Trading Up Socks For A Bike In 11 Steps

Photos Matt Dennison + Dave Tolnai
Video Matt Dennison

What do you want us to do?
“I don’t know…find something interesting.”
Oh. Shit. Cam and Pete felt that we could work without direction.

We wandered around for a while, Matt Dennison and I. We poked. We prodded. We took some photos of things. We started to get a bit nervous. We were already hot, dehydrated and way crabbier than the situation dictated. It had been an hour so far. Three days of this was going to be horrendous.
“I don’t have any idea what people are going to be interested in seeing.”
Me neither.

Then we ran into Alison.

Alison Jackson is the kind of person that seems to be constantly cheery and happy and can probably lift up a room with a laugh and a smile. So pretty much our exact opposite. I mention this, because I think her positive disposition momentarily rubbed off on us.
“Check out my new socks!”
They were pretty cool socks. They were bright red and they said SRAM on them. I’m not sure exactly how we moved on from there. I think it was Dennison.
“You remember the story of that guy that traded a paperclip for a house?”
Shit. That’s not bad. I decided to take Alison’s photo, just in case we moved forward with this idea.
And if this was to be our “plan”, it seemed fitting that we started with the socks that inspired the whole crazy enterprise. We wandered over to the SRAM booth and after a few minutes of explaining, talked them into giving us a pair of socks.


“Can you imagine if we trade up to something huge? Like a bike? We should get a bike and give it to a kid!”
Sure, Dennison, sure. It took us a couple of minutes to talk somebody into giving us free socks from a giant box filled with socks, with those socks exclusively meant to be handed out to anybody that asked for a pair of socks. A bike seems more than achievable for people with our finely honed negotiating skills.

But we kept going. Over to Race Face.
“They’re actually one of our biggest competitors, so I don’t really want their socks.”
Shit. That made sense, but added a new wrinkle. Not only did we have to trade, now we had to worry about bike industry politics.
“But if you get me an Ibis hat, I’ll have something good for you.”
Yes! Awesome! Ask people what they want! Build a wish list! We wandered over to Ibis. Scot Nicol himself traded me two hats for our one pair of red SRAM socks. I kept one of the hats. (Where would we have ended up if I hadn’t skimmed half of the take off of the second trade?)


Early in the game. Sizing up Ibis. Wanted: one hat.



TWO hats! Thanks Scot!


Back to Race Face. “Let’s see…You can have this handlebar…or a beer hammock.”
What’s a beer hammock?
“It’s this…uhhh…. thing that you put your beer in.”
Ummmm….handlebar please.
Boom. Half an hour. Socks up to a really nice handlebar.


Easton next door saw what was going on. “Get us some tires or some sunglasses and we’ll upgrade that bar to carbon.” We liked it when people told us what to do.
We bumped into Pete and Cam over at the Ryders booth. We were unsure how they were going to feel about our lack of usable photos and our ill-conceived plan. There was hesitation, but limited acceptance. On the other end of the spectrum, Ryders, due to their lack of shade and rubber clothing, were open to suggestion and on board with participation. We needed sunglasses…so we traded down in value and ran back to Easton.


A rubber rain suit and a full beard on a hot day was a pretty good indication that Ryders would be down with our little trading game.


“I didn’t want those sunglasses. Go get something else.”
Monica at Easton used to work at Ryders. That would have been good to know. Allergies and previous industry affiliations should be disclosed before placing your order. This was a setback.

We wandered for a while looking for the right trade. Any trade. We stewed and plotted our revenge on Easton. Things were bad. “I’d trade you…but I don’t want to mess up my Oakley hook-up.” Cowards.

Finally, Lezyne came through. They gave up a really nice multitool, pump and patch kit and we went back to Easton to take what belonged to us. We left with a carbon handlebar, adorned with grips. Our carbon handlebar, adorned with grips.


Monica McCosh receives precisely three marriage proposals at every trade show. So swapping a carbon bar and grips for some tools from Lezyne didn’t seem like too much to ask.


Our crushing low had turned into an unsustainable high. A bike was practically a done deal. We turned greedy. No more trades down in value. Better strategy. Larger jumps. We went into the Giro booth. Full face or nothing.

Dane was busy with the guys from Bike Magazine. What they were up to didn’t make a lot of sense. It involved a video camera and lots of switching it off so that Dane could tell them stories that he wasn’t allowed to. Once they were done, we gave Dane our finely honed pitch. And Brice from Bike overheard. “I thought we were the only people doing stupid shit at Sea Otter. Your idea is way dumber than ours. I don’t know what we can trade you though. Maybe some ad space?” He laughed. He was joking. But we weren’t going to allow that. He’d opened up a window that couldn’t be closed. Bike Mag ad space equals bicycle. The math is simple.

What would you need from us for ad space?

