What I like most about the Interbike International Trade Expo, which took place in Las Vegas, Sept. 22-24, is the chance to meet and talk to fellow cyclists. It was a pleasure to meet a few of the show’s luminaries — Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford (Clif Bar/Luna owners) and Bob Roll, who needs no introduction.
What would the Interbike folks do without Clif Bar, PowerBar, GU, and the other food supplement companies? Starve! We thank them for their hospitality.
It’s also a place for companies to show their latest products and build some industry buzz. While I haven’t been to Interbike since the 1980s, my Rip Van Winkle appearance gives me some perspective on how the bike industry has changed.
Refined bike industry
I saw a refined industry spanning a more diverse cycling audience, with fewer of the Mom and Pop inventors. As one bike shop owner told me recently, the days of the hobbyist starting a shop on a lark are over. Competition is fierce. A sound business plan is required. The same goes for inventing new products.
The bike industry is weathering the economic downturn, which in some instances may even help as people look for more affordable ways to get to work, and those who are unemployed have more time for riding.
So what better place to have a bike show than Las Vegas — the poster child for the global recession, with its enormous half-finished casino/condo projects lining The Strip, and unemployment pushing 15 percent. Instead of seeing bleary-eyed gamblers slumped over slot machines, I saw dozens of runners pounding the pavement in the early morning hours on Las Vegas Blvd., and Interbike attendees riding around on bikes. What’s the world coming to?
With the huge Sands Convention Center as the backdrop for Interbike, I zeroed in on the part of the bike industry I care about most — cycling as a way of life, down-to-earth (affordable) bikes, and my one weakness — cyclometers.
By the way, Interbike is one of 60 U.S. trade shows owned by the Nielsen company (as in Nielsen TV ratings). Nielsen has annual revenues of more than $5 billion.
Two days later, with a sore back and feet from walking the halls, I’m ready to post some of what I saw. Stay tuned.