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Interbike moves to Reno (and Tahoe) in 2018, opens to consumers

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Interbike today announced that they’re moving from Las Vegas to Reno and Tahoe, starting in 2018.  In addition, they’ll be adding in two customer/outdoor days packed with events.  The show, however, will stay in September, which puts it at odds with many concerns around how the show ‘follows’ Eurobike.  Still, the vast majority of what they discussed is definitely positive.

Now, I’ll cover all the details below, but for those not familiar with the inside baseball element to all this, let me start with some backstory.

A bit of backstory:

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I’m sure that in whatever profession you’re in, you probably occasionally go to conferences about that profession.  These events are often designed to ‘foster an exchange of ideas’ or something equally as hopeful.  Sometimes these may be small events, and sometimes large events.  Depends on the purpose of that specific event.

In the case of the bike industry realm, this is also true.  There’s a myriad of these events sprinkled throughout the year, and each year I pick and choose which ones I’ll pay to fly to (or drive an RV to).  But of course, there are a couple of key exhibitor focused events that many retailers and media descend upon that I attend: Eurobike and Interbike.

Now just like you – when we go to these events we discuss the health of the event and all the scuttlebutt around it.  The rumor mill is often quite alive and vibrant, both about things seen/heard at the event as well as the event itself.

But as I noted a few times at/after Interbike last year (2016), it could only best be described as dead.  I mean, sure, there were plenty of retailers there – but the halls were often empty.  The first photo in this post was not taking place at some awkward time, but rather at 10:35AM on Thursday, typically the peak of the show.

And if you didn’t have historical context – everything probably looked amazing.  But in all actuality key vendors had been pulling out for a number of years, and perhaps more importantly: Key product announcements were no longer being made there.

Remember that these shows, which are mostly not open to the public, serve two core purposes:

A) A central place for brands to show off new (and old) products to a large group of press/media/etc…
B) An easy way for retailers/distributors to find and poke at which products they may carry, as well as for retailers/distributors to meet with brands (regular check-in meetings/etc…).

There’s also, of course, a third purpose:

C) A place where companies can meet with each other, or find suppliers and similar for products

But this last one is less important, as many of the meetings in this category can also relatively easily be held via conference call.  Being in one place just makes it easy.

The challenge with key product announcements being made is you start to lose one leg of the stool.  Once you lose product announcements you begin to lose media.  And once you lose media then other brands stop bothering to come.  Heck, some brands like Trek do their own show (Trek World) and fly in people to it.  Others like Specialized hold their own events as well.  All of which has given way to 3rd party events like Bike PressCamp, aimed at being a smaller/more intimate Interbike in June, outside Salt Lake City.

Circling back to that scuttlebutt, everyone knew this problem was occurring.  It used to be that my Eurobike and Interbike time was equally balls-out busy.  But last year Eurobike was far more busy for me than Interbike.  If I looked back to Interbike last year, the only memories I have are walking around mostly empty hallways.  I only posted a handful of things, because there wasn’t much to post.

And that was the key problem: Eurobike and Interbike were separated by a mere 2-3 weeks, depending on the year, with Eurobike going first the last week of August.

Most global brands would go to Eurobike and announce there, since it’s massively larger than Interbike.  And the press would follow.  Meanwhile, smaller US brands would go to Interbike, but that was often a harder draw for media entities to justify sending people to.  Everyone (including myself) loves to cover smaller brands, but if that’s the only draw, you’re unlikely to be able to justify it financially.

In effect, Interbike became a has-been show. Aside from Cross Vegas of course, because that was and is awesome.

Oh – and before we finish, I should briefly mention Sea Otter, which continues to grow stronger and stronger each year, with brands shifting announcements there.  Partly because it’s a more enjoyable show, but partly because it just makes sense: It’s in April.  It’s the perfect time to announce bike stuff as the season ramps up.  Whereas September? There’s virtually no reason you want to be announcing immediately available bike stuff in September.  Most announcements ended up being for things for the following spring.  Not to mention that Sea Otter is open to the public – in fact, it’s all about the public.

Ok, sorry, that ended up being a lot of backstory.

The New Interbike:

Today Interbike held a conference call to announce that they’re moving to Reno and Tahoe, for their show in 2018.  The main show will be held in Reno, and Outdoor Demo days held in Tahoe.  These locales are about 45 miles apart (about 45-50 minute drive), and they’ll provide bus service between those two spots. That show has committed to 5 years through 2022.  The show is officially called “Interbike Market Week” moving forward.

