Rest in Peace: The Rise & Fall of Interbike

Dec 10, 2018
by Richard Cunningham  
Interbike

R.I.P. INTERBIKE
1982 - 2018

By R. Cunningham

Vikings were farmers by trade. It was hard work, but it was seasonal - much like running a bicycle retail store. There was little to do in the interim between when their crops were established and harvest time, so they armored up, grabbed their swords, hopped into their long-boats and went night clubbing in Northern Europe and the British Isles. Maybe Interbike founders Steve Ready and Herb Wetenkamp knew these things when they founded a new trade show and moved it from winter - when dealers were either ramping up for Christmas or preparing for spring - to autumn, when they were cash-rich from the summer selling season and absolutely nothing was going out the door except inner-tubes for parsimonious college students.

Maybe they didn't, but their timing was right. After Interbike made the permanent move to Las Vegas, Ready and Wetenkamp had the entire bicycle industry clamoring into their boats, for what would quickly become a hedonistic week, loosely based around buying and selling bicycle stuff. Sure, it was a crappy place for cyclists, but in a few weeks' time most of the Northern Hemisphere was going to be a crappy place for cyclists. Flights were cheap, weather was always good, and everything you could possibly want was within walking distance. It was eat, drink, be merry, and talk about bikes - and you could expense every penny. Interbike crushed its competition and quickly rose to international prominence.
Steve Ready Hall of Fame 1995 co-founder of Interbike Exposition
Interbike Co-Founder Steve Ready. BRAIN photo

In its heyday, Interbike was all of the above and then some. I attended almost all of Interbike's shows - as a little guy, displaying a couple of bikes in one of the peanut gallery's ten by ten-foot squares; representing a corporate brand in a central island; and a long stint as a tech editor. The expo was the most important event on the calendar for many years.

Interbike 2016
Product demonstrations offered attendees a proper education in the pre-Youtube era.
Cavalerie Anakin bike review. www.thomasgaffneyphotography.com
Startup companies depended upon trade shows to introduce new technology to cyclists.

Why Interbike Was Important

Interbike wasn't all fun and games. Orders were placed, money changed hands, but the main purpose that Interbike served was to become cycling's annual show-and-tell, where retailers, especially the ones who had their heads down and hands busy for nine months each year, could see, touch and learn about all of the coming season's products and trends. Ready got that. He crafted Interbike to be a gathering of bicycle people, where the most important business at hand was networking, developing new or strengthening old relationships, and having an opportunity to immerse your key employees in the larger picture.

Unless you date back to the '80's it may be hard to understand why that was such a big deal. Conceptualize a time before people were interconnected by mobile phones and internet apps. Dealers who wanted to preview a new product could page through a glossy catalog provided by bike brands, hope for a review to appear in a magazine, or if the shops were members of a larger brand's top 50 retailers, they might to be invited to an exclusive pre-show at corporate headquarters.

Consider how dynamic the industry was,
Interbike 2018
Anything and everything rolled through the aisles.
with mountain bikes, the purple CNC component revolution, freestyle BMX and Triathlon exploding, and you can understand why it was worth a plane ticket and the cost of a hotel to experience it all first hand.

bigquotesTrade-only shows hinged upon the old-school assumption that knowledge was passed down from the manufacturing brand, to the retailer, who then used that information as a sales tool to inform the customer. Dealers provided customer feedback to bike makers, completing the loop.

The same was true for the media. If reporters were lucky, they would occasionally be granted an exclusive preview, but for most, expositions like Interbike were the first and only opportunity to preview and photograph the latest and greatest widgets. Miss Interbike and you might have to wait three months before the production versions were available. Bike and accessory makers typically valued positive show coverage by prominent publications more than sales. Show issues were so popular they often doubled circulation, so it was quite common for marketing managers to leap into the aisles like hunting spiders and physically pull editors into their displays.

Interbike 2017


The Technology Gap

Trade-only shows hinged upon the old-school assumption that knowledge was passed from the manufacturing brand, to the retailer, who then used that information as a sales tool to inform the customer. Dealers provided customer feedback to bike makers, completing the loop. Interbike's aisles were the halls of learning where bike brands and retailers traded most of that information. Rapid technological changes, however, primarily from the mountain bike sector, created an ever-widening information gap which would forever rewrite that equation.

bigquotes...bike brands turned to the media as a way to reach around retailers and take their message directly to end customers.

Many bike dealers, some of whom had fallen behind from the sport's inception, failed to keep up with the steep learning curve caused by a barrage of new frame standards, alternative materials, suspension development, and drivetrain innovations. Grass roots mountain bikers were the ones pushing for those improvements, so in response, bike brands turned to the media as a way to reach around retailers and take their message directly to end customers. Media launches soon supplanted the trade show as the most effective method for a brand to communicate its technology and identity, which spelled the beginning of the end for Interbike.

Media launches migrated to the summer months when riding conditions were guaranteed to be better, so by the time Interbike came around in September, journalists had to work hard to find interesting products to write about. More often than not, I would be met by a familiar brand manager at the threshold of a corporate display by, "Well you've already seen all of our new stuff, so would you like a beer?" Media launches, even those in exotic locations, also turned out to be more cost effective than trade shows. One by one, the sport's larger players opted out of Interbike altogether, preferring to sequester their retailers in private, where they could bring them up to speed in a similar, learn-and-ride context.

The guys from Disandina Colombia.
Bike shop employees flocked to Interbike's Outdoor Demo for a chance to test ride next year's models. Bike brands responded by assembling their own demo fleets and brought that opportunity to their doorsteps.


Social Media Metes Out the Crushing Blow

Search engines and social media ripped down the veils that once retarded the flow of information between bike brands, retailers and riders. The smart phone made it accessible at any time and from almost any location worldwide. Bike brands could publish their marketing message and technical information unfiltered by the opinions of established media personalities. Retailers could access and compare technical information and pricing from every brand, and almost any other retailer.

The most empowered member in this chain of communication, however, was the end customer, who for the first time, could watch sponsored racer's instagrams for secret prototypes, Google product
images, and compare sizing, prices, specifications, reviews, action videos, and rider's opinions in a few minutes. Consumers could make an informed choice in private, and purchase on line without outside pressure. When everyone in the chain has access, it does away with the drama - which brings us back to the Vikings...

