$6.1 billion in sales. Over 4,000 specialty retailers. 18.4 million units sold. Let’s face it — the U.S. bicycle industry is BIG business.
The League of American Bicyclists estimates that there are 57 million cyclists in the United States. Considering that the U.S. Census Bureau puts our national population at 313 million in 2012, that means that 1 in 5 Americans enjoy cycling as a form of recreation and transportation. In its “Annual Stats Issue”, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News magazine provides page after page of market analysis, productivity reports, colorful charts and graphs, and a slew of articles on the current fiscal state of the bicycle industry. The bottom line: the bicycle industry is big, it’s getting bigger, and more and more Americans are becoming cyclists.
So, it’s no surprise that the bicycle industry’s annual trade show, Interbike, is huge event. Each year, manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and suppliers gather for four days in Las Vegas for the mammoth trade show. For the manufacturers, the trade show is all about showcasing the next great product. For the retailers, the trade show is all about finding the products that their customers will want in the coming year. Throw in a test ride day at a local mountain park, two short course pro races, industry meetings and seminars, and enough drunken debauchery to satisfy the clean shaven, middle-aged CEO and the young, tatoo-and-body-piercing- sporting bike team mechanic alike, and you have an event that fully lives up to the Las Vegas moniker: “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
In the past, consumers have not invited to the show. This has been a point of contention within the industry and this year the final day of the show was an ‘invitation only’ opportunity for regular schlubs (i.e. consumers) to experience the trade show. We can debate the benefit of this new development for the trade show and the bicycle industry. But, it was quite entertaining to see shwag-laden consumers wandering the show floor, sweaty, pale-faced, wide-eyed, and slack-jawed. Yes, trying to see the entirety of Interbike in one day is like trying stuff 100 pounds of trash in a Ziplock sandwich baggie — you just can’t do it. That’s why we have bicycle magazines.
In the coming months, the press will be showing consumers all the new, bright-and-shiny objects coming from bicycle industry in 2014. Every bike magazine will feature a multi-page spread of photo after photo of the newest, drool-worthy bikes and gadgets. So, look for that coverage coming to a news stand near you. Here at Better-Biking.com, we’re interested in the products that you won’t see covered in the bicycle industry press. The hidden treasures. The fringe products. The non-UCI compliant technological advancements. The esoterically cool stuff.
So, here is our Interbike-by-photo recap of the annual bike porn festival. Enjoy!
Nothing screams “Awesome!” more than a guy in a bowtie, bowler hat, and muttonchops scooting down the street on one of these unicycles. Oh, and there’s an off-road version, too! Cleaning gnarly switchbacks would be a breeze on one of these. Double awesome!
Foot pain be gone! Isn’t it about time common medical technologies are brought into the sport of cycling? These handy inserts can help make you a more efficient and pain-free pedaler. Thank you, Doctor!
Cycling celebrities abound at Interbike. The only challenge is recognizing them in ‘regular’ clothes. You can spot Bob Roll a mile away no matter what he’s wearing. But, guys like Mario Cipollini, blend in to a crowd. No, really. Plus, how many of today’s pro cycling fans have even heard of The Lion King or Super Mario? Not many as is obvious by the fact that he was just hanging out in his booth, watching people walk by. A truly gracious cycling legend!
You couldn’t walk ten feet without coming across a product that was designed for triathletes. It’s clear that the significance of the 30+ percent participation growth in the sport over the past three years has not been lost on the bicycle industry. This wetsuit was a marvel of modern textiles and functional design. Those triathletes like their technology, that’s for sure.
Who likes HRM chest straps? Nobody. Now, who needs them? Strapless HRMs that transmit constant, reliable data are here. Athletes everywhere rejoice!
It’s nice to see someone is thinking about small, clip-on aerobars. If you only need to get a little aero (instead of completely aero), then this is set up for you. Easy to put on and take off, these shorties don’t make your road bike (or mountain bike!) look like the front of a clipper ship from the 1800′s.
Goofy looking, minimally-vented aero helmets are here to stay. Thank you very much, Mr. Cavendish. So, if you are going to join the aero rebellion, you might as well choose something that is bold and bright, right? Oh, hell yes!
Cycling shoes are unattractive. There is no such thing as a pretty cycling shoe. Once you accept this fact and embrace the sheer ugliness of the entire shoe genre, you free yourself from the bonds of sensibility. Lacking any sense, you can truly appreciate the radical stylings of an Italian bike shoe maker like Northwave. These are by far the most technologically advanced and so-ugly-they-are-cool bicycle shoes made today. Oh, the colors!
Mmmm, technology. Tastes like chicken. Well, not really. If Bluetooth had a flavor, it would taste like extra dark chocolate with 80% cacao — sinfully delicious, a guilty pleasure, and well worth the price. So it is with Magura’s new computerized suspension fork and remote control. A ‘smart’ fork? A wireless, handlebar-mounted remote control? Just name your price. We’ll gladly pay it.
