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?

  • Gordon M

    John – what a great idea! Cycling is always looking for a way to broaden its base, so why not give it a try?

    • My whole thing is there are a lot of brands out there – like Swift Industries, etc – who make products that make the transition from backpacking to bikepacking or touring – why wouldn’t those brands want to be present to make a first impression?

      • ol’grumpy

        Not to speak for Martina and crew, but Swift Industries is one of the few cycling focused companies I know of that actively participates in O.R. Subsequently they are building a much broader network of like-minded people and businesses. The ideas, tech, stoke, advocacy is flowing both ways in that case.

        I agree that it’s short sighted to pretend that cycling exists in it’s own sphere or vacuum, that it is too unique. This is one of the broader reasons why there has been negative growth of the industry for the past decade. The industry has tapped it’s low hanging fruit and can’t figure out how to engage beyond that demographic.

        • Totally.

        • Again, not to speak for Swift – but they have a more WTF orientation and their founders come from a place and tradition grounded in inclusion and education.

  • Fatmantis

    i like this idea, but the bike industry is about to pivot to mopo (e-moto-power), and i’m not sure it will go smoothly. i am hoping i’m exaggerating, but…

    • I don’t think the industry is pivoting to it. I think it’s just an offering, or a small segment of the overall picture. You know how many older men and women I see riding e-bikes now? It’s actually quite awesome. I try to talk to them when I see them and most are like “I rode all through my 50’s and I had to stop, now I’m back on a bike” – sure there are also the darth vader dh bros on them too, but you can’t let the speed bros poison the well.

  • Froste

    Suggestion for the new website you are building. A great article like this would be much easier to read if it was not broken up by large images and if the line length was shorter (half or 2/3). Gonna try reading it again, just had to get that out first. ;-)

    • We are on it. Thanks.

    • Are you reading on mobile or desktop?

      • Desktop is a bit wide for sure

      • Froste

        Desktop. Resizing my window solves it i guess, but there is probably a better solution.

        • Froste

          Reading it on Mobile device is fine. I would also think that well written pieces like this one don’t need all these photos to get the point across. Maybe 1 photo is enough?

          • But then it doesn’t solve the text width issue. We’re working on alleviating that.

    • YaanG

      The large images are why I come here. Look again at that “paceline” pic above. Wow.

  • AaronBenjamin

    I’ve always noted that the apparent elitism of the cycling industry will be its downfall. As willing to mix with other types of outdoor recreation as oil and water, and for no apparent reason either.

  • I love this. Thank you for opening the discussion and being so thoughtful. After working in the bicycle industry for 8 years, I never was able to understand its reticence to see itself as part of the greater outdoor industry. They just don’t, and they don’t seem to want to anytime soon. I’m not sure if its elitism, as suggested by Aaron B, or the immaturity of youth (mountain biking, at least) or the fact that bicycling is still much smaller than something like hiking.

    It’s like when Salsa made it into REI and everyone was like, “Gasp! Salsa has sold out and is hooking up with the unwashed hoards and masses!” I thought it was a great idea for them to get their brand and products in front of people more primed than the average individual to try bike riding because they’re already into playing outside and gear. The bike industry (the big guns) is also *light years* behind the rest of the outdoor industry in diversifying and promoting diversity, purposefully, and trying to get beyond rampant sexism, FWIW. Much respect to small grassroots groups doing otherwise.

    Now that I work on the ski/snowboard side of things, it’s so obvious how the bike industry is–as you said–myopic. At a recent gathering of mountain bike industry executives, a good half of them thumbed their noses at the idea of caring about or advocating for outdoor recreation and public lands. They were very open that they only care about their immediate backyards and hardcore-rider niches.

    The Outdoor Industry Association has tons of data on various activities, including that the vast majority of mountain bikers also run, hike and camp. And yet the bike industry still seems to only care about the people who base their entire identities on being a bicycle rider of some sort, and continue to stake their fortunes on those folks.

    I’m not jaded. I was just endlessly baffled at the insular nature of the bicycle industry. I look forward to following this conversation.

    • 🙏🏻

    • marty larson

      Good god YES! The bike world is incredibly short sighted. The facet that jumped at me here was the whole ‘back yard’ thing. very few shops and only a couple companies are able to see that [continued] access to the greater back country routes is probably more important than access to your happy little 10 mile loop in the county park.