We were the guy at the party that didn’t understand humour. He quickly realized that he’d made a mistake. “Ahhhh…man…I don’t know…That might not…oh boy. Come by the booth later and maybe we can find something…oh man.”
We were giddy and we were cocky. So we went and drank some beer at Santa Cruz. We told them our story and they laughed and laughed. We drank and we laughed too.

Day 1 Summary
SRAM Socks ($7) – Ibis Hat ($10) – Race Face Handlebar ($80) – Ryders Sunglasses ($70) – Lezyne Tools ($75) – Easton Carbon Handlebar + Grips ($200)

Day 2 was off the rails from the start. Dennison was unwavering.
“We’re going to get a bike and give it to a kid.”

Our first stop was Andrew Cho at GT. We ran into Cho at a party the night before and he was super excited. He took it places that even we thought went a bit too far, but his enthusiasm was contagious. I was just really happy that he hadn’t forgotten who we were as the booze wore off and the morning came around. Unfortunately, his contact at the gigantic, publicly traded, consumer electronics company worth billions of dollars couldn’t come through with product. Plan B.

“We’re going to get a bike and we’re going to give it to a kid.”

We wandered and failed. And failed again. Eventually, we ended up at Bell. Dennison led the pitch. Even I was lost.
“We have this bar and we want to trade it for a bike and…ahh… we’re going to give it to a kid and…ahh.. we’re going to get Bike Mag ad space….and…”. Bell actually offered to give us a helmet if we’d just go away. We explained that we needed not just any helmet but an expensive helmet and that it had to be a trade. More confusion. “But we’ll just give you this helmet. For free. We don’t need a handlebar.”

Obviously our point had been lost. They kept offering us beer. We left with no helmet. We needed to regroup.

Matt, we sound like crazy people.
I was done. Dennison was unwavering.

“We’re getting a bike. And we’re giving it to a kid.”

Sombrio was the shot in the arm that we needed. They’d witnessed our exchange with Easton so there wasn’t even a pitch required. Shorts and a jersey were given up with hardly a struggle.
“Will you throw in some gloves?”


The kid was learning. We were back! We were on fire! And we had no idea what to do next.

We bumped into Pete and Cam again. We’d done pretty well. For amateurs. Pete, the silver-tongued parts gigolo decided to make things real. Up until this point, there was a tiny amount of sense contained within each trade. Logic. Truth. Purity. We were about to leave that far behind.

“Gimme that. We’re going to DTSwiss. We’re getting some wheels.”

Boom. Done. Well. A frickin’ expensive hub and a pair of rims, but pretty close to a full set of wheels and we’re more or less going to claim it as such. It’s not our fault they didn’t have a front hub.


Pete cornered Shane at DT Swiss, who was happy to add a little turbo to the trading game.


We ran into Mark Jordan from Fox. He listened, but he did not want what we had. So what did he want?
“I need a new Yakima rack.”

The lid blew off. The DTSwiss frenzy was calm by comparison. We were about to witness the full power of hubris, peer pressure and one-upmanship. We all marched over to Yakima, Mark, Cam, Pete, Matt and I. We probably picked up a few stragglers along the way. We were a crazed lynch mob of parts hungry vagabonds. Mark’s orange Fox shirt lent a degree of respectability to the proceeding. There was no way we were taking “no” for an answer. We hammered from all sides and Geina at Yakima never stood a chance.

“You want to trade me rims and a hub for a rack? I don’t even know what to do with those. I’ll need to talk to Summer.”
Summer will be fine! Let us deal with Summer!

“I don’t know. Who are you guys again?”
Don’t worry about that! Just give us a rack!
And she gave us a rack!

Mark disappeared and returned with a 36 and a DOSS dropper. It was insane! Over to Bike Mag!


Hiding under a giant hat, Mark Jordan from Fox couldn’t use the excuse of sunstroke for his part in the trading.


Brice’s face collapsed when he saw us. A before and after photo of a kid who drops his ice cream cone. Pete sensed weakness and moved in for the kill. We backed away and watched the carnage. Brice was a baby lamb, defeated and sad. Pete pointed and gestured. Brice looked at the ground. Pete kept going. Brice caved.

“We got it!”

What’d we get?
Nobody had an answer. Was it ad space? Was it an editorial? A free subscription? What was happening? What was going on? “It doesn’t matter!” It didn’t matter. We drank mimosas to celebrate.


bike mag editor Brice Minnigh is doing a pretty good impression of a handshake for a guy that just had his arm twisted – hard.


Day 2 Summary
Easton Carbon Handlebar + Grips ($200) –> Sombrio kit ($220) –> DT Swiss hub and rims ($700) –> Yakima Rack ($800) –> Fox 36 Fork + DOSS dropper post ($1500) –> Bike Mag something or other (?)

Day three was ours for the taking. It was the day after the Builder premiere, so everybody was a bit slow and hungover. We were all over Santa Cruz/Juliana before they could see us coming. They didn’t have time to scatter and the nervousness bubbled up into their eyeballs.

