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First let’s cover what really hasn’t changed. Yes, it’s still a huge convention center packed with a ton of vendors. Most of the key brands are there, and as always – a lot of oddball stuff shows up, too. Boxing gloves, anyone? At a bike show? Sure!
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What sticks out most to me is the way that different manufacturers approach the show. There remain a large handful of companies that seem to display their products in the ‘old school’ manner – a product display with very little information. “Here’s our stuff! Right here! I can’t tell you much about it, but here it is!” Much of this depends on the staff at the booth and how much experience they have. I always seem to meet with several marketing agents who seemed to know almost nothing about the actual product, but are still eager to ask for a product review.
The best part of the show that hasn’t changed, in my opinion, is the fact that there are so many different cycling niches represented. Call it a niche-of-a-niche sport. You get the road cyclists, the triathletes, and the mountain bikers. Then there are the hipsters, the trackies, the 24-hour endurance crowd, and even the low-end ‘fitness’-oriented booths. There are nutrition products, tires, brake pads, clothing, car racks, power meters, and hey – why not a dog-walking leash that attaches to your bike?
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I absolutely love this element of the show and walk around like a kid in Willy Wonka’s factory.
The other big piece of Interbike that hasn’t changed is the large number of Asian factory and private-label vendors. They generally occupy a few rows towards one side of the show, and display some products that many Slowtwitch forum readers would have a field day with.
Want to make your own brand of wheel, frame, or just about anything else? These folks will take your order right at the show…
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This vendor apparently represents all of Taiwan – all in one booth!
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I normally don’t stop by these vendors, but decided to step inside the Honfu Sports booth:
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Two very nice ladies told me about their products and how they do business. According to them, they own their own factory (they are the factory – e.g. are not outsourcing their labor to someone else). They sell both consumer-direct and as a supplier to other brands. You can buy rims, wheels, frames, forks, and aerobars.
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Companies like this generally do not have much hard data to share with the techy crowd. There were no wind tunnel charts, no brake heat numbers, and no detailed fit guides. That’s just the way it works. You generally get a very competitive price, but must know exactly what you’re looking for.
If you’re in to accessories, these vendors have you covered. I always find about a dozen display cases filled with unmarked goodies. Sometimes I wonder if it’s the same stuff showing up year after year. Who would know the difference?
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What is Changing
The biggest change I’ve noticed over the past few years is that Interbike is becoming less of a place to debut product, and more of a place to meet. Manufacturers don’t want their message to get lost in a sea of new product introductions during the same week, so they now debut their goods whenever they please. For triathlon, I really didn’t see a single company or category that jumped out at me as having a lot of new stuff that I hadn’t heard of yet.
What you see in the place of product introductions are brand hype sessions. Want free beer served by hired female models? Come to any number of booths at 5:00 p.m. and drink up. The show is an important meeting time, but it’s more about the relationships and planning for next year than the products themselves.
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I did notice that tire manufacturers appear to be slowly catching on to the things that triathletes and road cyclists want. Gone are the days of conversations focused on weight and thread count. Today it’s about rolling resistance, aerodynamics, and the always-subjective topic of puncture resistance. I have a feeling that this will be a slow ship to steer, but we’re getting there.
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Want to know the most popular thing at Interbike this year? Two words: Fat. Bikes.
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Hey industry friends – is it just me, or were these damn things everywhere? I even had one source tell me that there are estimates saying that more fat bikes will be sold in 2014 than high-end triathlon bikes. I don’t know if it’s true, but I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
I saw steel fat bikes, carbon fat bikes, and super-fatty fat bikes with the new 190mm hub standard (seen in the photo above). That’s right – a 190mm rear hub. They’re huge, obnoxious, and awesome.
The other big trend that continues to explode is the carbon clincher category: