It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. The weather is fine. There are trails waiting to be ridden and demo bikes on hand. The only thing missing? Riders. By mid-afternoon, you could safely test hand grenades at Outdoor Demo and never harm a soul. I exaggerate. But just a little.
And riders aren’t the only thing missing from Outdoor Demo. There’s also a noticeable lack of Giant, Trek Specialized, Yeti, Intense and Santa Cruz bikes. More and more bike companies are steering clear of Outdoor Demo. The ones that did show up with the goods were, not surprisingly, killing it. Cannondale, Devinci, GT, Marin and Pivot all did brisk business during the first half of the day. But by two p.m., the wait to get on the latest and greatest bikes was a short one, which is great for riders. Not so great, perhaps, for the future of Interbike.
There are a lot of possible explanations for the lonely-tumbleweeds, ghost-town vibe, but the most obvious one is this: Interbike is undergoing a bit of an existential crisis. There was a time when Interbike was The Big Show. The place where new products were unveiled and minds blown. Nowadays, that show is called Sea Otter. Chances are you saw most of “2017’s” new products back in April of 2016, which is a bit of a mind bender…kind of like that moment in Terminator when you realize that a guy who hasn’t been born yet has sent his father back in time to save his mother’s life.
And if, for some reason, the big bike and component manufacturers haven’t spilled the beans on “next year’s” products right at the beginning of the current riding season, you can bet that they’ll hold their own mini-Interbike sometime during the summer. That's why the big players, the Treks, Specializeds and Giants gave up their booth space at Interbike years ago. But now they’ve all decided to ditch Outdoor Demo too? That’s ominous.
Or maybe I’m just being dramatic. Maybe the shift is less ominous and more…. practical. Interbike as we know it is an artifact of an age when news traveled slow and Google wasn’t even “a thing”. Today, if a bike or widget is new and newsworthy, you probably read about it online at least two months before Interbike limped into Vegas.
“Seen anything new and exciting?” It’s the first thing tech editors say to one another at the show because, frankly, we’re all so hard-up for legitimate stories, that we’ve stopped competing with one another and are now just trying to help a fellow traveler write something. Anything. The answer, however, is almost always the same. No. Hell no. That doesn’t mean, however, that innovation has come to a standstill. There’s plenty of new stuff to be excited about…the trouble is we covered it the last bits of it already at Eurobike and are now asking ourselves, “Is it plagiarism if I rewrite what I typed three weeks ago at Friedrichshafen?”
It’s now 10:17 in the evening and I just lost a wrestling match with RC over who would get to write about Pinion’s latest gearbox. Cunningham may be old enough to have fathered me, but he’s a wiry bastard with mad Krav Maga skills. Dammit. The gearbox was one of the few things that really popped out at me. Here’s a picture of the guts of the thing. RC fish-hooked me, put me in a sleeper hold and now gets to tell you about the version with the less-expensive magnesium casting and the evenly-stepped gear changes. We'll see what tomorrow brings....