Pillaging Europe every summer probably took a while before it got old. Once you've hacked and burned every village and monastery beyond the far horizon a few times, however, you get to know the locals. Some of the Vikings put down roots there too, so besides the fact that the man whose head you are about to cleave might be your cousin, at some point, everybody in Europe who lived near a body of water was clued in that you'd be visiting in June, so they learned to have their gold and silver ready. Vikings thus became successful traders, but where's the fun in that? "Hey guys let's row our longboats across the North Sea to buy wool kilts from my uncle Thorson?" Good luck with that.


RIP Interbike: 1982 - 2018

Doctors would probably say that the information age ultimately took the life of the longest running trade show in the US. We are interconnected now, we know how each other's kids are doing, who's fat, who's fit and which one of us is making bank. Social media had elevated networking to a global level, and by the time September rolled around, we'd seen about all there was to see that would be on display on the glitzy Island of Interbike. Nevada is a long way to row for a repeat performance. No surprise that many long-time supporters of the show left their boats moored in port. In a way, it was kind that expo owner Emerald
Expositions Events gave Interbike a Viking funeral before nobody was left to mourn its passing.

History, in its darkest hours, always provides a lesson. Interbike was successful because it brought the industry together, but in doing so, it excluded the sport's most important player. While industry bike warriors were busy fighting and reveling in Interbike's carpeted halls, the information age quietly handed the keys to the kingdom to their rightful heirs. Customers have all the power now, and the trade-only show, is dead.

Reno



147 Comments

  • + 60
 Maybe mix more of the 'tradeshow' into the pits etc of the WC/crankwork rounds... create more of a festival vibe around the events.
  • + 60
 Like Sea Otter
  • + 24
 You can't talk business with customers around. The festival atmosphere is fun for the punters but you can't sell someone a 2019 bike while your colleague explains the ways in which it will be changing for 2020 to someone who needs that information next to you.

This was what Interbike was before the world changed. A chance for the business to be done. Then the big brands dropped it in favour of having the press/dealer's full attention rather than a few minutes of a hectic day and the whole thing shrivelled.

There is a reason the big brands do dealer camps and press camps. Shops, press, parts manufacturers etc all have to know what is happening in advance of the public.
  • + 4
 This is an interesting comparison between this and Crankworx. There has been a bit of a decline in representation at Crankworx Whistler the last couple of years. It's still hopping at the top of the Village, but as you walk down it peters out. I wonder why.
  • + 37
 Maybe consumers are just fed up with all your BS media must have game-changing add a millimeter products
  • + 6
 @stinkbikelies: we can only hope
  • + 9
 @leelau: I guess those few millimeters here or there of BS are not boosting their sales
  • - 1
 Each time I go to a WC I say just that - there should be more gear/kit/bikes for sale here. And that there should be (heavy) discounts for the people that come to the live events like that. You're obviously passionate about the sport making the effort to show up. Give us a discount... I like sticker packs, but there is only so much room for stickers. haha
  • + 5
 @rrolly: Crankworx got so busy that no one goes anymore.
  • + 1
 @JustinVP: The people are there, but the businesses are not.
  • + 3
 @rrolly: As someone who used to work both Interbike, BTAC (Canadian Trade Show) and Crankworx, I can tell you why most manufacturers do not attend Crankworx.

It's just not worth the cost. I would spend most of my day at Crankworx talking to non cyclists about cycling, or giving directions, or being asked if we had any "free stuff". You do no business at Crakworx, and it was the shits as a marketing plan. You were better off renting a condo and inviting press to view and or demo new products.

Interbike was a show to do business at, but once the big boys left and did their own dealer intro's/brainwashing seminars (more cost effective for them and a focused 3 or 4 days of teaching why brand X is better than any invention of all time), Dealers had less time to spend going to show like interbike. This worked out well for the big boys to keep what was already theirs and expand on it.

Alas, Richard is correct in the direct media and direct to consumer information. We live in a 'just in time" world, see it, want it, get it. The sporting goods trade show in North America is dying, SIA merged with OR this last year, this will be a slower death, but I don't imagine that show will be around in 10 year either.
  • + 5
 @tonestar: People like @cky78 above who think that showing up at an event is reason enough that the people who make bikes for a living shouldn't make a profit.
  • - 4
flag cky78 (Dec 11, 2018 at 4:42) (Below Threshold)
 @Patrick9-32: When I drive 12 hours to get to an event, yes some recognition of effort would obviously be nice. If you think giving discounts to a few people is going to bankrupt a big corporation.....I'm, an obviously passionate participant towards their activity, not their biggest concern.
  • + 7
 @cky78: A lot of those companies drove or flew a hell of a lot a lot further and spent many thousands on being there to entertain you and make it worth it to go to the event for you. A little recognition of that effort by paying full price for some shit that you don't need and are choosing to buy would be nice.

What happened to make you so entitled? The price of the products has been calculated to be where it needs to be for the company to make a profit. If you demand a discount you are demanding that the people at the company you are apparently passionate about make less money or lose money just so you can spend less of yours. If you think the price is too high don't buy the shit, it is as simple as that. If you want reduced prices buy cheaper parts.
  • - 4
flag cky78 (Dec 11, 2018 at 5:09) (Below Threshold)
 @Patrick9-32: That's their job, and their choice to be a part of the event. It's my choice to spend my hard earned money to travel to the event and be entertained. I know how things work, but thank you for the explanation. I guess I can continue on with my life now that I am enlightened. Go keyboard warrior elsewhere. I am uninterested in what you have to say. Have a great day though!
  • + 1
 @tonestar: I get that there is a cost to being at Crankworx. But I'm not sure about it not being worth it. I guess it may depend on the company and what you do once you're there. It's about raising brand awareness. Non-cyclists can become cyclists (not if someone has a pissy look on their face because they don't want to be at the show though). And giving out free stuff can also be the hook that gets people in.

