Opinion: Cancellation of Interbike 2019 Means Changes for Industry Trade Shows

Dec 12, 2018
by James Smurthwaite  
Interbike 2018

In 2019, Interbike will not be running for the first time since it started in 1993. A monolith of the industry, it attempted to buck the tide of falling numbers with a move to Reno last year but it was too little, too late.

The rot began as the big brands left, taking their bike shops with them. Numbers began to spiral which put off more brands until it was left in a hole it couldn’t get out of.

The decline was hastened by product releases becoming more scattergun, as opposed to being held back for shows. It makes sense - if you’d spent years working on a new product, would you want to release it among the clamour of 1,000 other products at a trade show, or have it breathe on its own?

Eurobike 2018

The move to Reno failed to buck the trends and, as number fell yet again, the show had to close. Emerald have promised to bring back Interbike for 2020 but, having lost most of its management staff, there’s no telling what it may look like. So what does this mean for the other big cycling trade shows? Let’s take a look through the other shows around the world in the mountain bike world to understand where they may go next.

Eurobike

2018 Exhibitors - 1,400 (+0%)
2018 Attendance - 37,379 (-12%)

Eurobike was moved forward in the calendar to July in 2018 in order to combat online releases of new products. The idea… didn’t work.

The new date clashed with the start of the Tour de France and peak riding season, which spread brands and shops thin. The new date also meant exhibitors had to try and fit a year’s worth of work into nine months to get themselves ready for Eurobike.

Eurobike 2016

The result was a show that was down 12 per cent in attendance following a seven per cent drop the year before. While the show still sold out, the bigger brands continued their exodus from Friedrichshafen (with the exception of Kona who returned after a hiatus) leaving 100 new brands to take their place. The show, like most trade shows now, was dominated by ebikes with virtually no new traditional mountain bikes on show.

There was an initial change of the date for 2019 to early August and then capitulation back to its traditional date in September. Eurobike has also recently announced Aseanbike, a partner trade show for the Asian market, that will be based in Bangkok.

Sea Otter

2018 Exhibitors - 500 (+15%)
2018 Attendance - 74,000 (+0%)

Sea Otter continues to grow and is probably the most successful, large trade show. It’s now also the only trade show that attracts significant numbers of the general public - Taipei manages just 3,000 and Eurobike doesn’t allow them in. In 2017 Sea Otter branched out into Europe with a show in Girona, Spain, that attracts 30,000 visitors, and 2019 will see it add another stop, this time in Canada.

Sea Otter 2018

Over the last five years, Sea Otter exhibitor sales have grown by 46 percent, while Sea Otter Europe doubled its exhibition space last year.

With a focus on demoing and racing alongside the exhibition space, Sea Otter has projected further growth next year and expects to accommodate 550 exhibitors.

Taipei

2018 Exhibitors - 1,150 (+4.5%)
2018 Attendance - 36,918 (-12%)

Taipei also changed dates this year, moving from March to November. Reports suggest that this halved the number of overseas visitors who were forced to choose between it and the Taichung Bike Week, which is just a month earlier. The 2019 show has been moved back to March, just five months after the 2018 edition.

Taipei is less consumer and more manufacturer focussed than Eurobike and Interbike so is probably less damaged by the fluctuating news cycle. As the Asian bike market grows, so does its number of exhibitors but we’re not expecting visitor numbers to recover for 2019, the two shows are simply too close together.

Taipei Show 2016

The future of trade shows

As habits and technologies force brands to present their new products differently, trade shows will have to adapt to survive. A more savvy audience demands real world experience of bikes, not just pictures on a stand and a geometry chart and the industry has to factor this in to how they release their products.

The big shows are now competing against a rise of brand shows and press camps. Brands feel they can offer a more personalised (and probably cheaper) experience for their IBDs by bringing them in house and away from the bustle of a trade show. They also are able to capture the media for a whole day as opposed to 30 minutes at a time. These come with their own pitfalls though. Journalists get burned out on travelling to so many different brands and, in fact, most publications simply can't justify losing a journalist for the best part of a week on one product, so plenty of brands miss out on blanket coverage. On top of this, questions around collusion and ethics will creep in when brands are able to dictate to the media after flying them around the world to a dream destination.

We’ve even started to see digital shows from some brands, where new products are displayed via video conference. Again, this is no doubt another cost saving venture but it is also easier for shops and the media who don't have to travel to see what they need.