“So. What are you guys looking for?”
A bike. We need a bike.
“Oh.” More nervous glances.
“We…ah…well…ya…We heard that’s what you were looking for. What do you have for us?”
We told them. Our pitch contained a pretty good representation of the truth. A small nugget.
“Oh.” Eyebrows raised. “Really? We might be able to make that work.”

Back to Bike Mag.
Santa Cruz is in. What do we need to finish this off?
“Really? Santa Cruz? Well, if it’s going to happen, it has to get done today.”
Back to Santa Cruz.
It has to get done today.

They had a Juliana. They could make it happen. They were starting to get excited. Back to Bike Mag.
The bike is ready. They want to do it in front of their tent.
“Okay. It has to be before the Dual Slalom so that we can take photos.”

Back to Santa Cruz. Back to Bike. Back and forth. Each iteration getting us slightly closer to the insane yarn we were spinning. Finally. Bicycle sorted. Time set. Place decided. But who gets the bike? How were we going to find a suitable recipient for this bike? How could we maintain the element of surprise? How could we not screw this up? What if the “winner” ends up being a serial killer or a Republican?

The folks at Juliana had an idea.
“We sponsor a High School program. They have a nice, sweet, friendly girl that really needs a bike.”
That would work. Nice, sweet, friendly girl? Really needs a bike? That sounded like the kind of person we were looking for! This was really happening! Oh crap. We only had an hour-and-a-half to pull this together. And eat lunch. We made the rounds to spread the news to all our trading partners. And ate some burritos.
We got a bike. Come to the Juliana booth at three o’clock. We’re giving it away.


Like a bright beacon at the end of the tunnel, Katie Zaffke from Juliana bikes was the final step on the trading ladder. She didn’t hesitate for a second.


Jaws dropped. Giggles ensued. “We’ll be there.” Propriety forced us to hold off from visiting all of the people who had said “No”. Let them read about it. But what were we going to do at three o’clock? How do we continue the spectacle?

We reached the appointed time, and with it came a gaggle of giggling High School girls. Hannah, our recipient, had brought reinforcements. Is there a force more powerful and scary than a teenage girl? A whole group of them was positively frightening.
The cameras came on. The group collected. It was time. Dennison spoke.
“We’ve been working on this project for the last few days……We want to trade you what we have for whatever you can get in the next ten minutes. We’ll trade you something good…depending on what you get for us.”
He was masterful.

“So…we just grab anything? Like…displays and stuff?”
We hadn’t thought this through. We were on the verge of a teenage girl stampede, handcuffs and juvenile records. Shit.
No! No! They need to offer it to you!
They weren’t listening. With very little encouragement they were off like a derailed freight train. Message to parents – Make your children less trusting. Our group stood silently. More giggling. Shaking of heads. The odd shutter click. Every few minutes the stampede of girls would go flying by.
“How much time?!”
6 minutes. 3 minutes. 1 minute. Time’s up.

They’d filled a back pack with…stuff. Catalogues. Posters. Stickers. All stuck together with multiple layers of chocolate. It got dumped on the pavement. It took forever. We sifted through the detritus and Dennison started the show.
“Let’s see…for your pile of stuff, we’ve got this hat…and this shirt…and this bandana…”
They seemed pretty excited. And why not? That’s a pretty good trade for a pile of crap.
“…and…huh…maybe one more thing…We actually traded all of our stuff for this bike. So, are you willing to trade us your pile of stuff for our bike?”



The moment.

Then…pandemonium as a group of teenage girls slowly figured out what was happening. Screams! Laughter! A few tears. High fives. It was localized insanity and widespread confusion. It was joyous and over-the-top and people that had just given us thousands and thousands of dollars in product looked like they couldn’t believe their good fortune. Matt and I were Robert Redford and Paul Newman and all these people were thanking us as their product was escorted out the door in handcuffs.

And then it was done.

We traded a pair of socks for a bike and gave it to a kid.

Day 3 Summary
Bike Mag something or other (Find out in the July issue) -> Juliana Nevis Hardtail ($1800) -> Pile of free crap dumped on the pavement ($0)


Hannah – the very excited recipient of a brand new Juliana Nevis. Flanked by her tsunami-like posse of friends, and some of the crazies that helped this all go down.

Could you do it in fewer steps?

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This was glorious! Hilarious and that "feel good" vibe to boot!



So awesome! You guys and gals rock!



Republicans, ha!


Dave and Matt - you two ruled this! So great. And thanks to all the cool people in the industry who helped out!



didn't catch the drift of this, sorry


What wasn't clear Naveed?



It felt like I was reading a screenplay:-)



it reminded me of reading a screenplay:-)



Well done. Bravo! I really enjoyed that story. Great way to start my week.



Totally awesome Dennison!


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