I commented to a friend today that Interbike is down so much in terms of exhibitors and attendees that it feels like that final trip to the hospital to see Aunt Mabel when you know she isn’t coming home. The future of the show is in doubt and that’s not a failing that can be placed on any one person. The simple fact is that the business model is broken.
Interbike is a trade show. It exists because there was a need to show off the new products for the coming year and to place pre-season orders to help product managers forecast better. In the 1990s, I’d arrive, see new products, watch dealers place orders and take notes on the items I wanted to report on. Given that Interbike coverage in the 1990s was, at best, five or six pages, it was easy to write the coverage.
But now I have a pressing need to report on nearly everything I see.
The show is no longer the place where people show new products, nor is it the place where dealers place pre-season orders. It reminds me of Monty Python’s routine about the cheese shop that has no cheese to sell. “How about cheddar? It’s the single most popular cheese in the world?”
I mean, it is absolutely an issue of existential proportions. Why have a show that performs none of its once essential services?
I’ll tell you one reason: it functions as the bike family’s annual reunion (that’s me with Inga Thompson above). There’s not a scenario in which I don’t show up. And now that you’ve gotten through the epic double negative, let’s try this a different way. Even if the show shrinks to two dozen manufacturers, it will still be worth going because the two dozen who show will be ready to sell their passion. No matter how large or where Interbike is, it remains a celebration of cycling. And if there’s one thing I am, it’s cyclophilic.
I bump into people who have been ground down by the dailiness of their jobs. It can get us all, right? I have my days, shonuff. However, this is bikes. I spent a year working in the electronic security industry—burglar alarms, fire suppression, closed-circuit television, that stuff. It’s a year I won’t get back. It was an industry so lacking in passion you could have used it as a Xanax substitute. Any time I run into someone down on the show, I remember that, and then I just keep moving because there’s someone a booth or two away who is ready to tell you about the amazing ride they had on their Gonkulator 4000 the other day.
Whether Reno saves Interbike or not, I ride this wave to the beach. That said, I can easily see a scenario where the Outdoor Demo at Northstar overtakes the show itself in popularity with exhibitors and attendees alike. I can see allowing the trade show itself to wither on the vine while Outdoor Demo gets all the water. Worse things have happened.
This is my last day in Las Vegas, perhaps ever (he hopes), and it’s also the last day of Interbike 2017.
I can’t wait to get in there and see my friends.