The process of getting to this point was quite lengthy, initially starting in December 2016 for the organizers.  They noted they heard four key things:

1) Retailers wanted an industry event, didn’t want Interbike to cease existing
2) Most participants surveyed were interested in a change of venue
3) Most participants surveyed were looking for better cost containment options.
4) Dealers were most benefited by mid-week show-dates to get back to shops

Anyway – the first piece, the new locale – Reno, makes some sense.  It’s a city that’s big enough that a show like Interbike won’t significantly impact the hotel scene too much (one of the challenges of Eurobike actually), so companies can still find reasonable rates.  It’s actually the biggest benefit of Las Vegas – hotels are still cheap during the show (unlike CES).

With the show being held in Reno, it’s definitely an outdoorsy area.  While outside of Las Vegas is, it was always tricky because Outdoor Demo Days were held some 30-45 minutes away in the empty desert.  Add some nice traffic and that sucked even more.  Not to mention the daily afternoon winds and dry/dusty sand blowing everywhere (with booths nearly flying away).  Sure, the downhill mountain biking was fun, but I think everyone would have preferred a more accessible location.  Holding it in Tahoe pretty much solves that.

Now, during Interbike’s conference call they noted a big driver was that Interbike would be seen as more important to the city, meaning that the event was a big deal to the city. They also noted that since Reno’s convention center is a non-union facility, it’ll greatly reduce costs and complexity there for exhibitors (a complaint I’ve heard countless times from exhibitors stuck in restrictive policies).  Simple things like hand-carrying materials into their booths are now allowed.  And finally, they were excited about offering some sort of bike-share fleet to allow attendees to move between hotels and exhibitors.

Further, they said that they expect food choices to be greater since they’ve got flexibility from the conference center, as well as building out aspects like e-bike test tracks at the convention center outdoors.

The weekend before Interbike they’ll be offering a two-day consumer event (September 15th/16th – Saturday/Sunday).  It’ll go from 9AM till 5PM on Saturday.  On Sunday it’ll start at 9AM and end after lunch, but beginning Sunday afternoon it becomes dealer only.  Then Monday becomes dealer-only Outdoor demo. The consumer event will include mountain bike racing, road rides, skills training, kids events and more.

Finally, the main event will be Tuesday-Thursday (18th/19th/20th).  The show will open at 10AM for exhibit halls, then closing at 6PM on Tues/Weds, but 4PM on Thursday.  Whereas 8AM-10AM will be for education type classes for retailers and suppliers.  Wednesday night will remain Cross-Vegas, except, now it’ll be Reno.

Now all this sounds great.  But still, Interbike is still staying in September. Now Eurobike is moving to July, that does at least afford Interbike two months of separation between them and Eurobike, compared to sometimes as little as two weeks.  So that will help.  But ultimately, I question how big a difference that will make longer term.  Major brands will continue to make announcements at Eurobike, and while Interbike will pick up some announcements, but I wonder if it’s too little, too late…beyond the novelty of a new location for the first year

One thing that will definitely help is the heavy focus on the customer days, that’s huge in drawing in both consumers and brands.  A few years back, Interbike had a ‘Customer Appreciation Day’, but that wasn’t a truly public day.  Also, it was held on Friday, when most exhibitors wanted to get the hell out of there – so booths were poorly staffed by the least junior people possible.  Compare that to Eurobike’s past customer days, which are actually the busiest days of the event (the weekend).  Note that Eurobike will be discontinuing those days when they move to July.

With Interbike now being in Reno/Tahoe there’s a greater draw of cyclists than there was in Las Vegas and surrounding areas.  That does in turn make the event more appealing for brands, as they can justify such a presence along the same lines they might justify doing a local race expo or similar (albeit, on a much larger scale).

Still, had they moved it to June, that would have preempted Eurobike, been prior to the Tour, and been a better time of year for product announcements.  Retailers, of course, wouldn’t have liked it as much though because it’s the peak of their season when they’re trying to tend to their shops.  And that’s part of the challenge Interbike has: Trying to please too many masters.

It’s a balance that Sea Otter (gaining in popularity) seems to be excelling at.  By having Sea Otter more about the racing that goes alongside it, it gives a secondary purpose to being at the event.  The fact that products are introduced there, and brands meet there is almost secondary (well, it is).  But it also makes it more genuine.  True, it’s not a great venue for retailers to meet, largely because it’s 100% outdoors and just doesn’t have the space to handle that.  On the bright side, it does seem like Interbike is learning from this – given the inclusion of racing events and focus on customers first.

Still, I’ll no doubt keep going to Interbike, at least to see what the changes look like next year.  My trip this year is already booked, with the event just 6 weeks away.  For me I luck out for once in that this year it’s back to back with the ANT+ Symposium that I speak at, so it means I’ll just stay stateside during that time period.  Whereas in years past I flew back and forth between the two.  Had Interbike been a week earlier this year? I probably would have skipped it.