IMO, pulling out of a festival (not a tradeshow) is shortsighted and puts the product and the industry out of the public's eye. Everyone is fighting for people's attention. Stepping away from that is not a good idea.
  • + 5
 @rrolly: You can think what you want, I did the event, crunched the numbers and can honestly tell you it is not a good marketing plan for most manufacturers. The "feature vendors" are all spending hug dollars and getting the TV/on-line coverage at a title sponsor, I can't speak to their marketing numbers, but I do know how it worked out for the brands I worked with. Think what you want, but I know what the results were, there are far more effective ways to spend your marketing dollars than a tent at Crankworx.

I'm a professional, never a pissy look on my face at an event or with the public, just telling you the real people we saw at Crankworx. If a sticker, poster or key-chain turned people into mtn bikers, I think it would be a lot more crowded out there on the trails now.
  • + 1
 @tonestar: Well said, I'd second this. We saw it on the photo/video side of things too, with NAB being dismantled in favor of regional, more personal events.
  • + 1
 @tonestar: I understand what you're saying, and on one hand I actually agree with you regarding where to spend your marketing dollars, especially in the short term. But, I think that it may be a little shortsighted.

Here's a little devil's advocate for you: When RedBull puts on an event, would they not think that the event was a waste of time based on the amount sold during it? (I know, an oversimplification) The big picture is that they are getting exposure and associating their brand.
  • + 1
 @rrolly: I get what your saying, but you cannot compare RedBull to the bike industry. RedBulls market is everyone in the world, so exposing their brand to the "great unwashed" works for them, that's why they market through so many different events (sports and social).

If you actually saw the traffic of potential customers (bike people) during Crankworx, you would know how small the market actually is. The exposure is super minimal (except for the major sponsors), there is no TV coverage, there is no print coverage. Pinkbike is there, but they cover the events, not the product expo, Tippie might stop by and say hello, tell a joke and get you 20 seconds on the platform, but that still doesn't make it worth the time or money.

That's my 2 cents on it. Like I say, think what you want, but it will never turn into a trade expo for consumers or retailers, it just doesn't have the draw and isn't at the right time of year either (Sea Otter seems to get the new product play).
  • + 25
 Its clear that this outdated model of doing business is not coming back. Even the Eurobike organizers are cannibalizing their own show by planning the 'Eurobike Media Days' which occurs several weeks before the big show in Friedrichshafen. The idea being that all the journos need to ride the bikes in order to have at least a first ride review which should be published as Eurobike happens. It's simply not enough anymore to just have a few pics of the new stuff which is being presented TODAY, the consumer expects tangible info, not just images. Don't forget that with websites like PB providing such excellent blow by blow coverage of Eurobike, there is really no need for JimBob from St. Louis to make the trek to Vegas, er Reno to see the latest Stumpjumper.
  • + 6
 “More often than not, I would be met by a familiar brand manager at the threshold of a corporate display by, "Well you've already seen all of our new stuff, so would you like a beer?"”

Sums it up really nicely....
  • + 23
 next will be most local bikeshops

and after that 90% of market share will be in the hands of even fewer big players

You doubt it - look at Germany! You all know about their direct sales companies (YT, Canyon, Rose, Radon, Propain..) - but there have been dozens of brands a few years ago. I can not remember 2 friends riding the same bike back in those days - now you have to find an excuse why you didn't buy a damn Jessfy or whatever. And while I don't have exact figures obviously market share has shifted dramatically towards a few. Some of the older ones will abandon their dealers and manage to switch to a direct sales model, or a combined model or actually survive whilst sticking to selling via dealers (Ghost, Cube, Haibike,..).
And some smaller companies that switched to (mostly) direct sales will keep their niche spot (Nicolai, Alutech, Last,..).

That may seem like a lot and obviously Germany is on the winner side when it comes to that market transformation, but still: when I think back to the earlier 2000s, there have probably been 100 MTB Manufacturers - when was the last time you heard from Hot Chili, Principia, Steppenwolf, Stoll, etc

Support pluralism via your niche frame manufacturer Wink
  • + 36
 I don't think most local bike will disappear, only the bad ones as they won't receive return customers. Bike shops provide a value that online and direct sales companies can't, the opportunity to speak face to face, whereas inter-bike hasn't provided much value in the past couple of years.

