality Bike Parts make Frostbike such a damn good time?

For one, QBP makes this trade show about so much more than bikes. They offer seminars on topics ranging from communication, to customer service... from tech-y drivetrain talk to the latest in GPS devices. They won me over with free donuts and bottomless cups of coffee. So what if I didn't win any of the amazing raffle prizes.

I took a tour of their distribution center, which is finely tuned for maximum efficiency. Another tour highlighted their award-winning environmental practices, featuring solar panels, non-toxic carpeting, and recycled metal furniture, just to name a few. QBP listens to their employees' concerns and suggestions, in addition to taking very good care of them with continuing education opportunities, bike commuter incentive programs, yoga and massage on-site. It sounds cheesy, but after this trip, I appreciate them more as a partner in our success, and I now know many of them by name. They were all Midwest-nice.

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The diversity of the attendees was impressive. I saw a refreshing number of women in our still male-dominated industry, a conference room filled with an Asian contingent, and ages ranging from 18 to 80. The food was fantastic, and the spacious, family-style lunchroom lent itself well to conversations with industry folk from all over the world. I love to talk with bikey people about where they come from, hearing what's the same, what's different, and what's unique about them.

No recap of Frostbike would be complete without mentioning Fat Bikes. Once called Snow Bikes, they've now shed that misnomer, to accommodate the fans who ride them in the sand. QBP staff set up a dozen bikes to demo on the trails that surround their headquarters. Just looking at the bikes makes people giggle, so you can imagine the laughter that ensues once astride these beasts. I imagined my short track skills would translate well, and that the big tires would be foolproof and forgiving. Within two minutes, I fell over into deep snow, with the white stuff blasting into my socks, pants and helmet. I laughed hysterically, post-holing my way out of the mess. Then I rode some more.

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At the end of the day, I had the good fortune of catching up with an old friend who is teaching at the University of Minnesota. With snow on the ground, and a brilliant sun shining, we walked around the city, ducking into cafes for coffee and treats, checking out Lake Calhoun, Nicollet Island, the Stone Arch Bridge and the Guthrie Theater (with its spooky Amber Box lobby on Level 9) . If you plan a trip to Minneapolis, don't expect to hit the museums on a Monday. They're all closed.

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See ya next year, Frostbike!

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