INTERBIKE + CROSSVEGAS 15
Phew, my friend Bryan and I are just back from a whirlwind sub 48 hour trip to Vegas for Interbike (annual bike industry trade show) and CrossVegas (annual cyclocross race). To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. I'm still processing everything but while it's fresh on my mind, I wanted to make sure i jotted down some initial impressions about Interbike and CrossVegas.
Interbike is amazing. And it's overwhelming. And there is so much more than what the major cycling media reports on at Interbike. Some of it is less exciting for sure, but I still found it interesting when you consider the bigger picture of everything being presented. Taken together, a few common themes stood out (in my eyes):
- eBikes - Electric bikes were HUGE. eBikes aren't just for commuters. There were electric mountain bikes, electronic fat bikes, and electric scooters on display, and of course electric commuters.
- Color - There was so much color at Interbike. From anodized components in nearly every color imaginable to clothing, helmets, bikes, bike paint schemes, etc. Designers were using the full palette to their advantage. While I do love my black scheme, the color vibe came across cheery without being cheesy.
- Personalization - The big thing I took away from the China and Taiwan sections is that if you have an idea, someone in the far east can turn that into a reality. And I want to emphasize any idea. Similarly, there were a lot of companies showcasing various ways to personalize your bike -- from bedazzled designs to anodized components to bartape/grips, etc. in a variety of colors and custom water bottles, socks, etc. There's very little standing in the way of turning any bike -- from a custom machine to a mass-produced bike -- into a statement of individuality And as we've seen over the years, there are a variety of options too when it comes to getting custom kit.
- Power to the people - I saw a lot of companies showcasing their take on either capturing and measuring power. Yes, power is still expensive for the majority of people but i believe it's not unreasonable before we'll see a variety of options in the sub $500 price point.
- Discovery - This is a vague term and I use it on purpose. Over the past couple of years, adventuring has been a big theme, but it seems inadequate when I think about what eBikes mean for the industry. To me, bikes give us freedom and it felt like the industry is trying to push us to find that freedom again. eBikes open up new possibilities to a whole segment of the population that may have otherwise avoided cycling (of course it's not a magic pill, we still have to solve infrastructure issues, there's a whole legal side that must be fixed, and on and on), hence my new word, discovery.
Trends aside, there was a lot of amazing products to geek out on. I went to Interbike and Crossvegas thinking i'd take a ton of photos, but I spent the majority of the time immersed in the moment so I forgot to snap photos of all the amazing things I saw. Below are a few shots I took from the floor of things that caught my eye for one reason or another (click on pics to enlarge and then hover over the pic for my annotation).
After spending the day at Interbike, Bryan and I headed seven miles off the strip to the Desert Breeze Soccer Complex for Act Two of our whirlwind trip. There we met up with our other friend Jeff who happened to be in town for a work conference. Set under the lights of the Nevada desert, this year's CrossVegas event was extra special - it was to be the very first World Cup on American soil. This is a huge deal. It is a vote of confidence in American cyclocross, and I hope the experience paves the way for the continued globalization of a sport I love.
I've watched CrossVegas online but seeing the venue in person gave me a new respect for this course. It is far more hilly than what you see on TV and that grass! The best way to describe it is, mutant grass. It has a thick, weird texture and it is long. Combined together, i get the sense that you never really feel firmly connected to the ground below. I have WAY more respect for this course and the riders who line up to race this race now. While in previous years, racers battled temperature (race temperature was in the low 80s if I remember right), this year, racers had to battle a stiff wind. Net, the course and wind was an exhausting combo.
We arrived early enough to see riders warming up. The first rider I saw was Courtenay McFadden, a really strong and standout racer from the Pacific Northwest. We said hi and wished her luck. We checked out the Euro Pros warming up. These mythical creatures, previously only seen on my laptop screen at ungodly morning hours were now right in front of me. I was a little starstruck. We saw the media swarm Lars van der Haar as he made his way back to his team tent.
We also ran into old friends and online friends. One of the more memorable meetings was getting to meet Hideo Yoshida (better known on Twitter as @bonsaicycle). We've traded tweets for years and when we finally met in person there was a big bear hug moment followed by lots of laughing. Soon it was time for racing so we made our way to the start line.
Watching the women and men race was amazing. The speed at which they ride induces a jaw drop followed by a "wow." Seeing them rail corners at speed resulted in more "wow" utterances. Watching them ride barriers uphill reduced us to just shaking our head in wonderment. I was inspired. We ran around the course trying to get ahead of the race to see different parts of the course. We cheered loudly for our local stars: Courtenay, Jessica Cutler, and Zach Macdonald. We cheered for our heroes, Jeremy Powers, Jonathan Page, and Sven Nys. We cheered for new friends like Yoshitaka Hama from Japan. We were in awe of everyone though. We had so much respect for everyone who lined up that night, no matter where they placed. Everyone got cheers and words of encouragement as they passed us. In fact, most everyone I heard that night was encouraging and respectful.
Too soon, the races were over. We were drained from a long day and I was hoarse from my cheering, but we were on cloud nine from such an amazing experience. As we walked to the exits, we started talking about coming back next year and we started dreaming about checking out a World Cup on European soil. Before we exited, we stopped by the Rapha tent just as Jeremy arrived. It didn't matter that he had just finished a grueling hour of racing, he engaged his fans and gave them his undivided attention. To cap off this amazing experience, Jeremy signed a photo my friend Andy had taken of Jeremy. Every time I look at that picture I'll be reminded of this night under the lights in the Nevada desert.
BEING A FAN
Last but not least, when we weren't lost in all the amazing products at Interbike, we got to play cycling fan. It was amazing to see former pros like Cadel Evans just cruising around Interbike without so much of a second look by people. We were a little starstruck though and had no shame in asking for a picture. Below are a few former pros we ran into.