Time to throw open the doors.

I am fortunate to work in the bicycle industry.  I do something I love and have met many people from varying backgrounds while on my bicycle.  One of the things I like about riding is that it isn’t all about the bicycle……. BUT…… It kind of is.  We couldn’t make the bonds we have or travel the miles without the bicycle.  The bicycle has kept a roof over my head, clothed my children and allowed me to travel the world.

People have told me many times “You are so lucky” in regards to my work.  I can only agree.  It is a job and has it’s struggles. Those struggles pale in comparison to the benefits.

One of the things that I do for work is go to the annual trade show Interbike.  This is one of those things that people outside of the industry often are jealous of.  The crush of Interbike coverage from all of my favorite websites and publications is evidence that people are interested in the “Next big thing”

In my opinion it is time to throw open the doors and allow access to Interbike by the public.  They tried it this year with a bandaid approach.  This toe in the water was not enough.  The show is three days long (not counting dirt demo)  The third day is always slow.  It amounts to a bunch of industry people seeking out the friends they only see once a year and exchanging high fives.  For the exhibitors it is an enormous outlay of cash and time.  The middle of the day people start breaking down and rushing to wait for the containers to show up.

Having the last day of the show open to consumers would be a huge benefit to the industry if we approached it correctly.  The consumers are the intended end user of the products we make, but ironically we barely ever speak to them.

We use a whisper down the lane method of collecting information.  Consumers speak to shop owners, shop owners speak to sales reps, sales reps speak to sales managers, sales managers, speak to marketing, marketing speaks to product managers.   The chain of conversation can vary but its very similar.

In 17 years of being an outside sales representative I have never had a product manager take me up on my offer of having them travel with me.  Occasionally someone from management will travel with me.  Usually they only see the top performing stores and are gone.  With most of the industry in California the people working in it get a skewed view of the industry as a whole.  12 months of riding and 50 degrees being considered cold does not represent the United States.

When I started going to Interbike it was a sales show.  The new line was introduced. Pre-seasons were written.  It wasn’t uncommon to book thousand’s of bicycles and several hundred thousand dollars worth of business.  Now the major brands have their own shows, and the next model year’s bicycles are introduced in June or July.  Whether that is good or bad is a completely different discussion.  This shift has many skipping the show and questioning why to attend.

If Interbike were to open up its doors to consumers on the last day it could breathe some life and relevancy back to the event.  Manufacturers could get some much needed input on products if they would listen with an open mind.  The insight as to how people are truly using their bicycles could shape the next big thing, not the next big thing we as an industry would like to sell.

The feedback on the current offerings could be invaluable as well.  For instance…. Mrs. Bicycle Shop Owner may be only buying the black color of the new super bike.  Every consumer coming through the booth is drawn to the green one.  When asked which would they purchase 80% say the green one.  Now I can go back to Mrs. Bicycle Shop Owner and give her some real insight into the product mix she is carrying.

The revenue stream this provides for Interbike as a company could help make for a better show for all of us.  Eurobike opened its doors a few years ago and it has been a rousing success.  They have overcome a difficult location and had 20,000 people pay to see the new bicycles. This excerpt is from the Eurobike Final Report.

“The 22nd Eurobike: 45,200 trade visitors from 111 countries – An additional 20,400 bike fans on public day – 1,883 journalists from 45 countries – 300 world premieres”

Las Vegas is a destination that is easily accessible and affordable (in the grand scheme of things) to get to.  If Interbike made a travel package for hotel and admission I believe people would utilize it.

At this time it would be difficult to include people in the Dirt Demo portion of the show.  I would walk before running and only make the trade show portion available right now.  People flock to car shows to look at the new models and can’t drive them.

Let’s evolve as an industry.  Stretch our boundaries and embrace the change.  After all, the only constant in life is change.