Pedal Pushers: Bicycles & Lifecycles at InterbikeReading Time: 5 minutes
Talk to anyone about bicycling and he/she has a memory.
Whether it’s the first time his parents took off the training wheels or when she took a winding magic ride to escape through the neighborhood or mountain trails.
Bicycles are more than a self-propelled transportation mode. They represent freedom, speed, nature, and challenge. From messengers to gym cyclists…from road racers to adventure travelers to urban commuters…we are a diverse group of men and women who love the feeling of the wind in our hair and the ache in our glutes as we travel through our lives.
The people who make, sell, ride, and service bikes are an eclectic group too — united by their passion for two wheels. But, like all things in life, the cycling world has evolved from the days of simple trikes and banana bikes with sissy bars (aka wheelie bikes) to a huge industry; a high-speed international business that generates more than $6 billion in annual revenue.
Here are just a few of the trends I spotted at Interbike 2016. The conference itself was a testament to the industry’s growth. It featured more than 25,000 attendees, a sophisticated media preview, a mountain (literally) of demos, a vibrant series of keynotes and workshops and panels about the future of the bike business. These are just ten of the things I observed on my “wild ride.”
- Cyclists are organizing. Although the community is diverse and international, they are passionate about everything from road safety to charitable giving (like Bicycle Angels) to educating consumers about the health benefits of biking (like People for Bikes). Bike media range from traditional magazines to websites to dedicated bike blogs to thrill-packed Instagram accounts.
- e-bikes are hitting the roads and trails. As more people use bicycles as means of commuting, power-assisted pedaling is becoming hot. I test-road a Defiant Bicycle, which felt like a bike with a dash of motorcycle power and hipness. The company owner Heath Holste was super-nice too and even loaned me a helmet!
- Bicycle fuel (aka food and supplements for boosting energy) is a tasty trend. My faves include Glukos, Classified Nutrition, Jelly Belly‘s magic energy beans, and Justin’s Nut Butter (which now comes in all kinds of awesome snack packs…plus Justin was in the booth and posed for a pic with me — see the link, below). Speaking of people who feed your body as well as your soul, the peppy Bonk Breaker team was handing out bright orange string bags and giving away samples of their oh-so-yummy snack bars. The Outdoor Demo Marketplace featured a line-up of food trucks and a beer garden, sponsored by Uinta Brewing.
- Geeks and gear abound. Serious riders are all about customizing their bikes. The rep from SKS fitted me for a custom saddle and the team at Onyx Racing Products explained hubs to me. Cargo holders come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. Whether you’re cycling with a briefcase, a puppy, or 5 days of camping supplies, you can find the right way to affix it to your wheels.
- Covering your ass (and other body parts) is key. Cycling fashion — for function, comfort, and style — is a part of the sport. ElevenPine developed the ultimate cure for spandex. Their shorts zip up or down the side, so you can go from road to Oktoberfest without your legs looking like sweaty Bratwurst. Speaking of perspiration, you want your feet to be cool, supported, and comfortable on those pedals, right? Funky socks abounded, including those from Swiftwick, Sock Guy, and the cleverly-named Defeet. Of course you have to wear shades too. Bolle has a wide range, including some that the rep said are for people who care more about looking good while drinking beer than they do about biking. The big trend these days is eyewear that goes from light to dark super-fast. How do you carry the rest of your stuff? This company makes a range of environmentally-friendly accessories. Thule generously gifted the media with backpacks — which came in useful for toting show swag back to New York. Cyclists seem to be partial to tee shirts with slogans. The ones from Handlebar Mustache were on the super-snarky side (e.g., “I Just Want to Ride My F-ing Bike”) and founder Brett Novick of PedalPushersClub makes a line of shirts that allow riders to sport their home town or make bike-friendly statements like “More Pedaling, Less Posting.” Women’s clothes are evolving and we have more options than ever before when we ride. I spent a lot of time in the shebeest booth. My next bike-related purchases may include their colorful board shorts and what they call “granny panties,” which are lightweight padded undies that slip on under regular capris so you don’t feel like you’re walking around in a diaper 24/7. (See #7 for more about women’s bike gear.)
- There’s an app (and camera) for that. GoPro had a huge presence at the show. You can share your ride with the whole world via these super-sophisticated mini-cameras. Whether you use technology to find a new route, communicate through your helmet, measure your muscles with your phone, or simply track your miles, you can now connect your bike and body to a device.
- Sally (and her sisters) ride! Many of the women at the show commented that the bicycling world is still steered by men, but women-owned companies are now emerging and are creating products and groups for female cyclists and racers. Brooke Wissler’s title is Founder & Perfectionista of five-year-old Moxie Cycling. Their duds have cool features like comfy bras and extra pockets for phones and girly stuff.
- Tikes are still on Trikes. The love of cycling starts young. Several companies showcased products geared for toddlers and tots. The Joovy Tricycoo is one of my personal favorites…it starts as a stroller and gradually changes into a first bike. Wishbone Design Studio makes retro wooden kids’ bikes and wagons and Sound of Fun displayed color-coordinated bike/helmet combos for kids.
- Oh yeah…lots of adult bike options exist too. Too many choices and variations to count or analyze — road, racing, combo, cargo, collapsing, fancy-schmancy… But some of the noteworthy ones were Surly (I test-rode an awesome solid and comfy everyday bike that will last for years. I rode on and off the trail too!), Elliptigo (half bike/half ellipical), Phantom Bikes (an e-bike with a retro vibe), and Tern folding bikes. Gama Bikes is a fashion-forward bicycle company that tracks runway trends and creates bikes in trending colors and trims (so your ride can match your attire…I have my eye on the leopard model).
- The path to the future is exciting. More than 1.2 million people are involved in People for Bikes, an organization dedicated to making the riding experience safer and easier for every man, woman and child. Their goal is 20 billion bike rides by 2025.
So stop reading and start pedaling!
(When you return from your ride, click on the links, below.)
Here’s my photo album from the show.
P.S. I gave two presentations to bike retailers. Here is the one on digital media and this is an overview of how Millennials and Boomers can work (and ride) better together. I owe a HUGE shout-out to the National Bicycle Dealers Association who invited me and to Justin Gottlieb of Emerald Events (the show’s management) who served as my “show sherpa.”
P.P.S. As with most trade shows, I meet people who don’t neatly fit into any category. The “tent guys” from Athletic Event Supply gave me a break from the hot Nevada sun on Demo Day and Matthew C. Miller does scientific research on bicycling and lectures about sports and exercise in New Zealand. (Sounds like an interesting gig!)