Specialized
Specialized's new ANGi system was launched via webinar

For the big shows, demoing seems to be the way to go. Sea Otter is in good health thanks to the draw it has on the public and Crankworx's Expo area gets bigger each year, with new products starting to appear there.

One of the reasons for Interbike’s move to Reno was its proximity to Northstar Bike Park, where a public demo was held to form part of the Interbike Marketweek. Similarly, Eurobike holds its Media Days in the weeks preceding the show to give journalists a chance to write with greater authority on the products released at Eurobike. A number of brands are invited with a bunch of journalists to a resort and the week is spent getting 'first impressions' on new bikes that can then be shared as embargoes lift around Eurobike. This option encourages brands to hold back their releases until Eurobike as they are almost guaranteed a good level of coverage.

So is there a place for trade shows in all of this? I would say yes. It's been a particularly bad year for shows but they haven't helped themselves with some questionable decisions. Despite it all though, the internet simply can't substitute for a face-to-face meeting and the ability to get your product in front of the whole industry at one time is invaluable, especially for smaller and up and coming brands. They may no longer be the highlight of each season, and they will almost certainly have to shrink to be sustainable but shows are unlikely to completely disappear soon.


70 Comments

  • + 43
 Well, Theres a sea otter Canada coming... so lets just have Sea Otter Canada, Sea Otter America and Eurobike and bam! all we need... oh and the Taipei show, just so we can keep tabs on weird shit.
  • + 10
 Really? Where do they plan on hosting it in Canada?
  • + 7
 '..weird shit'. Exactly! Big Grin
  • + 5
 There's a Sea Otter Euro in Spain isn't there? Damn varmints are breeding all over the place.

www.seaottereurope.com
  • + 9
 @Mister-Lost-Bike-Shop: If it's anything like the original, somewhere with a tiny hill for the 'DH' Smile
  • + 4
 @endlessblockades: Ontario, an entire province of small hills, should be perfect haha.
truth is though Im excited for it being in a province that could use a boost in its cycling community and what not.
  • + 3
 @Mister-Lost-Bike-Shop: Blue Mountain, about and hour outside of Toronto
  • + 6
 @TheBearDen: Hey, Sea Otter Canada will still be able to field far, far more interesting DH and Enduro events than Sea Otter Classic does.
  • + 1
 @j-t-g: some truth there. Sea Otter DH and Enduro are so watered down now it's not even funny. The DH is more of a pedally regional enduro course and the Enduro really is just an XC race.
  • + 4
 @Trudeez: Yes, it's not 'real' for sure, but it's still a 'race' and it's hard to win because the competion is strong so it's still a fun part of the SOC shindig. The dual slalom racing is what makes if awesome if that's your thing. That's something you don't get to do everyday anymore.

Interbike Fontucky
  • + 2
 @endlessblockades: definite thumbs up to the dual slalom!
  • + 21
 I would support the brands investing this money in more demo fleets for the LBS. Call me old fashioned, but I want to buy a bike from a shop near me so it is easy to service and get warranted if something happens. Last summer most of the major brands did demo days at my local trails and it allowed people to ride different bikes on local trails so people could evaluate what worked best.
  • + 15
 One shop near me has already converted to 100% demo fleet. They don't carry any new bikes for purchase, just demos, and you order if you want to buy. Seems like a much more sustainable business model for lbs, since ability to demo is a clear advantage over online, plus the shop spends less on inventory.

Of course there's nothing stopping online brands from opening demo centers or delivering demos via mobile van shops too.
  • + 5
 @dthomp325: A good idea in a world where manufactures actually carry stock for repeat orders. Everything is just in time shipping now and companies stock as little as possible. I think your LBS will find that stock to place orders off of is very limited.
  • + 4
 @dthomp325: The problem with that is unscrupulous people wasting the lbs' time by demo'ing the bike and then going home and ordering online from some cheaper supplier. This already happens in other kinds of retail, even inexpensive stuff like shoes where the person could have bought and walked out of the store with them right then and there but instead ordered online to save a few dollars.
  • + 3
 @beachboyottawa: they charge for the demo and then give it back if you buy a bike, so it incentivizes you to buy at the shop, but does kinda suck if you demo bikes at multiple shops, then you can end up spending a lot for demos.
  • + 15
 If they would allow more dogs they would likely be able to increase foot and paw traffic.
  • + 1
 Good to see you back @IamTheDogEzra
  • + 1
 wam bam thank you maam
  • + 10
 I have zero interest in going to a trade show, and I"m in the industry. Its just everybody getting hammered, and blathering about nonsense when most ofthem can't ride their way out of a paper bag.

