Interbike 2017: Community

Interbike 2017: Community

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.

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  1. Marc Lindarets

    I, for one, will miss Vegas. It’s odd, but the cheap flights and ability to do something different (buffets, rickety attractions, people watching) makes it a change from the mountain resorts and small towns I tend to favor.

    It’s often gross and more sometimes depressing, but what Las Vegas has going for for it is easy and inexpensive access for all of the people that I look forward to reuniting with and those who running into by chance often makes my hour or day.

    I worry that, by doubling travel time and costs for many attendees, the Reno show will be even harder to justify for those whose presence makes it a special week. Sure the riding will be better, but oddly the demo element means very little to many of us.

    Coming off a ‘what did you always want to do in Vegas’ evening (nothing inappropriate, mostly just tacky fun with friends) and facing a 90m direct flight home, against all odds I realize that I’ll miss the place.

  2. Blacksocks

    Thanks for the note P. I enjoy seeing and meeting my companions in the industry and I miss being able to touch and talk about the stuff I’m interested in… but the show business model is outdated and the businesses involved bear 50% of the responsibility. Given the cost of attending to support a shrinking dealer base that’s increasingly hestitant to pre-order, we have to change.

    For some perspective it’s interesting to look at how fashion week in NYC has evolved with the times. From how brands takeover locations to how the show is packaged for in-person and online attendees, to how the business model has changed from pre-selling to at-once sales… there is no shortage of new ideas to make shows relevant, financially rewarding and culturally inspiring.

    I look forward to the future and to seeing my friends at a show that’s thriving.

  3. Steven Gramling

    We will continue to exhibit at Interbike for as long as our distributor partners choose to do so. However, for the sake of dealer participation, I would love to see the show broken down into multiple regional shows. We see more dealers and feel more energy at the newly reborn CABDA show than we see at Interbike.

    If we can’t get dealers to come to us, we need to go them.

    Steven Gramling
    Clean Motion

  4. stefan

    I remember the years when it was so packed that there was a downstairs section. This year it almost seemed as if no one cared. It was good running into people I only see there. Every time I turn around, there’s J.P. Partland, smiling away and asking smarter questions than I do. There are plenty of others that I only see once a year.
    I will NOT miss Las Vegas. The overriding stench of smoke, the crowds that seem to stop right in front of you and then get upset when you knock them over, the overpriced and underwhelming food.
    I hope Reno brings a resurgence of interest. This year was just kind of sad.

  5. Miles Archer

    I am not in the bike industry. In my sub-sub-sector of the software world, we had a trade show in Houston every year. It was a drag in a lot of ways due to the long hours. It was on its last legs for a decade or so as the internet chipped away to its raison d’etre. It remained the place I ran into friends and former co-workers. The show finally died when the major players created their own independent shows.

    One funny story – The second to last year I went, I arranged a focus group in Houston before I flew home. The focus group was for the sort of people who bought the software that was being promoted by the trade show. One of the things we asked the focus group was, how do you learn about new software. One of the focus group participants said “Hey, didn’t there used to be a trade show called XYZ? I used to go there to learn about new products”. XYZ being the name of the show that took place a few days before. We howled behind the one way glass and it was pretty much the end of my company going to that show.

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