  • Carl Larson

    You mention equestrians. Is there much of an equestrian industry presence? Or what about snowmobiling, surfing, RVing, and sailing — all means by which folks enjoy the outdoors? Are hunting and fishing brands well-represented? I get the impression that OR’s realm is mostly stuff-you-can-buy-at-REI (another argument for including bikes, actually) but now you’ve got me curious about some of the other industries that may not participate.

    Regardless, you’ve got a great point and I think it’d be really healthy for the sport if cycling brands recognized OR as a fitting venue for their products.

    • The 4×4, off road and hunting industries are a little different. I can’t see them merging with OR or cycling since they’re a whole ‘nother demographic. Still, I talk with people out on 4×4 trails I’d rarely talk to otherwise unless we had a shared interest. Mostly because of political views I suppose.

      • Rabob_c

        Almost every dirt biker I know is also a mountain biker.

    • chrismoustache

      The snowmobiling / rod and gun / rv crowd is also made up of a bunch of subcategories with different organizations supporting different facets. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, for instance, has a different lean than other field and stream groups. There are instances as well of snowmobile / atv groups working with rail trail groups to develop railroad right of ways into new multi-use trail.

      Increasingly, those who recreate are becoming more generalists and crossing the hard boundaries of one activity. Bikepacking is probably the most relevant example.

  • planning_nerd

    I’m not clear on what the point would be…getting general outdoor retailers to carry bikes? getting IBDs to carry camping equipment?

    The reason the retail channels are different is because bicycles are complicated products that need much more technical support and expertise than say tents. It makes no sense for a small retailer to invest in all the capabilities necessary to properly sell and support bikes when the volumes are low.

    • The idea is to get human-powered exploration and recreation under one roof. If LBS want to carry camping gear, great! If they don’t, no worries. I don’t expect integration as much as exposure and positive representation.

      The shops I see with outdoor oriented gear in stock do better in my experience. Think about all the stuff we use while touring and bikepacking.

      It might be hard for an outdoor store to carry bikes but the other way around seems like a no brainer. OR isn’t about shops as much as it is about brands showcasing product IMO.

      • planning_nerd

        Bike retailing need to evolve, that’s for sure. I’m not convinced this is a great idea but certainly its useful to be mulling this over.

      • Craig Miller

        My first thought before even reading this article was “Yea! Why aren’t we?”
        Just coming from a bikepacking standpoint; we wouldn’t have all of the lightweight packable stuff we currently do without the hiking/backpacking/thru-hiking end of the outdoor industry. The lines have certainly been blurred already, but no one wants to go further than that for seemingly no reason. We all ride outdoors; we should certainly be at outdoor expos!

  • fledersau

    There are a lot of points to agree with, especially the kind of cycling that is represented here. It would fit perfectly into the outdoor world.
    But the bicycle is not to be limited to outdoor. I see a bike more like a shoe, there are shoes for the outdoor, but there are so much more.
    Alot of cycling is about performance and fitness, or even more (especially in northern europe) is it a mode of transport for your everyday errands, and either one of those would fit great into an outdoor convention because it is so much more than just that.

  • Alan

    I totally agree that being inclusive is the way to move forward. However, the outdoor industry has only started to include POC and other under represented users of their gear in the last couple of years. Example, I’ve been a loyal follower/customer of “patagonia” for over 30 years. Yet, I’ve seen very few images of POC, etc in their ads. Also, if all these companies want to be inclusive they could donate gear to under privileged people who’d like to get into nature, but can’t afford to the equipment needed. Yes, donating money to environmental groups is important. However, I feel getting people into nature is more important because once there, they will begin to truly appreciate the outdoor environment and will become advocates for the preservation of public lands, etc.

    • Kevin

      The outdoor and bike industry is and only will be “inclusive” when it proves profitable. Merely having an ad of a black person wearing a fancy rain jacket, for example, does absolutely nothing productive for real political issues of race. In fact, it has the exact opposite effect. It allows corporations and individuals to turn virtue signalling or consumer wokeness into a branding and profit strategy.

