Thursday, September 17, 2009

Welcome to Interbeast!

Interbike is nearly upon us and the stress levels at Bike companies across the US and the globe are through the roof... unless they're not attending. Eurobike is the biggest of the bike trade shows, but it can still be argued (possibly flimsily) that Interbike is the more "important" show in terms of global impact. Many of the newest products from manufacturers are still officially unveiled at Interbike- though more and more are being introduced now at Eurobike. If for no other reason, the products that were not ready by Eurobike for their launch, sure as hell need to be ready by Interbike if the companies want to have a chance at reaching the global audience effectively. Like Eurobike, Interbike commands the attention of the world's cycling press and with the success of the Dirt Demo component of things, test editors can also get knee deep into the fun and sample numerous products all in one spot- perfect for instant "side by side" comparisons. Needless to say... both shows are a big damned deal. Maybe because we're still primarily "an American company", Interbike carries the greatest amount of stress for us each year.

Over the past few weeks and months, we've been ratcheting up the work and preparations in anticipation of Interbike... or Interbeast as some like to call it. Our creative guys have been working nearly 24hr shifts getting all the needed signage and other art needs ready. The Product Managers have been scrambling to make sure all of their samples are ready to be displayed- using duct tape and bubble gum to make them work, where necessary. Lots of hand painted and hand decaled items exist this time of year. We Brand Managers have been scrambling to coordinate the efforts of our Product Managers and assist where we can while providing the creative guys with the copy they need, or other direction. We've also been working with the sales folks to make sure we're all getting ready for the same things- communicating the right messages and delivering what is needed to make the show a success. We've also been getting demo fleets of bikes ready for test riders at Dirt Demo, as well gathering up the various sundries required to pull off Demo.

That's just a small part of it all too. Countless hours have been spent gathering the catalogs, building the booth, packing the supplies, making sure things work and are ready, etc, etc, etc... and a small army is required to make it all happen. We have a particularly small army, so it's always a matter of "all hands on deck". Sunday morning I will be part of the caravan driving the big rental trucks to Las Vegas. One half of the fleet will be headed to the convention center to set up the booth and all of the displays and the rest of us will be heading to Bootleg Canyon in Boulder city for the Dirt Demo action- we're not setting up the booth, but we are standing in 100+ degree heat, with sand being blown into every crack or crevice. It's a fun job... but a hot, dry and dirty one. Every year I leave Demo and head to the show totally dried out from the sun, possibly a little burned, and usually pretty sore from all the standing and running around. It's fun... but it hurts.

One might ask, "then why do all this?" We've all been asking that question for decades! Interbike- and other shows like Eurobike in Germany and ExpoCycle in Montreal- still remain the most effective ways to launch products to the retailers, media and ultimately consumers. A few brands are skipping Interbike in favor of smaller regional shows just for their retailers, so that they have a captive and focused audience. Show dates are moving farther and farther away from the dates of product releases and selling seasons (selling to the retailers), so they are losing a little of that particular power, but they still remain the "necessary evil" that works more than it doesn't work. Shows continue to evolve or devolve as demos prove more successful and regional/ private shows become more popular, but for now the shows still remain the best option available- especially for small brands still growing dealer base and with limited funds that make regional shows unaffordable... brands like Masi.

Another reason why we subject ourselves to the torturous amounts of stress is because we're a pretty social group of people, we bike industry wankers. We still suffer psychologically from an inferiority complex compared to other industries/ businesses, so we tend to do many things "the old way"- meaning tradeshows that no longer really meet the function they were originally created for. I can count the number of actual orders I've written at a tradeshow in the past five years on one and a half hands. BUT... the follow-up business has been significant as we've worked to rebuild the Masi brand. Most of our retailers have already gotten their catalogs and sales information long ago and are already placing orders now, so Vegas becomes a social event, if they chose to attend. Vegas is much more party than business function, but that's the whole point of evolution.

So, yes, I'm down to the last weathered tatters of sanity now. The show is looming large on the horizon and sleepless nights abound. I know I'm going to forget something or mess something up- it's just a matter of "what"... not "if". BUT... I will also see friends I only see once a year if I'm lucky, I'll get to look at really nice bikes (even the ones that aren't a Masi) and I'll hopefully get to see that new product that becomes the BIG THING. Most importantly, hopefully there will be that one conversation with a friend or somebody new that I walk away from the show remembering for years. Some years it's as simple as chatting with a "hero"- like the year I talked with John Tomac for a long time, or the time I hung out with Bob Roll- or maybe it'll be one of those quiet sidebar conversations that are too many to remember and too few to be satisfied with. In the end, the main reason I go through this nutty nonsense- aside from not having a choice because it's my job- is because I love this stuff. Every Interbeast comes and goes with so much fuss and calamity that I feel like I need to change careers... until the the anxiety fades and I remember the fun and the cool stuff. Between all the chaos lies my favorite time of the year. Go figure...



Elisa M said...

Great post! As a bike lover, I drool at the idea of going to Interbike, but understand the pain it causes all the vendors. Good luck! Keep us posted on any amazing products. Ride swiftly.

James T said...

Good post, Tim! I am getting really excited about Interbike. See you at the show.

Unknown said...

I was at Interbike last year for the first time and loved it. I stopped by the Masi booth to introduce myself as I listen to The Spokesman podcast, however you were showing all the bikes to LBD every time I went by. It certainly was a frenetic event and by Friday I was worn out, so I can imagine how you felt.

Sdflcorran said...

Like Elisa, my goal is to be able to one day go to Interbike and spend hours or perhaps even days drooling over new bikes and gear.

libertyonbikes! said...

that was the perfect summory,
it's not the orders.
It's a celebration,
a chance to see people you only see once a year,
to find that new little vendoryou never heard about,
to shop the competition,
score a little free stuff,
meet heroes,
and find the booth giving away beer......

it's rarely fun being the 'host'
but your job is pretty awesome

('make' CK Cycles pick up some Masi will ya?)