The crash site is always what people remember. The wreck is an ugly scene, but no one can stop staring. Everybody is trying but can’t bring themselves to look away. They remember the carnage that came as a result of being careless, or indifferent. It’s hard to get past the current wreckage and look back to what was, in it’s own right, beautiful…glorious, wonderful and important to most. But alas, those days are not what’s remembered…at least by some. No, what’s remembered is just the shit-show that it has become as it falls from glory like the Hindenburg…like a giant exploding, flaming shit-log floating closer to the ground where it will succumb to it’s fiery death.
Interbike…once one of the bike industry’s biggest annual trade shows is leaving it’s 20 year home in Las Vegas Nevada. It’s bitter sweet for most of us in the industry, and good news for some. There has been a fair amount of buzz for the last few years about how “dead and dumb” the show has become and that it really needed a venue change. Over the last 20 years it’s gotten to the point for most of us, that Vegas MEANT Interbike.
My first Interbike was at the Anaheim Convention Center across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1996. Although it may have always been bubbling under the surface, I believe that after leaving Anaheim and landing in Vegas, it was able to really blossom. You see, Vegas was the perfect “under-the-fridge” spot for the industries counter-culture to really unleash it’s beautiful chaos and thrive as it did…at places like the Double Down Saloon. A perfect example is Stevil’s All Hail The Black Market Underbike Industry Mixer. That’s what I equate Vegas with, the bicycle industries counter-culture.
Those earlier Interbike shows, up until recently, were so much fun. But something has changed a bit. It seems that everybody hates Interbike right now. I mean, now especially, but really for the last few years, it seems to have become a “thing” in the bike industry, to criticize this show and the company that owns it. I mean I get it, I do. It’s really lost a lot of the appeal and especially the relevance that it once had back in it’s hey day of being THE show to attend.
I’m not pointing fingers but the company that owns it has indeed gotten greedy and really stopped catering to it’s clientele and that clientele’s very specific needs. I mean, know your customer…right? And then the venue’s ties to the union that builds the booths for the exhibitors with the polices and rules they have to follow have gotten ridiculous and very expensive….making attending the show very counter-productive for the exhibitor. So it seemed like a bad combo of circumstances.
But hold on. Has it really gotten that bad?
Yes. In some cases it most definitely has.
This last year Interbike 2017 was the smallest I’ve ever seen it. And the amount of non-bike items in attendance was astounding. It really seemed obvious that Interbike was having a hard time getting exhibitors to attend…so it was a cornucopia of shitty scooters (both self-propelled and electric), the typical BuddyBike-hug-on-a-bike type products, Asian, knock off-crappy quality components and toys as well as super crappy, low-end e-bikes. Just shit. Like unsafe to ride crap.
But all is not lost.
There was a lot of super legit shit there as well. Great, outta-the-box, smaller companies showing off some awesome and innovative ideas! Many of the big brands were not in attendance this year. But brands like Pivot and Bianchi were there…they rule and kudos to them. There were some neat new stuff to look at, plus plenty of bike porn to ogle. That is ALWAYS fun.
OK, so the first two days were spent at Dirt Demo. It’s a place where you can test ride different brands of bikes. It’s usually pretty large. Not this year. It was a fraction of it’s normal glory. There was a large amount of day drinking during the two days. The weather was nice and not too hot. It was really pleasant. I got to see some old friends and make a few new ones. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times…bike people rule.
By day two of the Dirt Demo I was kinda finished with what I needed to do, so it was time to hang with friends, drink beers and loaf around in the Haro/Masi tent. We had a new guy with us by the name of Michael. He is only 24…and this was his first Interbike. So….we kinda hazed him a bit, and treated him like an intern for the week. We started the tomfoolery with him at Dirt Demo by continually “suggesting” he get us beers while hanging with us at the tent. He’s a good kid and was a good sport! Thanks Michael! He hung with us pretty hard and well, he just done do real, real good! I don’t even think he threw up…Johann from Lauf Forks did one night….. but that’s another post all together. 🙂
The guys at the Lauf booth started drinking at 9am on the second day…cause that’s how they do it in Iceland. The picture below was at 1pm that day. Listen, Johann and Gudberg are solid guys! Crazy, but solid. I am lucky to know them. 🙂
These are essential connections to getting your work done in the bike industry. Beers will flow, laughs will be had, stories will be swapped, opinions expressed, ideas shared…all about bikes and their parts. Playing IS part of our work….but the work gets done. That’s why we are all here, to connect, in both business and friendship…that and an absolute love of the bicycle.
So we get to the inside show on Wednesday, the third day of the show. As I walk in, I am instantly shocked at the small size of the show. I am thinking to myself, I don’t need three days to cover everything I need to do…two seems like it’ll be plenty. But meetings go long, conversations with old friends go longer, perusing bikes and bike related parts goes longest…next thing I know I need the third day to finish my list of meetings.
Even Cross Vegas was suffering from low attendance. It was still a blast. But just not as many people as last year’s event. I did get to meet Mike Ferrentino…he is a huge, long time favorite of mine. I have been reading his stuff for the better part of 20+ years. That was great! He was as funny and opinionated as I’d hoped.
I also got a chance opportunity to meet a few giants of the industry and personal heroes. That was amazing. I met Zapata “Zap” Espinoza. He was so was laid back and personable. He was really easy to talk to and we actually talked GT Bicycles for a bit. That was kinda magical, he had a real love for that brand…as we all did. He said that to him “GT Bicycles WAS Southern California.” That was cool. Blue and yellow!!
I got to meet the legend Tom Ritchey! Like in a “super fan meets a rock star” kinda way. He was kind enough to let me take an annoying selfie with him. I told him I met Grant Petersen earlier and he said “No you didn’t, Grant never leaves the house” that was pretty funny! One of the main players/founders of mountain biking right here….pretty bad ass.
Here is the man, Grant Petersen! This one made me very happy. If you have been reading this blog, or know me and listen to the words coming outta my mouth, you know that this guy is a true inspiration to me.
It was a great trip and a fun show. I got a lot of work done and had a blast doing it.
Ok listen, are there valid reasons to throw Interbike to the side like a discarded piece of trash? I personally don’t think so. I don’t have a reason why I don’t think so. It’s probably just me holding on to those amazing past memories, and being overly nostalgic, like always. But Interbike is heading to a new venue in Reno Nevada and I am hoping that this new venue breathes some fresh air into it’s lungs. Then maybe it can rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of it’s current state, out of the fiery, cigarette smoke-laden, shit-stained sadness of Las Vegas, and fly into it’s former glory and relevance.
I don’t think it will ever be THE annual show to attend ever again. It’s a very different time now. Brands don’t really need shows like Interbike for product launches anymore, not with social media now. It’s a new age. Plus, there are far too many other annual shows across the globe all year ’round for us to only need one, big annual show.
You know, anytime you can get a group of people that have the same goals and core passion together, it leads to this mass of like-mindedness that is overwhelming at times and that has GOT to be a positive for our industry, and Interbike is still exactly that for me. When you walk in, it’s palpable and powerful. It really is quite amazing.
My friend Michael and I were talking on the floor of the show, about it’s future. He said something I will never forget, He said that Interbike has “always been like a big family that gets together once a year for a big productive group hug.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Interbike IS a giant group hug. I love that. It has it’s flaws, but I love it just the same. It feels right, and feels like family every time I walk into the show. That’s gotta mean something.
Good bye for now Interbike…until Reno old friend.
That’s it. Thanks for stopping by and taking a read. It really is appreciated.
OK…now, let’s go ride bikes…