Cycle Publishing
Van der Plas Publications

1282 7th Avenue
San Francisco
CA 94122, USA

Tel.: (415) 665-8214



Organizing and Hosting an International Cycling History Conference

Comments Concerning the Osaka Conference and Tips for Future Conferences

Below, you will find two texts submitted by Frank Berto: his final report on the Osaka conference and his suggestions for organizers of future conferences. We encourage everybody interested in the conferences to read these reports. If you have any comments, whether positive, negative or otherwise, please send them in to Rob van der Plas (using the "contact us" button on the left), so they can be posted on this website as well in order to get a discussion going and to get the maximum benefit of everybody’s participation for future conferences. If you want to address your comments directly to the author, click here:

1. Final Report for the11th International Cycle History Conference.
Held in Sakai-Osaka, Japan from August 24th through August 26th, 2000

The 11th International Cycle History Conference was a huge success. Most of the credit should go to Shimano. They set a standard that will be hard to equal. I have written thank-you letters to President Yoshizo Shimano and to Ken Fujimura and Hiroshi Nakamura, the Shimano executives that supervised the organization of the ICHC in Japan.

The conference ran from Wednesday, August 24 through Friday August 26. There was a bike ride on Saturday morning, August 27.

Twenty-six attendees and 11 spouses came from outside Japan. Twenty-five attendees came from Japan. Additionally about half a dozen Shimano employees attended most of the sessions.

On Wednesday morning, we went on a tour of the Shimano factory and attended a video presentation and a talk on Shimano's research and development program. We had a formal Japanese lunch at the Shimano Memorial House, a restored turn-of-the-century Japanese home. After lunch, Gert-Jan Moed gave a slide show on the history of the Batavus Museum, which forms the core of the Shimano Bicycle Museum. We spent the afternoon enjoying the museum, including the basement bicycle storehouse. Shimano hosted a Welcoming Banquet at the hotel that evening.

A total of 26 papers were given on Thursday and Friday. Eighteen speakers came from outside of Japan and eight speakers came from Japan. Two of the Japanese speakers gave their papers in Japanese, which was translated into English. This allowed 30 minutes for each paper and 5 minutes for discussion. The Japanese speakers were given more time. The Friday afternoon session was split into parallel strands of four papers each.

Nicholas Oddy and Hans Lessing ran the Plenary Meeting at the end of the Friday afternoon session. Hans had not been able to contact Stefano Milani (who had offered to organize the 2001 conference in Milan, so we could not confirm the details for the 12th ICHC. The group voted that we should not hold the 12th ICHC in conjunction with the Milan Bicycle and Motorcycle Show.

On Friday evening, Shimano hosted the Closing Banquet at the hotel. President Yoshizo Shimano attended with his wife and gave a short speech. Nick Oddy, representing the ICHC, thanked him for the outstanding hospitality. The Karaoke session that followed showed the extent of our singing ability.

I received a very nice fax from Hein Verbruggen, the President of UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale). I wrote back and thanked him. The ICHC is now being recognized as the international body that it is.

There are no rules and few guidelines for organizing a History Conference. This is both an advantage and a problem for the organizer. It can be daunting to a newcomer because he has no real idea of what is expected. To make it a bit easier for future presenters, I include a short list of recommendation for future conferences.

2. Suggestions for Organizers of International Cycle History Conferences

I've written this to share my experiences as organizer of the 11th ICHC in Osaka, Japan from August 23 to 25, 2000. I have been involved in the ICHCs since the 7th conference, which was held in Buffalo in 1996.

Background. The ICHC began in 1990 when a conference was held in Glasgow, Scotland to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Kirkpatrick Macmillan's velocipede. Five papers were presented. At the end of the conference, the organizers got together and said words to the effect, "Well that was great fun, let's do it again next year."

A volunteer agreed to organize the 2nd conference, which was held in Saint-Etienne, France, in 1991. This established the pattern for the subsequent conferences.

