Interbike 2018 Recap

Interbike 2018 500px.jpg

5-minute read

Update: For my blog about Interbike’s decision to cancel the 2019 edition, click HERE!

It’s September.  That means one thing for the cycling industry: You either get excited or become overwhelmed with dread for the largest bicycle tradeshow in North America.  Yes, Interbike. 

For those not familiar, here’s the skinny – the bike industry gets together for a big ‘ol dance party in the desert, including a couple days of consumer interaction and bike test rides at the Outdoor Demo, an elite-level cyclocross race, and three days of a large indoor expo for manufacturers, media, sales reps, and bicycle shop owners.  The show has been held in Las Vegas since the late 1990s, with prior locations including Reno, Anaheim, and Philadelphia.

After much industry fuss, this event came back to Reno for 2018, with the Outdoor Demo held near beautiful Lake Tahoe.  Why the move?  Reasons and rumors include cheaper lodging and meals in Reno, better trail riding at the Demo event in Lake Tahoe, and decreased attendance necessitating a cheaper venue for the event organizers. 

In the year leading up to the 2018 edition of Interbike, rumors were flying.  Would the event be cancelled?  Would it become a regional event for folks in the Northwest quadrant of the country?  Heck – do we even need to have this show at all?  Besides, with the internet and social media, manufacturers can do product launches whenever they please.  They no longer “need” the media to help introduce and promote their products.  Instagram “likes” are just as valuable as face-to-face interaction, right?! Kinda-sorta-a-little-yes, but not quite.

If you don’t want to read any further, here is my condensed review of the show this year. 

  • The Outdoor Demo was definitely better in Lake Tahoe than the wind-blown desert of Las Vegas.  People were lined up in droves to try out the latest bikes.  People were smiling.  We could’ve used a few more manufacturers out there with tents, and I hope that more are willing to commit to 2019.  

  • If you’re from sea level, the high elevation of the Demo will smash you, but it’s okay.  You’ll live and gain appreciation for another type of riding. 

  • Face-to-face interaction is still highly valuable.  I see so many people approach Interbike with a sense of doom, and then sheepishly admit after its conclusion that they had a good time talking to people.  We all get a little energized. The trouble is that too many of us want the show to be a binary system – put in 0s (our time, money, and attendance) and get out perfect 1s (100% trackable sales!).  It’s not going to work like that.  The internet has us fooled into thinking that everything we do can-and-should be perfectly trackable and quantifiable.  However, the fact is that we still have to make investments that aren’t perfect… where we don’t entirely know how the cost will be recouped or what the gain will be.  I attended the show this year 100% self-funded, not knowing what I was going to get out of it.  I walked away with a big handful of business cards and great leads for my podcast, marketing business, and stories you’ll find here and my work at Slowtwitch.com.  I reconnected with old friends and made new ones.  If we lock ourselves at home and go to zero events, we will have zero chances for these positive interactions.  In other words – we can’t KNOW that Interbike (or whatever show) will be perfect, but our strategy can’t be to do nothing. 

  • Recap of above: There is no free lunch, no guarantee, and no silver bullet.  Make a decision and get out there.  Capitalize on the successes and adjust for the failures later.

  • For the foreseeable future, cycling in America will NOT become what it is in Europe, due to the simple fact that our infrastructure is not set up for it.  Industry folks are slowly coming around to that fact, and it’s a good thing that we’re being more honest with ourselves.  Let’s work together – let’s cooperate – to make cycling the best it can be for everyone given our circumstances. 

  • Related to the above, I’m seeing a little more cooperation among manufacturers.  The only way we can plug all the holes on the sinking ship is if we work as a team – or at a minimum – stop punching new holes on the other side of the boat.

Notable Tech

  • Gravel bikes are still the bike-du-jour.  As an ardent cycling minimalist, I see this as a good thing in general, with people buying versatile bikes rather than something with a narrow use range.

  • Wheel manufacturers did NOT show up.  There were a few, but it was a noticeable decrease.  Triathlon product representation was also down.

  • Product-Of-The-Show: the new Shimano XTR 12-speed.  The reviews are great so far, and people couldn’t seem to get enough of the Japanese Giant’s newest groupset.

  • Everyone knows that 12-speed road components are coming.  As usual, this will hurt sales of current product.  The industry continues to evolve just a bit too fast, in my opinion (i.e. for retailers and consumers to keep up with – for a sustainable and healthy industry). 

  • E-bikes (electric-assist bikes) are continuing to grow in popularity. 

  • Brake noise continues to increase in general.  I cannot understand how this isn’t more of a priority for manufacturers.  I went on a demo road ride with two other people, on brand new bikes setup by expert mechanics.  One had new-fangled road disc brakes, and the other had carbon rims with manufacturer-specified brake pads.  ALL of our bikes were squealing and skwawking.

  • Given the above, my Top Minimalist Pick goes to Rivendell, who continue to support rim brakes - good ones used with alloy rims.  I asked why, and they responded that quality rim brakes work VERY well, don’t make noise, and are much easier to maintain for the consumer (along with a lower cost of ownership).  Can I get an Amen?