Who said cycling has to be serious all the time? While designed for kids, these cute little translucent rubber critters can liven up any handlebar. Someone told us the DZ has one of these little fellas on each of his bikes. We totally believe that.
Is there anything better than SHWAG? Okay, maybe free, fresh-baked bagels, but that’s not a fair comparison. Bagels rock. Interbike-branded promotional items, 400 pounds of magazines and marketing materials, a poster, and something that is supposed to be a ‘cooling neck towel’ made out of chemically-treated recombinant microfibers that smell like death, all stuffed into a cloth bag… not so much.
Here’s the one item in our Interbike recap that you’ll see in every bike magazine next month — the Garmin Vector pedal. A power meter in your pedals. Cool, right? Yeah, maybe. We’ve only been waiting for these to make it to the retail market for 2+ years. Sheesh! And, now, there are similar pedal and crankarm mounted powermeters of all shapes and sizes coming to a bike shop near you. Just wait a few months and you’ll have sooo many more options from which to choose.
Talk about hidden gems! Gary Ryan and Theresa Cliff-Ryan are simply the nicest people you will ever meet. Considering that they run Vie 13 Cycling Apparel and Theresa (a pro cyclist, national champion, and Olympian) is training for the 2014 Winter Games, they are the most at-ease, relaxed folks. It was great to see them at the show and we wish them all the best in 2014!
It’s about time we started wearing fluorescent helmets (and vests and shoes and shorts and gloves and jerseys)! It seems like we hear about the death of pro and amateur cyclists every day from accidents involving automobiles. Whatever the cause of these fatalities, being seen by motorists (and everyone else on the road) is better than not being seen. If we’re going to ride with a big bullseye on our backs, then we want that bullseye to be bright yellow!
Rotund. Hefty. Fat. Bikes with big tires were everywhere at Interbike this year. You have to ask yourself why anyone living anywhere but the Sahara Desert would want to ride one of these 40+ pound behemoths. But, if you like the feel of sitting on an inflatable rubber couch, then this type of bike is for you.
Let’s talk about real progress. How about the emergence of the electric city bike? Or, in this case, the electric urban assault bicycle. This bicycle equivalent of the SUV is the future of transportation in densely-populated urban environs. Complete with lights, racks, bomb-proof wheels, a loud horn, and enough juice to maintain 20 mph on almost any terrain, this bike is the answer to downtown traffic congestion. Can you say “car-free cities?”
Colors! Lots of them. News flash: the bicycle industry has rediscovered fluorescent colors. For those of us who remember riding and racing in the 1980s, this is a flashback of gargantuan proportions. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any more retro, purple anodized bike parts are coming back, too. Bitchin’!
Full carbon fiber wheels. Talk about technology. Just a few years ago, Lightweight was the only game in town (or the world) making full carbon fiber wheels. Not anymore. Look for Madfiber and several other small brands to bring new technologies and lower prices to the carbon hoops market in 2014.
Perhaps one of our favorite products at this year’s Interbike show was this bicycle trailer ambulance. The application of this innovation in Third World countries and emerging nations is immense. We often take for granted the motorized ambulances — essentially rolling emergency rooms — that are so common in the U.S. There are many parts of the world where conflict, poverty, endemic contagion, and lack of transportation infrastructure (i.e. paved roads) prevent the evacuation of the wounded or ill from remote locations to distant hospitals. This is an ideal solution as the bicycle is present in EVERY corner of the globe. The bicycle is an agent of change!
Need to ride over some BIG obstacles like fallen trees, dead waterbuffalo, crevasses, or Florida sink holes? This is the bike for you. Those are 36-inch wheels. No, really. Key design feature: copious padding on that top tube. Ahem. Good idea.
Next to air and dirt, perhaps the most abundant resource on the planet is bamboo. So why not make some bikes out of it? Clearly, someone has already thought of that and are doing it today. Nice.
One other thing you’ll see in all the bike magazines next month is hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes. Almost every major manufacturer had a disc brake equipped road bike on display at the show. This was the only time trial/triathlon bike we could find with hydraulic stoppers. It sure looked nice. It will be interesting to see how road wheels change in design, construction, stiffness, and weight over the coming years as this tried-and-true mountain bike braking technology filters into the world of skinny tires.
About The Author
Aaron Hanson (a.k.a The Cap’n) is manager of the Southern California Colavita Regional Amateur Team. A 25-year veteran of the sport and lifestyle of cycling, Aaron has raced both road and mountain bikes, advocated for bicycle transportation funding and facilities at the city, county, state, and federal levels, planned and facilitated numerous bicycle events, and helped several municipalities and counties create viable bikeway master plans.
Aaron has been honored by IMBA, CORBA, Clif Bar, the City of Los Angeles, the County of Ventura, the City of Simi Valley, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate for his bicycle advocacy work. He has even won a bike race or two.
Aaron can be contacted via e-mail at: email@example.com
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