The ICHC is an informal organization. It has no officers, no staff, no bank account, no budget, no charter, and no rules. It survives because someone always steps forward and volunteers to organize the next conference. The volunteer has a free hand in arranging his conference.

Costs. It costs about $800.00 for the mailings and the telephone and fax costs. The organizer pays his own expenses to attend the conference. If you charge each attendee and each spouse a $50.00 Attendance Fee, plus $50.00 for one copy of the Proceedings, you should break even. This assumes that you don't have to pay for the meeting rooms, coffee breaks, luncheons, or bus transportation. You should be able to cover the Final Banquet from the $50.00 Attendance Fee. Because Shimano was so generous picking up expenses, I bought a T-shirt for each attendee with the money that was left over. You won't know how you will end up financially until you get the response from the first mailing.
Attendance. You are probably safe to assume 25 attendees plus 8 spouses from the "regulars." Add to this the “locals” from the conference area.

Proceedings. The Proceedings are the key accomplishment of the ICHC. The ten sets of Proceedings are the best-written history of the bicycle that is available today. Rob Van der Plas, of Van der Plas Publications, arranges each year to publish the Proceedings. The fee for each conference attendee should include $50.00 to cover the cost of one copy of the Proceedings. You don't need to charge the spouses for the Proceedings. This up-front charge is essential to keep Rob reasonably whole. The Proceedings are a labor of love because the sales are low.

Mailing List. I will give you a mailing list with about 180 names on a diskette written in Word 7.0 for Windows 98. It includes about 50 e-mail addresses. You can use a mailing list program to convert this to mailing labels. Send out the entire list the first mailing. Prune the mailing list drastically for the second and subsequent mailings. Add the name of every bicycle historian and every bicycle magazine editor that you know and ask them to publicize the ICHC.

Number of Papers. I advise you to plan on 20 papers plus or minus two. I scheduled 26 papers. In my opinion, this was too many for a two-day conference. The scheduling had to be ruthless and it took the fun out of the sessions. With 20 papers, you can allow 30 minutes for presentation and 10 to 15 minutes for questions and answers.

Advice to Speakers. Speakers should rehearse their talks to be sure that it fits into 30 minutes. The talk should be a digest of the published paper that covers the highlights and encourages discussion. Remember that English is a second language for many in the audience. Provide lots of illustrations, graphs, and headings to help the audience. If English is your second language and the paper is written in English, it is better off to ask an English-speaking friend to read your prepared talk.

Organizer's Responsibility
The organizer is responsible for the following:

· Publicity and call for papers. Publicity in the local cycling press will encourage local attendees

· Arrange for a conference room, food for the coffee breaks and the luncheons, and for a closing banquet.

· Arrange the program.

· Locate inexpensive hotel accommodations. The attendees and the speakers normally pay their own expenses for travel, hotels, and morning and evening meals.

· It is certainly desirable to beat the drums for papers. If you receive more than 20 papers, set up a Review Committee to pick the best 20 papers from the submitted abstracts.

· If you can arrange a subsidy from a sponsor, that's fine but it's not essential. In most of the previous conferences, the sponsor provided the conference room and the refreshments. At the 11th ICHC, Shimano subsidized the hotel expenses for the 26 people who presented papers. This worked out splendidly but there aren't many sponsors as generous as Shimano.

· It is desirable to arrange a factory tour or some other form of recreation. Previous conferences have included museum tours sight seeing tours and bicycle rides.

I repeat that all of the above items are just suggestions. Each conference reflects the ideas of the organizer.

And Finally: Future conference organizers should have attended at least one prior conference before embarking on the task of organizing one themselves. This point was driven home once more by the glaring mistakes made in organizing the 2005 Davis conference: despite both Frank Berto and Rob van der Plas having presented the organizer with these guidelines and specific instructions, he failed to collect the fee for the proceedings, so there's no money to publish the proceedings for that conference.