In any case – change is good here – let’s just hope it’s enough.  Smaller brands, especially US ones, depend on shows like Interbike – so finding the right blend is key.

Thanks for reading!

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11 Comments

  1. Mark

    Ray, isn’t Interbike also when retailers book their preseason orders after having the opportunity to see the products? Have things changed that much since I last worked in a shop?

    I guess it might be the scale of retailers too. Back then, it was all small bike shops. “Retailers” sounds like bigger chains that have central purchasing. With fewer buyers to deal with, the manufacturers and distributors aren’t completely overwhelmed by the different number of preseason orders and call everyone one by one instead of trying to arrange individual meetings over just a few days. And they can actually throw their own smaller events because they have fewer customers to invite. Also, with more numerous manufacturer events, it will be only the big retailers that can afford to travel to even a fraction of shows.

    So, yeah, I guess I’m insinuating that the Internet is killing Interbike by virtue of killing off mom and pop LBSs.

    • In theory, yes, but in practice it’s not really the case – especially with so many big bike brands not being there at all.

      For example in the tech world, none of the retailers would be ‘placing orders’ for any products at Interbike. They might get briefings for the year ahead (if they rank high enough), but pre-orders for products for tech companies happen on an as-needed/as-opened basis.

    • Paul S.

      Another change which is hurting Interbike, but helping small LBS’s, is a shift away from model years. HIA Velo (Allied Cycle Works) is one company that has made a point of not doing model years, and I wonder if you wont’ see the big manufacturers start to follow suit. Without having a fixed product lifecycle, getting orders in at a certain time of year and selling old product at a discount both become less important. That flexibility should help LBS’s.

  2. Noel

    So does this mean that CrossVegas is consigned to the dustbin of history? Or will a new race/event be held in Reno to replace it?

  3. DLinLV

    I could see Interbike eventually going away. The technology of cycling could well be absorbed by CES and cycling accessories and bicycles go to the Outdoor Retailer show. Heck, even some of the bike tech could get announced in July at Outdoor Retailer show, giving twice a year product announcement opportunities to the likes of Garmin and such.
    I will miss CrossVegas, which will really need to change its name (IMO). But, some of the locals here in Vegas still plan to go race it. It might be fun up there too.

    • Yeah, I went to OR a few years ago – and just no bike tech there at all.

      That said, I think the challenge for many of these shows for bike tech is the same as the bikes themselves. Companies are simply doing sidebar events for media and invited retailers. Almost all of the companies in the segment now do this, and it makes a ton of sense: Wahoo, SRAM, Quarq, Stages, PowerTap, TomTom, Polar, and even occasionally Garmin and to a degree Suunto. Plus more I’m sure I’m forgetting.

      Of course, you have to be a brand that an entity is willing to travel for. Meaning a very small brand won’t really succeed in this type of arrangement, but for many others, they do.

  4. Steven

    The bike industry runs very strangely —
    Components can be up to a year from announcement before you see them being stocked in the LBS or even online in good quantities.

    It’d seem like March would be the time to have an event, with goods hitting the shelves shortly thereafter as weather turns nice and people get back on the bike/off their winter bike/out of the trainer pain cave. Have your hype peak around the time consumer spending peaks — which I am guessing is mid-late spring. That’s probably why Sea Otter is picking up steam (that and it caters to segments that are exploding much more than a convention center does).

    September seems like a great time to announce a trainer — if it can actually be available by October.

    • Indeed, March/April is best (which is why Sea Otter is starting to do so well as you noted).

      September isn’t a bad time to announce trainers, but companies have been pushing that back to summer in recent years. Basically from May till August. And it makes sense. By time mid/late-September comes along, it’s simply too late unless you can pull off Apple-like next day availability (Wahoo has, but that doesn’t mean that most smaller retailers can get it).

      And I’ve seen the trend that people are moving towards indoors sooner than they used to, in large part because of Zwift and the fact that indoors just doesn’t suck as much as it used to.

    • DLinLV

      I agree indoor training sucks much less these days. I ride my Neo year round, especially nice for hot Vegas summers. Smart trainers and plethora of apps have made it much more tolerable/enjoyable.

      Avoiding the cyclist killers in their distracted state aiming at us with their cars is another benefit. Although I don’t stay indoors riding because of that, its just a side benefit.

  5. steven

    I can’t follow this, so will there be a day(s) with regular consumers being allowed into the Reno show booths? Or I the only stuff for consumers the mtb/road rides (based out of Northstar?.

    Thanks