As someone who has bought two bikes through direct sales, I can say that I will never go back. I had issues with both bikes (including a cracked frame), some of which took months to resolve and many emails back and forth with the distributor. I now have bought my latest bike from my lbs, and have had far few issues, but more importantly, know that I will get issues sorted out quicker as I can talk to people face to face, or be offered a temporary solution in the meantime (e.g. being given a demo bike while mine is being fixed under warranty). I have bought all of my gear, excluding one helmet, in the past year from my lbs, and as such I know the workers well. I now receive discount from them for almost everything I buy, and every time I drop my bike off for a service it is given priority to others.
  • + 13
 There will always be a market for a good MTB specific shop I think. People don't want to do suspension servicing, frame bearings, brake and seat post bleeding etc themselves. People want to demo bikes. People need stuff short notice. People who have the money won't mind paying more to support their local shop. Shops that don't do high end servicing, don't demo bikes and aren't well positioned will struggle or disappear for sure though - most of them are already gone.
  • + 10
 Who is going to service those bikes. Certainly not most riders. Many people barely have time to squeeze in riding, much less time fore maintenance. Also, I'm not buying a FS bike without some kind of local support. There are just too many things that potentially need warranty these days.
  • + 5
 Good bike shops will stay. Half of bad ones is already gone.
  • + 4
 It would be interesting to see if there would be an appetite for a direct sellers' show. Have one big demo fest where people can get together and ride back to back bikes. There still is no substitute to swinging your leg over a bike before you buy it.
  • + 3
 @Legbacon: Absolutely, I think with the increased popularity in mtb riding in my area within the last few years and people with fancy bikes, the vast majority of them would have a difficult time changing a tube let alone try anything else. The people buying these high dollar bikes are also the ones who are willing to spend high dollar on service.
  • + 5
 @WAKIdesigns: I'm ready for mountain biking to flop again there's too many people that on the trails already. I had a grumpy old coot yesterday that I yelled at. He was destroying fungus with his walking cane on the trail. He then tells me to slow down. I replied I'm on Strava. He replies you drug addict. I reply have a good day you old coot.
  • - 9
flag WAKIdesigns (Dec 10, 2018 at 7:44) (Below Threshold)
 @stinkbikelies: it's spelled "c*nt"
- "you old c*nt! - the cyclist hinted"
- "oh yeah? You may get off your bicycle" - the old c*nt said. "I guarantee you, that you just scored the COM, c*nt of the Month"
- "Huh?! Go whack funghi inside your own c*nt, ya c*nt - said the man on expensive bicycle"
- "Oh thank you! So royal! Farewell C(o)unt of Dorkchester"
- "c*nt!!!"
  • + 8
 There is a business model in there that I believe has yet to be explored extensively. That is a bike shop that is service only, unattached to a brand and uninterested in selling bikes. Similar to an auto shop, inexpensive warehouse, knowledgeable mechanics. Stock service and replacement parts. The downside is lack of warranty support, but with direct to consumer brands proliferating shops and warranty processes will evolve as well.
  • + 3
 @Nizhoni: already been done, sort of. Mobile bike repair like Velofix and I've seen others
  • + 2
 @Beez177: True, forgot about companies like VeloFix and mobile repair companies.
  • + 2
 @Nizhoni: a good shop that has good bike service, that cares about their clients, keeps some demo bikes, organize building days, group rides, demo days, workshop courses, bike movie nights, maybe even skills clinics - they get around, if only by folks buying clothing and protection at their place (like I do). Also where employees get paid well, so that they do all of the above gladly, sometimes just for additional holiday days. Elitist pricks who think they know everything, treat their employees like crap, who try to "educate" their clients away from incoming trends, or hype them out on sht they like, who keep restocking stuff nobody buys, maybe keep high prices on it - they go out of business.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I really wish it was true. In my city, there was 2 bike shops. 1 small that cared about their customers and where I was buying my gear and bikes. 1 big that didn't give a sh*t as long as you were giving them your money. The big one was also selling every type of sports equipments and gear so they were making more money out of all this. The big one bough the small one and closed their doors. Now we only have a bad shop in town and I'm only buying online since then.
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: no its old coot for sure.
  • - 1
 @lRaphl: I am just saying what stays in business in my town. Either places with stoked employees or dead inside large scale business masters. Dead inside a*sholes with no business sense, cannot compete with CRC.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: From a European point of view how can CRC still alive when they have normal prices 25-30% higher than big german shops (bike24 etc) and than sell out the stock for 35-40% lower than others. And their components stock is second to none.
  • + 3
 @Cheeky-Greeky: Same here. Never going back to direct retail. All the money you save is wasted on cheap broken parts
  • + 0
 @WAKIdesigns: it is possible to take your vulgar offensive wording too far. I'm m quite certain the moderators would ban any one else for make my such comments.
Your a funny guy.
This comment is vulgar obscene. It's not funny.
  • + 1
 @Legbacon: starting to see the rise of a new business model, the mobile bike mechanic.

They meet you wherever you are and outside business hours. So no more taking time out of your day to take your bike into town for a service and likewise pick it up.
  • + 0
 @Cheeky-Greeky: I bet they do. Bricks and mortar retailing is struggling holistically and the trend is for that to continue. Online businesses and technology have done immense damage to the old model and whilst it still offers some advantages (personalised service, being able to touch/feel/try things first hand) every other part of their business has been overtaken by online.

This is merely the status quo today, but look where it's going. The issues commonly raised around warranty service and supply chains will be improved upon and eventually be superior to the bricks and mortar model. It is inevitable as online sales is where the money is and therefore where the investment is.

And that's the key point - follow the money. If you were an investor, would you put your money in a rigid, dying model that's had its day or the up-and coming model which is annually improving returns, providing access to new markets, cutting costs and providing many more opportunities to improve?

The fact is that bricks and mortar bike shops have very little economic reason to exist any more. You can buy great quality bikes at vastly cheaper prices DtoC. You can buy parts, clothing, accessories etc cheaper online - and you can get them fast if you spend a little for express postage, and you get access to vastly more variety and supply. Servicing you can easily do yourself and for anything you can't, you can get a mobile mechanic to do it for you.

Where is the market space for the LBS? The information value you get from talking to someone face to face no longer exists because you can do extensive research yourself online, rather than talking to someone who has a vested interest in selling you whatever they have in the shop. There's no value in you paying for the shop's rent and overheads and I can do it all sitting on my arse at home on my tablet while drinking coffee.

Any ambitious and switched on mechanic is better served starting their own business as a mobile mechanic, rather than selling their labour for peanuts to a shop owner. It's not hard or even expensive to setup. Lease a van, buy some tools and off you go. And it is far more convenient to increasingly time poor customers.3

The market space for the LBS has shrunk massively and is only going to get squeezed further. When people starting making moralised arguments for their business (rather than economic/market ones) you know they're stuffed.
  • + 1
 We had a local shop in Indy (BGI) that was amazing and they're still one of the best shops in town (besides ICS which is way better in my opinion), but in my opinion lost some of their appeal and had to supplement by opening a gym equipment wing with delivery and setup services. Back in the day they had about 4 miles of trails behind their shop along the river. You could demo their bikes on the trails, they held guided night rides every 2 weeks or so, and they taught skills camps. All that went away when they decided the possibility of an injury was too great of an insurance risk and they closed the entrance to the trails from the shop. Bad choice in my opinion, but who knows, maybe they lost a huge lawsuit to a huge douche that got hurt...idk.
  • + 2
 @Ktron: The traditional LBS needs to adapt to survive. They need to think more like Starbucks did when they created their philosophy of the customer experience. IMO, the LBS needs to become a place to be, not a place to shop. The shopping will happen, but the hanging out or dropping in is the customer experience. The LBS needs to become a community hub I think in order to survive and thrive.
  • + 2
 @rrolly: Starbucks has a product with a 500% markup.
  • + 1
 @rrolly: Google DemoWorx. It's a group that does traveling demos for direct brands.
  • + 1
 @Brewbike909: think more like Starbucks did "when they created their philosophy of the customer experience." Not everything else they do/did.
  • + 3
 @rrolly: I agree! I've always dreamed of opening a bike/skate shop/coffee shop/skate park/pump track/live music venue. Have artists perform on Friday/Saturday nights while people skate/bike and/or just hang out and listen. Keep drugs out of the venue and encourage kids to be there...keep em out of trouble since there's not much to do in Indy. If you run away with my idea and don't at least contact me to work there I'll be mad.
  • + 15
 I heard it was al the meth addicted and unemployed people that make up a majority of Reno’s population that drove out Interbike. Now if I could only recall the source of this information....
  • + 13
 Do it @mikelevy your cue
  • + 2
 It was some schlubby Canuck who works for the new version of Mountain Bike Action...
  • + 31
 I took a break from having intercourse with a moose to drop the truth about Reno.
  • + 1
 As if Denver, SLC, and all other cities are any different... I suspect you got you info from the place Trump gets his, near his taint.