      Watson’s post virtue-signals as well. Ask yourself: What does connecting bike and outdoors retail have to do with race or indigenous cultures? Why this self-congratulatory thing, why tell us that there were too many white dudes at a bike event? Did that just need to be pointed out, so that everyone knows Watson made that comment about white dudes to a room filled only with white dudes? And someone explain to me again what the Radavist–which focuses on elite consumer bike culture–has to do with indigenous cultures?

  • Casey Clark

    Best I can tell, mountain biking (in the US, anyway) has always had a rebellious, do-it-yourself, cut-the-lock-on-the-gate-and-let’s-ride-this kind of ethos. I think it probably served the ‘sport’ (for lack of a better term) in it’s infancy, maybe it was even neccessary, but it embedded an insular, isolationist element into the culture that we still carry (which isn’t weird, it hasn’t been that long). So now, even though it’s grown into a really popular sport (if it wasn’t one then, it sure looks like one now) we still behave like it isn’t, and that’s why we’re so disconnected from all these other groups of people doing basically the same thing, recreating outside. I’m just spitballin’ a theory, but it would be cool to get some perspective from the OG’s.

    • All that ended with $6,000 + carbon bikes.

      • Casey Clark

        It shoulda, but I’m not sure it did.

      • Sure hasn’t around here. Lots of off-the-map riding happening.

        • I just mean the industry adopting that, not so much the local rogue groups.

          • Casey Clark

            What I mean is, I think the technology and the popularity of mountain biking has changed and grown quickly, but the culture and behavior of mountain bikers, both individual riders and the industry, hasn’t kept up. The rogue riders we all see everywhere, and the ‘bikes-only’ position the industry has historically taken might share the same root.

          • Gotcha

          • Casey Clark

            It’s a great topic to get people talking about, thanks for raising it.

  • Sean Quill

    Good idea but I think one reason we don’t see it (at the moment) are the costs associated for small manufacturers (like Swift) to simply be present at OR/SIA. It’s incredibly expensive, requiring months of planning and logistics just to get a crate delivered to the right square of carpet. Unbox, set up, merchandise and then try to cram a years worth of sales meetings blended into a three/four day cocktail party.
    The ROI isn’t really there yet for small, independent brands in my opinion.

    • marty larson

      Interbike wasn’t exactly cheap either. As shops realize that diversification helps in the long run, attending OR will become a bigger deal. Personally, I’ve yet to go, but it IS on the target list for attending. People are realizing that the one stop shopping experience is handy[think Costco, Sam’s, REI] It’d sure make sense if the outdoor industry as a whole could knock out a week of new products then get right back to work.

  • While I tend to agree with your POV, as an owner of a small bike shop, trade shows in general are not what they used to be/started as – buying shows: You’d make the time to go to the show with the intent to write orders, find deals, meet your suppliers, and maybe find some new product to offer.

    All of that changed for the bike industry when a couple things happened: First, manufacturers started showing next-model-year products in early Summer making one of the reasons for visiting the show pointless and second, the biggest players abandoned the show in favour of private parties – sucking a lot of dealers and energy out of the show. Third – nobody writes orders at shows anymore – so what is the point to going? Just to look at new stuff? The internets has solved that too.

    The bike biz has some big challenges right now – many of which yo touched on – but I am not sure rolling Interbike into OR would fix any of them.

    Love the work you guys do – many thanks!

  • Sam Stroebel

    I would have to agree the proof is in the pudding. Look at REI (an outdoor retailer who sells bike) has record sales, and Performance Bike (who sold bikes to a similar market segment) is bankrupt.

    • Yeah REI – you can buy a touring bike, panniers, UL tents, stoves, and food. Suddenly that $1,800 Surly sale becomes a $4,000 touring setup and you can roll right from those doors. It’s a utopian idea but It’s nice that it happens and that there is a place that can make it happen.

      • GNARdina

        This comment is especially true in Pittsburgh, because REI is on the DC trail here. You can literally leave out the door of REI, ride 500 feet and run into 325 miles of rail-to-trail to Washington DC.

  • Tee Haynes

    Agreed. I have been hitting my head against wall saying this same thing for years. The outdoor industry is doing well with progressing in diversity, inclusion and overall growth. The bike industry could learn a lot from it.

  • Raymond Walker

    Reason: The two demographics that the ‘bicycle industry’ bows down to: racing & rich dudes.

