Short Stuff: Why Shouldn’t the Bicycle Industry Attend Outdoor Retailer? Jan 18, 2019

The best way to learn is to fall. Both metaphorically and literally. Especially on a bike. If you never lean over and push the boundaries how can you understand traction, physics, and speed? That’s part of the reasoning behind the Rubber Side Up mantra. Push yourself, get air, and yeah, crash. When you fall, you inevitably learn in the process. We all do it, it’s what we do afterwards that makes the difference. Take the inevitable collapse of the tradeshow, specifically Interbike. What could the organizers have done to solidify their holding within the industry? Will they learn from the demise of the tradeshow, or will it be more of the same?

One of the points I made during the Chris King Open House and Industry Summit – other than it being full of white dudes with no women in attendance – was why hasn’t Interbike joined forces with Outdoor Retailer?

Are we not an outdoor industry? Do we not care about the outdoors? The tagline for this very website is “A Group of Individuals who Share a Love for Cycling and the Outdoors.” We ride outdoors, we live outdoors as much as possible. We are not complete, as humans, without the outdoors. So why is the cycling industry so myopic?

The Great Outdoors

We’re learning a lot about the fascination with outdoor recreation and without venturing into the political nature of this discussion – which could be an entire book, if not a collection of books – we need to address that our love for exploring, finding new roads, or trails to ride on is not going anywhere. So let’s be smart about it. The cycling industry, for some reason, separates itself from other outdoor recreation. Hiking, trail running, and even equestrians all have a lot in common with the bicycle. Instead, we fight with groups like the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Act, and other organizations, further alienating and distancing ourselves, our products, and yes, capital from the discussion.

Why not work with these organizations and brands to attack some of these problems, together?

Overlap

Yes, there is a lot of product overlap between the outdoor industry and the cycling industry. A cycling rain jacket is pretty similar to a standard rain jacket. Same with shorts, gloves, whatever. Perhaps the cycling company with the rain jacket doesn’t want to be in proximity with the outdoor label who makes a similar jacket? My take on this is why not introduce cycling to the right crowd. Like-minded individuals, who love to explore the basins and ranges of the US? Why can’t brands align themselves across the aisle? Over the years, I’ve enjoyed non-cycling recreation, and always have insightful conversation with hikers, trail runners, and backpackers about cyclists. There’s a very us versus them mentality that, in my opinion, stems from cyclists and the cycling industry not wanting to be a part of larger outdoor recreation. Why is this?

The Paceline as a Metaphor

If you’ve ridden in a paceline, you know the more people pulling on a climb, the easier it is to reach the summit. We’re in a place right now where if we all worked together, perhaps it would solve the problems we’re experiencing with the IBD and LBS. These days, I see more bike shops carrying outdoor equipment, which is a good thing, but it could get better. Also, if we all pulled our share on the climb, maybe we could get shit done for a change? We could also learn a lot from the diversity within the outdoor industry, who has been leading the way to include more POC. Things like access, fighting for public lands, education on indigenous cultures, should all be on your radar as a reader of this site and a cyclist.

Conclusion

This isn’t meant to be a full on Op-Ed piece or essay. Its intent is to start the conversation, since I’ve yet to see it brought up in a public forum. Why don’t more cycling brands go to Outdoor Retailer? Now that there’s no longer an Interbike, is this the time to integrate?