Outerbike is way more successful of an idea IMO.
  • + 12
 Why not combine trade shows with some other convention at the same time, you could have an even wider appeal. I mean, who wouldn't want to ride a GT Furry?
  • + 5
 Yes! How about Comic-conmençal?

Trek C3-E3?
  • + 5
 Brews, Bikes and Blues festival. Someone write me a check.
  • + 5
 @Boardlife69: No Downhill, Death Metal and Dosenbier
  • + 5
 More Outerbike across the world where the public can actually try some of the bikes and accessory and component vendors can come and see who their consumers really are and listen to them. Too bad the Moab Utah one is not taking place in the spring as we from the north would love some good riding conditions.
  • + 1
 Go to crusty butt in the summer. U Won't be disappointed.
  • + 6
 It’s really sad because what’s a small time frame builder or component maker gonna do next time they want to rub Chris Chance or Keith Bontragers balls?
This is just horrible
Some things just can’t be duplicated online
  • + 1
 this
  • + 4
 I'm obviously only speaking for myself here but I wouldn't be surprised if it counts for many more here. As a mountainbiker I like being outside, nice company, nice surroundings. These fairs are inside, noisy, clean bikes, crowdy, straight lanes, slow steady foot traffic, no fresh air... It gets exhausting and even claustrofobic real quick. You went there because you were hungry for the information. And they wouldn't fix all that was wrong (or at least unfit for me) with it simply because they thought you didn't have a better alternative to get your information. Now you have this alternative and there is no point putting up with such events. Same goes for these department stores. Back in the days you really had to go there if you needed that one product you knew they have. So you went in there, put up with all the queues and stuff. Now that these same shops and their competitors offer their stuff online, there is no point putting up with that anymore.

So from my perspective, they just messed up and thought they could get away with this for lack of an alternative. Sea Otter got that one right. Actually relate it to what riding bikes is all about.
  • + 4
 We had great success this year bringing back the Malverns Classic festival. The trade wanted an event that had a bit of everything; racing, demos bikes, live music, stunt shows, kids zone, beer tent and the general cycling public along with the weekend warrior. With not too much trouble over 100 stands booked up!
The consumer here in the UK is now spoilt for choice with the great offerings from Ard Rock, Tweed Love, Fort William WC and now the Malverns.
The shop keepers can go along and see the brands, the rider gets informed up close and personal in a friendly and welcoming environment. And the bonus being a beer in your hand, winner!
  • + 5
 How about this, direct sales for all of it. I don’t understand why I have to negotiate two layers of middlemen (ex. BTI and LBS) to purchase a freakin’ SRAM part.
  • + 1
 stop making sense, that's not how the bike industry works... we need BTI and QBP to perpetuate the LBS mantra
  • + 2
 @jcav5: BTI and QBP carry the inventory so your LBS doesn't have to carry every single BB/fork/headset and the small parts that go with them. If you're a competent mechanic, good for you. Get everything online. For everyone else out there, they need a local shop. That local shop needs someone big to call when they need parts. It is a lot easier to call QBP or BTI than to call SRAM, RaceFace, and Fox (and pay shipped 3x) just go get parts to fix one customers' bike.
  • + 6
 Well I get all of my trade show news through Pinkbike, and I'm assuming that won't stop even if trade shows do.
  • + 2
 It's clear that a festival-type of event where the general public is allowed to see and try the new things is the best bang for the buck. It attracts the most attention compared to a trade show and gets the word out among the people who will actually be buying the stuff.
  • + 3
 Just invite the people that really matter, US, THE BUYING PUBLIC, preaching to your peers means nothing, we the purchasers are what drives our sport, make it inclusive and never exclusive, or, DIE.
  • + 2
 Seems like they are all dying a slow death. The brands are doing the ROI calculation and some random dude who sits at the booth getting hammered all week on their dime isn't exactly good justification to keep doing it. They will be around for a some yers to come but only become less and less relevant till they hit that inflection point that Interbike did
  • + 2
 Money is better spend doing demo trucks, ambassadors, press releases, etc. Same reason SRAM stepped away from big name sponsorships, Le Tour, and started pushing small time ambassadors and lower level non-pro sponsorship.
  • + 1
 @kmg0: Exactly right. The customers are not at these trade shows. They can get their information in so many better ways that cost the SRAMs of the world way less money to execute against AND have measurable ROI.
  • + 2
 You can tell that Interbike was supposed to be the SEMA for bikes. At first it must have resembled that larger event, but there is no way that an industry as small as bikes could compete with the auto industry. Need to involve the consumers for even a chance of survival. Sea Otter, Outerbike, Crankworx, etc. all have the right idea.
  • + 1
 I think @JamesSmurthwaite makes some good observations and points, however...