Interbike went the way of all slush fund parties, like Big Pharma, the costs outweighed the benefits; years ago, but freebies are hard to kill.

If they want consumers to be informed, maybe we should be invited to the party? If for one would love to have the opportunity to demo bikes, could care less if my LBS has tried them cuz they ain't me.
  • + 3
 That would make for an epic business card:

Mike Levy: Mountain Biker, Mini Driver, Moose F***er

@mikelevy:
  • + 4
 @drewm: Agreed, I need these business cards ASAP.
  • + 2
 Upon looking, Reno unemployment rates is surprisingly low. It peaked in 2011 (13.9% as far as I can tell), subsequent to sharp rise after the 2008 crash, but has been in steady decline since. October 2018, the stat looks to be 3.3%. I'm not sure how unemployment stats are measured in the US vs. Canada, and perhaps the methodology is different and it's an apples to oranges comparison, but 3.3% regardless is pretty great for a modern unemployment rate, and better than most (if not all?) provinces/cities in Canada (again, assuming apples to apples), including the Canadian national average, as well as Vancouver BC, and Toronto ON. Quebec comes close - the French know what's up, and are actually starving for new workers as far as I can tell. If you are Canadian, living somewhere flat without good trails, and wants good work, and low cost of living - learning French is your ticket. I need to take a French class I think!

It does seem many news reports state Nevada has some of the highest death by drug rates in the US. When I look at CDC's site, yeah the rates look high. But then I look at a place like Vermont that's super chill (as far as I can observe from being there at least), and the rates are even higher! Rates are higher than I would have expected in many areas - and I imagine if I were to look at Vancouver's/Toronto's stats the would probably look higher than I'd have expected also - maybe even similar?
  • + 10
 The idea of exhibiting at mountain bike festivals like Sedona seems like a better model. Consumers, dealers and manufacturers all get to interact. Consumers can demo bikes, helmets and pads before buying and the sellers can get direct feedback. Mostly importantly, it's centered around all of us riding our bikes in awesome places. - EDventure
  • + 8
 This is an example (in economic terms) of perfect information leading to a perfect market. When all of the information is available to all parties at the same time the traditional providers loose leverage and therefore margin. Traditionally those providers (LBS/Car Dealer/etc) should be the experts in their products. This is their ONLY VALUE!

How many times do you walk into a dealer of any kind, not just an LBS, and you know more than the person trying to sell you the product? The only other value a LBS could provide would be stocking the product you want for immediate pickup. If they are not experts or do not have stock why do they deserve higher margins? At this point the majority of LBS must cede the high end market to the internet.

The only thing saving them is the outdated dealer agreement that some bike companies still have that says you must buy a bike from a dealer and not online. If YT/Canyon/etc ever figure out their supply chains to keep bikes in stock and available at all times it will be the death of Specialized/SC/etc. I have taken delivery of a Canyon via an online order and the build was better quality than 99% of the bikes on the floor at most dealers.

BTW if you think I am just cynical, I put myself through college for a degree in economics by working in shops. I truly believe in their value, but there are 1 in 1000 shop owners out there that understand the value they provide. How many of the shop employees out there get weekly education by the shop? For those of you that do take the time to educate yourselves, are you the rule or the exception in your shop? There are good shops out there, but again they are few and far between. Adapt or die...
  • + 4
 You are correct. The employees that educate themselves are the exception, not the rule. I had anxiety about the possibility of a customer knowing more then me or not being able to answer their questions. I definitely prepared myself. It's a bummer talking to most bike shop employees around me, they might as well be working at the grocery store.
  • + 2
 @salespunk I totally agree with you on this. Also many bike shops employ people who just do assembly on whatever bikes they deal and I can't tell you how many times I've felt a sloppy headset, loose hubs etc. Good chance they were never touched by the shops mechanic. I'll step into a LBS if I need something small that I don't have to order but it's getting to the point where they all respond "we can order that for you". A combination of LBS running lean to stay alive as well as not really needing advanced technical knowledge.
  • + 1
 @coyotecycleworks: the "we can order that for you" model works pretty well if you have a shop that gets enough business to get free/discounted freight on weekly shipments. ex. if a customer orders on monday, the order is usually in and gets here by friday. second, most people ordering upgraded parts for their bike have no clue what they need, and many who've been burned by various industry/part standards have to turn to their LBS to figure out what will work for them.
  • + 8
 I would just like to point out that however we got here......RIGHT now we have more trails, riders and better trails than ever before. The sport is growing where it counts!
  • + 6
 I'm glad the "model year" release cycle is dead. Companies now release products whenever they are ready for market (except for the mythical Shimano 12sp), and a once-a-year tradeshow doesn't make any sense.

The next evolution in the business is the conversion of lbs into demo centers. Stock a full range of demo bikes I can try, order online, and get serviced in the shop.
  • + 4
 Is it though? Really? Because even companies like Santa Cruz have started changing the bike each year. New paint job, latest spec, all around November.
  • + 3
 @clarky78: Bold New Graphics?
  • + 3
 My lbs is already like that. It's a sweet scene, and there is beer in the frig.
  • + 5
 Why would you go to an LBS try their bikes and then order online?
  • + 2
 @rednova: Order from the shop I mean.

