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James Keller, an employee at the Full Cycle bike shop on Pearl Street, removes a cog from a wheel at the shop as he prepared for the 2008 Denver VeloSwap.
James Keller, an employee at the Full Cycle bike shop on Pearl Street, removes a cog from a wheel at the shop as he prepared for the 2008 Denver VeloSwap.

If you go

What: VeloSwap

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: National Western Complex, 4655 Humboldt St., Denver

Cost: $6 in advance, $8 at the door

More info:

There’s always some obscure bike stuff alongside the new and shiny at VeloSwap, said Ray Keener, of Boulder. He usually brings newer stuff to sell, but this year, he’s contributing to the obscurity.

“I’m cleaning out my garage and selling all kinds of old bike parts from the ’70s and ’80s that haven’t seen the light of day in many years,” said Keener, who has worked in the bicycling industry for decades and once ran the swap.

VeloSwap, touted as “the world’s largest consumer bike expo,” returns to Denver’s National Western Complex on Saturday.

“With so many pros who go there to unload their stuff, you can find amazing deals on wheel sets, component sets,” said Karli Gronholm, co-owner of Full Cycle, who goes to the swap every year, usually with a cadre of new bikes from her shops in Boulder. “If you know your stuff, you can really get a good deal. But know what they look like when they’re worn out.”

“There are a ton of wholesalers who go there, and small clothing companies who are there with their closeouts, so it’s a good place to go for apparel, too,” she added.

Reese Brown, director of VeloSwap, said you see everything there.

“Especially in the early years, I’d watch people walk in with torn cardboard boxes of rusty stuff,” Brown said. He’d think it wouldn’t sell. “But I went back to some of these booths, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, whatever is in those boxes, people want.'”

“People come in looking for that special thing, and they find it,” he said. “And I hear that a lot from people.”

About 10,000 people descend upon VeloSwap every year. About 500 vendors sell goods, more than half of which are individuals with stuff to sell, Brown said. (Booths are still available, he added.) The rest of the booths are filled by bike shops, like Full Cycle, pro teams, nonprofits, like Community Cycles, and bike-industry companies.

It’s hard to say how much people spend at the swap, Brown said. But there’s never enough cash.

“The two cash machines that are loaded with $80,000 each are drained by 10 or 10:30 a.m.,” Brown said.

And there’s always a line to get in when the doors open at 9 a.m., Brown said.

“The doors open at 9 a.m., and from 9 until noon, it’s mayhem,” Gronholm said.

Gronholm advises getting in the line, especially if you’ve researched ahead of time and know what you want.

“Get there an hour before the place opens, and be ready,” she said. “Because the really good bikes — they don’t last long. For us, our really good bikes are done by 11, 11:30. After that, it’s odd sizes, that kind of thing.”

Keener, who has gone to VeloSwap as a vendor every year since he ran it six or seven years ago, said the swap is so appealing to people because it has a great selection, low prices, “and you can actually touch and feel the stuff.”

Craigslist and eBay might have taken some vendors away from VeloSwap in recent years, Keener said, but he still sells at the swap rather than online.

“I’m still waiting for VeloSwap, because it’s a lot of fun, and it’s that gathering-of-the-tribes element,” he said. “I want to be there, and I might as well sell some stuff.”

In addition to selling or buying some stuff, there are demos and entertainment. The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine will be there hosting Computrainer competitions, and like last year, the Yellow Design Team will perform stunts. Brown said there’s also a live feed for the swap on their Web site, like what some follow for the Tour de France.

If you’re a cyclist, it’s the place to be on Saturday, Keener said.

“It’s a din of bike noise, people talking about bikes, people test riding bikes, it’s just a hum of bikes in there.”