Lets be clear about the semantics here...
Interbike, Eurobike, Taipei show, are "trade" events and are B2B related.
Sea Otter and events like it are "festivals" and or otherwise consumer cyclist events, B2C related.

Will there be a new trade show for NA?
Aristotle is quoted for saying "Nature abhors a vacuum"...
  • + 1
 Trade shows are dead. Grassroots festivals are the way to go. Cheaper for brands and a more intimate gathering with potential consumers and bike shops. After speaking with a few industry people they would rather go grassroots as opposed to trade shows as they get to speak with the people who ultimately buy their product.
  • + 1
 It's all about the free stickers Like when I didn't have a suitcase or stickers and porn cards from vegas to sell to the groms it really killed sales Like the last free sticker was 2012 I sure whistler crankworks could easily be crowned the new clusterbike festival and could hand out stickers for all
  • + 1
 I recently went to the San Francisco car show and compared to Inter Bike it was a completely different atmosphere, the people there where actually excited. What makes the car show so awesome is it gives people a chance physically interact with and see the cars. In contrast, Interbike is a bunch of small booths with minimal product to see and interact with(outdoor demo doesn't count there wasn't nearly enough brands present). Ive worked in a bike shop for a while now so you get to see a lot of cool bike, but getting to see certain bikes in person enables you to see a lot more of their design and detail which is rad and creates a lot more excitement than just looking at a posters on the wall of a lame booth. This is just purely an observation I've made comparing the bike industry to another, but from what I have experienced with my first inter bike being 2012 and there was a lot more bikes physically there and it didn't seem as dead.
  • + 1
 I think the CABDA format is pretty good. Focusing more on regional areas with a big focus on training seminars with PBMA . This year they added an additional show in San Diego. www.cabda.com
  • + 0
 Take all that time and money invested in trade shows and sponsor more riders. More woman need sponsors and the prize money needs to be much greater, Social media does a fine job of showing the latest new and improved bla bla bla. The whole show could be put on line. You cant touch the goods but then again the consumer cant untill we buy the stuff.
  • + 2
 The money from Interbike alone going to female rider sponsorships and prize purses would totally change the landscape.
  • + 2
 "Journalists get burned out on travelling to so many different brands"

The hardships a bike jurno must endure to be paid to ride bikes in nice places :-)
  • + 2
 CABDA West in California January 16 & 17. And CABDA Midwest in Chicago February 13 & 14. Enjoy both if you like trade shows.
  • + 0
 I love going to trade shows SEMA for cars n trucks and Designer Con for us creative types who work the industry. But a bike trade show would be awesome in a big city like in LA where you know -where tons of people live. Business thrives wheres there's foot traffic so think twice if you want to hold a convention in the middle of the desert or in a little town in freaking Bumville or some damn place.
  • + 2
 First the end of the Marzocchi girls, now the end of trade shows... the times are a' changin'.
  • + 3
 Sea otter Canada should be in Vancouver BC..
  • + 2
 I despise the word webinar
  • + 2
 Does anyone really care? They're done for and things move on.
  • + 1
 you've got to think of social media spread though, such an interesting time of year!
  • + 2
 New product demo show concept: send bikes to trolls
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns You'd have to quit you day job to keep up!
  • + 1
 Prediction: Shimano 12sp and Saint refresh available in time for Interbike 2019
  • + 1
 MTB trade shows are going to be races or competitions with outdoor booths and outdoor demos.
  • + 2
 Interbike Indianapolis!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Is the future or tradeshows VR?
  • + 1
 Random give-a-ways, Stickers given free for all! Beer and autographs...
  • + 1
 You're next!
  • + 0
 Outdoor Retailer was a god damn shit show this year. I hope thats next.
  • + 1
 Don't forget NAHBS!
  • + 1
 That's just for nerds though
  • + 2
 The NAHBS was in SLC the past year and we have the trails to support. Interbike Park City. Now that would be easy to support.
  • + 2
 Noobs don't "get" NAHBS.
  • + 1
 PB hearts Angie.

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