One shop in my area is already like this, they don't have any new bikes in stock to buy at al, but they have a full range of demo bikes you can try. They charge you for the demo, and then give you the money back if you order a bike. Other shops in the area do it for specific brands, like the local Evil dealer has a full demo stock, but you have to order when you decide to buy.


I expect online brands like Commencal and YT will eventually utilize mobile van shops to deliver demos as well.
  • + 7
 About the only trade show worth attending is the Taipei one, since that's putting you close to the majority of the actual manufacturers.
  • + 5
 Longest running tradeshow in the US? SEMA has been running since the 60s and while you could argue that "it's not a tradeshow because they let lowly consumers in". You cannot deny that there is buying and selling going on in SEMA.

I have only been to a few recent Interbike shows but I watched it decline first from behind the computer then in person over its last years. The problem is that bike industry could never do what SEMA has done, SEMA is the epitome for the automotive industry. If you are maker you go to see how the aftermarket is going to butcher your new car, if you are an aftermarket you go to show off the amazing accessories you have for all the new cars, if you are a consumer you go to see what you want to buy for your project or maybe just to see what crazy kit car you want to buy next.

The biggest thing that SEMA does is foster respect, Interbike never did. At first Interbike was a bunch of snotty industry insiders and sales guys who were just there to talk money. Then they let the consumers in but you didn't get free range. At SEMA if you don't want consumers to see something you don't bring it to the show, Interbike you could bring it and just leave it packed most of the time.

Crankworx, Sea Otter, and the World Cups provide a much more SEMA like feel (trust me I've been). Consumers can wander and check out the next race bike they might buy or try to get a look through the hap-hazardly stuck on decals into what someone might be testing. There's still selling going on, if you don't believe me go tell someone at Crankworx you work the conversation will change.

We as cyclists put the final nail in Interbike's coffin, historically too elitist and stuck up to just let everyone come out and play. Now we do and Interbike goes away.

Interbike may come back but for now, I think the industry is better without it.
  • + 1
 Great write up and you are pretty much spot on. I went to an Interbike years ago. The snobbery and smugness was thick.
  • + 1
 I agree with you, however SEMA is aimed at the automobile industry. The #1 form of transportation in the world. Bicycles & aftermarket parts are not at the forefront of the average citizen's mind.
  • + 1
 @Karpiel073: I would need to look up the stats but I would be willing to bet that more of the worlds population commutes by bicycle. Now how likely are those people to show up at interbike, I'm not sure anyone can be sure however I would guess it's pretty close to the stay at home parent with a minivan in need of replacement for getting the kid(s) to soccer practice.
  • + 2
 @bman33: That is a really good point. I've never attended an interbike, but I've been a Crankworx attendee since 2009. Man, the times have changed. I used to be able to talk to reps and manufacturers, but these days there is a lot of arrogance. The 5.10 booth is the worst. You sell f*cking shoes people, don't get uppity about it. But even partaking in demos is becoming tougher. In 2014 I tested 6 bikes in the 10 days of Crankworx, and bought one of the bikes I tested. Fast forward to 2015 and my son tested a few bikes, one of which we bought. Cworx 2018 I wasn't able to demo a single bike. Companies bringing out one model, etc. The bike world has lost it's soul. Good thing none of that matters once I hit the trails.
  • + 5
 Plenty of fond memories of Interbike! Drooling over the new bikes and crazy concept versions. The Mountain bike action and Dirt magazine Interbike issues were a must. Now in a time of instant access and redbull racing coverage I won’t loose any sleep, but

R.I.P Interbike!
  • + 2
 RIP Interbike. Nice essay RC.
  • + 9
 Video killed the radio star and internet killed Interbike
  • + 4
 I got to work Interbike as a salesman at FLY Racing back in 2004 and 2005. It was so amazing being there in person after drooling over the issues of MTB Action years prior. Got to meet Radek there in fact Smile . But the costs were so huge. It was literally $5,000 to get our product from the loading docs to the floor .... think about that. It cost more to move it 500ft than it did 1000 miles. Want to get power in your booth? Another $500 to drop and extension cord. The costs were so huge!

But the sales were great. One year I opened up a distributor in South America and his initial order from the show was 1/2 of my yearly sales.

