Preliminary reports from Eurobike and the Milan Bicycle show seem to be pointing to an exciting week at Interbike, and as the industry evolves Interbike’s management team has created more opportunities for the show to evolve as well. Each year, the Interbike OutDoor Demo sees more retailers attending and vendors exhibiting, and this year the event has almost become its own mini-tradeshow.

This year, Interbike management is expecting stronger attendance than ever with roughly 150 vendors and manufacturers exhibiting and over 6,000 attendees. BOSS spoke with Lance Camisasca, Interbike’s show director, shortly before the show. He said that even though it is still too early to provide any firm growth number for the show, they are seeing roughly a 5% increase across the board this year.

It seems in years past, the OutDoor Demo was limited because of its venue at Blue Diamond. The new site, in Bootleg Canyon outside of Boulder City, NV offers access to more and better trails, a downhill run, a BMX track, a completely closed road loop, and a new cyclocross course.

“Although Blue Diamond had a bunch more charm, ambience and most important of all, shade, the trail network there was far too limited in what it offered, especially with the arrival of long travel freeride bikes,” said Zapata Espinoza, brand manager at Trek Bicycles, in a call with BOSS. “While the road riding (at Bootleg Canyon) seems somewhat less than inspiring, the trails are really rugged for a good mountain bike experience.”

Camisasca told BOSS that the OutDoor Demo was historically focused solely on the off-road MTB market. As it grew and evolved into a showcase for the entire bike industry, the event outgrew its original venue. “Going into 2004, I don’t want to say that we have covered every niche activity in the bicycle industry, but we are very close,” said Camisasca.

On top of switching the venue, the OutDoor Demo was also expanded to two days last year. This extension helped Vendors spend more time with retailers, and many said improved the selling and buying experience at the whole show.

“It was a great decision by Interbike to expand the demo to two days,” said Christina Orlandella, Marketing Director for Crank Brothers. “The hands-on aspect of the demo allows us to reach retailers on an entirely different level and has certainly helped increase the awareness of the brand.”

The venue is not the only evolution of the Demo. Retailers are realizing the importance of trying out bikes before they appear on the showroom floor. Likewise, vendors are realizing the importance of telling a consistent performance story through PR & marketing programs and then backing it up with product that tells the same story. The ability to show this consistency to retailers can only be achieved at an event like the Demo.

“As with many other companies, the ODD has grown in importance each year as both the site itself has improved, and we have come to realize the increased benefit of getting people out on the bikes versus just standing around looking at them below the bright lights,” said Trek’s Espinoza. “Like walking into a sweet shop and taking a big bite of a caramel apple versus just looking at it thru the window…”

Many vendors are looking at the OutDoor Demo as not only a great place to sell the features and benefits of their latest product, but also as a great venue for giving something back to the bicycle community. Thule president Fred Clark said that his company realizes the importance of the event to retailers, but also sees a great opportunity for his company to make the event stronger.

“With increased numbers in retailer participation each year and the Demo Format moving to 2 days, there is no argument against not being there…the retailers have demonstrated that this is important to them!” said Mr. Clark. “While setting up a booth at the demo is important, Thule's involvements with sponsoring the Down Hill Shuttle and VIP shuttle are two of the most beneficial roles that reward Thule and more importantly the Demo.”

Camisasca told BOSS that the biggest change he has noticed at the OutDoor Demo was an increased focus from vendors. “When we first started the demo, exhibitors would show up with a tent and a trailer full of bikes and point people to the trail,” he said. “Now, it has become a much more focused exercise in brand building – whether it be reinforcing the image surrounding their bikes, or catering to VIP’s in an elaborate booth – almost all of the companies in attendance have a specific goal for the demo.”

Most Vendors who are currently running a national demo campaign view the OutDoor Demo as an extension of these programs. Espinoza told BOSS that for Trek, the Interbike OutDoor Demo is virtually identical to the Trek/VW demo program that they have had in place for almost a decade.

BOSS also contacted Kona’s U.S. sales manager, Kelly Steelman, who said, “We currently have a National Demo Campaign that is perhaps one of the most important brand building tools we utilize.  We see On-Dirt Demo as an extension of that campaign.  While either endeavor is not cheap to operate, On-Dirt Demo is a valuable expenditure of funds that helps our bikes sell themselves.”

All of the Vendors that BOSS spoke with agreed that the OutDoor Demo is a vital tool and its growth is a great sign of retailers acting in agreement. While some of the suggestions for improvement solicited by BOSS were clearly out of the realms of possibility for Interbike management – like fewer flats, fewer injuries, less dust, a wave pool with a bar you can swim up to – several manufacturers provided some very constructive criticism.

“The reason this event has been so successful is the openness of it's organizers to listen to criticism and suggestions,” Thule’s Clark told BOSS. “I would encourage all who exhibit and participate to continue to offer that criticism…that is how we challenge each other and improve… I am very pleased with the direction this event is heading.”

Kona’s Steelman suggested that Interbike require dealer feedback that can be given to manufacturers for use in making product and marketing decisions. The implementation of this could be complicated, but allowing retailers to provide feedback and maintain anonymity could be very useful to many vendors.