Rip Interbike.
  • + 5
 This is what killed Interbike exactly a company would blow its whole yearly advertising budget at this one trade show.
  • + 4
 Back in the early 90s I used to cream over the Oct & Nov issues of MBUK. It was the best time of year because you had the world championships and the trade shows at the same time. Everything was new & exciting back then!
  • + 3
 This harkens back to the Mountain Bike Fiction magazine era. I paid money regularly to read print and look at glossy pictures of what was supposed to be non-biased, critical reviews of bikes and gear. More of a direct extension of industry sales' teams using magazine editors as puppets for their products. Blue Pill Media. I was a faithful subscriber.
  • + 2
 It's all we had.
  • + 1
 @jimeg: That mentality is seeping into the online mags/blogs now as well since everyone is going there /here for info vs. printed mags
  • + 5
 And the Chinese/Taiwanese knockoff ads in the back were “the wonderful more than you can believe it!”
  • + 7
 I was born in 1982 but will keep riding my bike and live forever.
  • + 3
 I was born in 1956 and will keep riding my bike and live forever.
  • + 2
 @endoguru: I was born in 1955 and will keep riding my bike and live forever.
  • + 5
 @lehott: At what age does it become a dick measuring tool? 50? 60? I thought it shrunk with age?
  • + 7
 Wow, this internet thing has really caught-on.
  • + 5
 My father no longer calls it a fad.
  • + 2
 Interbike was always a ton of fun, industry partys, pro's in every hotel. Vegas Skateparks full of rippers. Sad it's gone, but honestly Outerbike is a better event. More hands on product testing rather than look don't touch. The demo days in bootleg canyon were usually undewhelming and the bikes were basic.
  • + 2
 Outerbike sucks huge nads. Waiting 2 hours for the gates to open, sprinting for a decent bike before a bunch of slow-ass inept gumbys get them all for the day....that ain't a good time!! My girlfriend won tickets so we went to CB for Outerbike last year. Just chilling and goofing off, park laps took 7-10 minutes. It was taking people 30-45 fricking minutes to bang out a lap, and these folks were going for 2-3 laps. As a result, none of the vendors had enough bikes so that you could just walk up and grab an enduro sled to wring out on the mountain. Once you got one, the pads were glazed and the rotors were annealed to the point the bikes were getting dangerous to ride. Paying a bunch of money to ride trails choked with inept riders on a bike....if you can get one with brakes that might work is a crap model! If you're a proficient rider and you want to demo some bikes before you spend a few grand, just do it through a shop in a cool place. You'll be happier and get to ride bikes in better condition on trails that aren't clogged with the inept. I'd suggest Over the Edge in Fruita and then hit up Lunch Loops. You can lap Holy Cross or Free Lunch and really see how the bike you're on will do.
  • + 2
 There was a time when bikes had individuality and innovation was king. Plenty of ideas were bad some good. For the last ten years the bikes have all consolidated to one basic formula. Tonnes of platform , long slack and low. Just a bunch of carbon clones with subtle differences. The goal apparently is to have one bike that's climbs like a goat...... black bla bla. 27.5 and 29 inch wheels were invented to bring fresh meat to the table. Every thing was figured out ten years ago. You can't sell a new bike unless it appears to have refinement.
  • + 5
 Somewhat upset that the article said "night clubbing" instead of "knight clubbing" about the Vikings
  • + 3
 spent hours walking around sea otter talking to all my favorite vendors. didnt even make it to the reno show and i was in town. theres something about convention centers and fluorescent lights that are very un-bike.
  • + 3
 I would like to see more ofthe smaller, outdoor bike festivas type shows. We need more of em, and in lots more places. Simple, stupid...bikes, food trucks, beer and lots of free stickers.
  • + 3
 I couldn't agree more ... bring the MTB festivals to the masses instead of the masses to faraway lands. Bikes, gear, food and drink ... focused on the consumer, riding new stuff and the trails. ahh the trails that we love so much is where it counts
  • + 3
 @neorider: Why should the bike manufacturers pay many thousands of dollars to appear at a show like that to do nothing that a well publicised demo day held by their local dealer in that area couldn't achieve for a tenth of the cost though?

The thing people are missing is that Interbike, Eurobike and Taipei are not for customers. They are for manufacturers to show their new stuff to dealers and the press but that dynamic is dying with the dealer days and press camps being supported by social campaigns to tell customer directly about new products.

For a company like Specialized or similar I wouldn't be surprised if the total cost of doing Interbike the way they used to do it was half a million dollars. Imagine how many dealers you can show a good time at a dedicated weekend for that kind of money. A weekend where they not only find out more about your new bikes than they ever would at the show but they also think you are great and want to get invited back next year so they do their best to sell your product.
  • + 3
 Lots of brands have travelling demo fleets. They hit 4x yearly Outerbikes in NA and have demo days in cities all over. It is sometimes hard to catch them when they're passing thru though if you're not already looking or happen to stop in to a lbs shortly before the event. Yeah, getting potential customers on your bikes is key. A few good festival options here in the SW with Moab, St. George, Sedona all hosting bike festivals.
  • + 2
 The trade show was dead long before this. Grassroots festivals are the way to go. They bring all the shiny new things that have been all over social media and net directly into the hands of the consumer where they can test it for themselves n a fun relaxing no pressure atmosphere.
  • + 3
 And yet, on the Internet, you can touch nothing nor feel anything. And we all take glee from seeing an SB150 on a neighbourhood bike path being propelled by a MAMIL Interbike is dead. And we are responsible...
  • + 3
 "And yet, on the internet, you can touching nothing, nor feel anything." These words are SO TRUE, and applicable to so much beyond bike too. Well said.
  • + 2
 Ok...? Bummer, but drama aside, this specific event may have reached its end for good reason. Obviously this is not the end of bike industry expos and trade shows, so it could be for the better in that the our industry has more freedom to dedicate specific resources to cheaper mountain bike, road bike, commuter, e(!) - bike, etc. events with a hell of a lot more efficient process for buyers.

On the other hand, the concentration of hilarious/confusing "randoms" will be sorely missed Frown
  • + 5
 LONGLIVE the PB's show RANDOMS!!!!
  • + 1
 I had one of those '10x10' companies back in the Interbike heyday in the 90's. We would scramble to get together some sort of booth to show our wares, pay the fees to Interbike, the lodging, and the meals for four people then lug the stuff over to Vegas for three days. You were located in the virtual basement and had to hope that some dealer or journo would come by to talk to you. Of course no dealer would commit to stock any of your stuff as the big boys sucked up all the dollars. It was the promise of a pic in Mountain Bike Action that made it worthwhile.

After a few years it just became defense spending so that people knew you were in business. What we needed was actual riders coming by, not dealers and Interbike was strict. MTBR really changed the game as now average Joe could see into the booths and going to the show became a waste of time. Why not just eliminate the middle man?

Had some great times though. Got to see old friends and compare notes. Hit the titty bars.....all the trappings of Vegas that seem so pointless at my advanced age now.
  • + 1
 Interbike used to be rad before the internet. I remember one year in Anaheim, they rented out Disneyland for all of the attendees. Imagine Space Mountain with no lines. It was awesome!
It was also a big deal to rub elbows with the “famous” racers. I remember having some brews at The Doll Hut and seeing Ned Overend and John Tomac there doing the same. It was like they were real people! Time marches on, eh?
  • + 1
 "Customers have all the power now, and the trade-only show, is dead."

Maybe, maybe not...
This is a pretty broad reaching statement, Bike week and the Taipei show are trade only and represent an industry need.
A more accurate statement (IMO) would be to say that "this trade show as we know it, time has passed".

Steve Ready and Herb Wetenkamp) were an insightful people who made something great happen.
Frankly, what they created was also community, something that anyone who has attended the show over an extended period of time will understand. It was good for a lot of peoples business, for a long time.

The thing is, times change and for something new to emerge, this show has to end.
Aristotle is quoted as saying, "Nature abhors a vacuum", Interbike closing it's doors makes room for a new Ready and Wetencamp of this era to come forward and forge something new that makes sense for where we are now.
  • + 1
 Vegas was always a crap location for a bike trade show. Foreign reps liked getting to come to the U.S. and being naughty in Sin City, but always at the expense of the core riding demographic that keeps the industry fresh, excited and enthusiastic. I'm not sure a show in a more bike-centric locale would have survived (for the reasons mentioned in this article) but it would have helped.

I always lost weight because it was so gross looking at the slovenly masses cramming it in at the buffets (and there wasn't much time to go off-strip to get a better meal)-ick!

In the right location, I think an event that combined a few days of industry-only time and then opened the doors to consumers for a couple of days (like Eurobike) might work in N.A., even today.
  • + 1
 Mountain bike manufacturers don't want to pay big money for advertising. They just expect you to pay big money for their products regardless whether you're informed about them or not. Haven't you learned anything from being on pinkbike yet? All your stuff's old and outdated you must go out and buy all brand new kits and bikes. It's all got an extra millimeter or 2 hear or there just for that Industries wallet lightning pleasure.
  • + 2
 And 20 years ago it was a new color and the newest version of Shimano. Nothing has changed. If ANY business doesn't sell new products, they go away. Don't want new stuff, don't buy it. Not a single person or company is putting a gun to your head to make your purchase. You can ride the exact same trails today and tomorrow on the same bike you have now. Nothing will change.
  • + 1
 I met Calvin from Park Tool at Interbike, and some French downhill dude, can't remember his name, and Tippie. Top marks for a trade show, nothing but good times. We just became a Devinci dealer because we met the dudes at the show and they were so cool. I guess it's all for not though because Canyon, YT and all the direct to consumer brands are going to put all the dealers out of business....
  • + 1
 No, trade show died because who wants to take a work trip to reno? ???? ???? ???? People want to go to vegas. I can look up everything on the internet but being able to touch, feel and see product is still just as important to me.
  • + 1
 When the industry decided to make bicycles into motorcycles.....electric motors, gearbox, super boost axels, $10k price tags, $1k for kids bikes, end support on 26in wheelsize, and no standardization....death was certain!
  • + 3
 Yep. I wish cars, motos and computers never evolved either. Disk brakes? Psssh, Drums are where it's at.
Who needs power windows or Fuel Injection? Why do we need color TV or more than 3 channels? Beta is the best video format, why did it go away? My Chuck Taylors are as good for basketball now as they were back in 1965...etc. etc.

In the 90's and early 2000's MTB advanced rapidly because it was new and the bikes were not up to par. And 2/3 of the suspension and frame design was shit. I lived and rode thru it. But somehow folks see it as the 'glory days'. Most all bikes are light years ahead compared to just a few years ago. Suspension and geometry design has settled to a few solid approaches. Incremental gains are the norm. A handful are marketing BS. However, overall, the minor improvements are actual improvements like them or not. Nothing prevents you from riding you 26" bike till it the paint falls off. Maxxis has brand new tires /tubes in 26". Fox and RS make brand new 2019 model forks in 26" . You can find 135, 142 hubs loads of places now and I see 26" rims on numerous sites very often.
  • + 4
 Man, this article hit my heart.
  • + 1
 I’d like to see a traveling show, like auto shows. Visit all the major U.S. cities and Canadian cities on an annual cycle. Cyclists are quite obsessed with product.
  • + 1
 This was an interesting read; thanks for writing it. It had a conclusion, an analogy with a non-bike topic, and some analysis--writing!
  • + 4
 Reach around dealers..
  • + 11
 I bet you love a good reach around...
  • + 1
 Sea Otter Classic for the western world,let the new product intro’s begin!
  • + 2
 who knows, plans for 2020?
  • + 2
 Are there any other bike festivals near Las Vegas? I just applied to a job out there and I was counting on getting to ride tons of demo bikes as one reason a move might not suck.
  • + 3
 @MarcusBrody: Vegas itself might suck for riding but it's near a ton of good riding.
Sedona & Moab are both driving distance.
Mammoth is a few hrs away in the summer.
Brian Head Utah is a couple hours away
Plus, Bootleg Canyon is basically outside Vegas.
  • + 2
 @valhallascott: the good thing about the potential job would be that it's basically right by Bootleg Canyon, so there would be that to explore.
  • + 3
 @valhallascott: Vegas is getting more trails all around the valley...its turned out to be a great place to ride and like you said its close to other fantastic riding spots. And soon mnt Charleston will have a bike park 45min from town.
  • + 2
 @enger: Good to hear. Thanks!
  • + 2
 For the bike industrie and riders, Outerbike is the place to be.
  • + 0
 Enduro killed Mt.biking! Might as well be at SEMA! Enduro is associated with motorcycling!
  • + 1
 I think the outtro was fitting. Nice writing.
  • + 1
 Amazing, Richard. As always Wink
  • + 2
 good journalistic work
  • + 1
 just call it EnduroBike and they will attend
  • + 2
 Maybe less ebike stuff!
  • + 1
 Will EuroBike fold as well?
  • + 1
 rest in fuckin peace yo
  • + 0
 What will we eat? - trolls
  • + 3
 Roadies If you sprinkle it with kale
  • + 5
 @stinkbikelies: Roadies taste like shit Charlie. Like vegetable protein powder mixed with uncooked red rice. I'd rather have someone say Fox got way more coverage than RS because they paid off everybody. That Marzocchi is back, to bring back Ironhorse Sunday, and other irrevelant nostalgic bollocks of great past that never existed, mixed with people wanting longer bikes, thinking that will make them finish 55th instead of 57th. Oh the glory. Finally, the new TLD pyjamas and road works uniforms. Just got meself sprint pants and will soon order the D3. Could rave how it is the best brand while stikman will fight me for Mips.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: when I'm on fat tires I eat Roadies up on a regular basis . Always tastes delicious to me!
  • + 4
 @WAKIdesigns: I'd say roadies taste like a combination of drugs and/or bitterness and/or anger-like chewing on rusty nails and/or syringes. I know I used to be a bitter angry bastard back when I shaved my legs and wore skinsuits a lot.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: HERE YE HERE YE
  • - 1
 #iblametheinternet
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