  • From a business perspective, big trade shows obviously makes no sense for larger global bike companies since the public side of these shows is a fraction of the visitors it makes even less sense. The reason so many companies pulled out from Interbike was the lack or return on investment, as it’s been mentioned here, the ordering or launch of new products often aren’t compatible with trade show timelines in Vegas or Reno, especially not in the global reality larger brands live in. That format worked better when things were more US centric and you “had to” be there to be seen. Most actors now, big or small, have their own trade shows that serve their own dealers and if you have X amount of cash to spend on such events, it’s natural that it’s been streamlined to support your own business partners and not for the greater good of cycling, outdoors or both.

    Personally, I’d like to see the smaller and more alternative events like Grinduro or Outpost, both examples of a new form of alternative community driven event with trade side shows, lean towards a broader outdoors perspective but they struggle with capacity and inclusiveness of the masses. They’ve been successful in mixing brand, business with culture and community but they’re also very limited in the reach – for now. The big ol’ trade shows are going to continue to decline as we’re in the middle of a retail, web, community, business paradigm when most brands are trying to figure out the perfect balance. There’s nothing that says that a new general outdoor trade show where all facets of the term couldn’t be successful but geez, mega convention center formats a’la OR, Interbike, Eurobike and Nahbs bore me to death and it’s not the attendees or products but the format that needs a change.

    I’ll come to the RADAVIST OUTDOORS MEET 2020 in Bishop ;)

    • Glad someone said it: those events got to be hella boring. And seriously difficult to work, meaningfully. I went to Interbike twice as bike media and the idea of attending to make and reinforce connections is long gone. We just ran ourselves ragged for 14-hour days (counting evening events) and never got to spend more than 5 minutes with someone, or so it seemed. Outerbike, DirtFest, Ginduro … those smaller events that mix industry with the public and give everyone a chance to breathe and interact in a non-mega-warehouse environment maintain some of that old authenticity and culture. I do think the comment about sending someone to OR to sniff out trends in other parts of the outdoor industry and have some targeted conversations makes good business sense, but I don’t know how much sense it makes to have a “booth.” Ugh. Hated working booths… ;-)

    • I’m in. John and Erik – we’ve got a year to plan this.👊 Lots of good points made in this thread. I’ll say I’ve enjoyed NAHBS for the opportunity to hang with other custom bike nerds. But for the industry as a whole we need to be more inclusive, not more divisive, and perhaps integration with OR would be one way to do that.
      Also…LBS buying groups for the WIN!!!

  • GNARdina

    The best example I can use in support with your point is that 75% of what I use for bike trips is the same gear I use on kayak trips, and backpacking trips. Sleep system, shelter, dry bags, nutrition and water, even most of the apparel (minus the chamois and the fact that I don’t wear a kit), all transfer from one modality of trekking to another. Honestly I think the word adventure is helping to meld the industries into one, since many of the “adventure people” are doing multiple disciplines.

  • I think that cycling as a sport predates the whole outdoors movement. It was and is a form of transportation and it matured as an industry long before “the outdoor industry” was even a thing.

    But times have changed. Cycling now repeatedly shoots itself in the foot, dumping disposable bikes into WalMart on one side and pricing decent, reliable bikes out of the grasp of most people on the other side. Used to be that you could go to a Schwinn retailer and get a good bike for a decent price that would last.

    The people that are going to move cycling forward are those that are devoted to the sport and the outdoors. The same people that go mountain biking on Thursday might be hiking on Saturday and rock climbing on Sunday.

    Brand wise, my favorite mountain biking shoes are made by a company that made their name in rock climbing. A good pair of surf shorts works for riding just as well as for a trip to the pool. Bike helmets are not that different from climbing helmets or ski helmets. I use my hydration pack for riding and hiking.

    And don’t forget the whole rising bikepacking thing. Tons of crossover there.

    In short, it makes a lot of sense.

    That said, I think that adding bikes to OR would keep a lot of small startup bike brands from getting themselves in front of media and retailers. That would serve to help shows like CABDA and Sea Otter.

    • keith wikle

      Paddlesports predates cycling as does hunting, running, walking etc?… not sure why predating makes any difference…

  • Couldn’t agree with these thoughts more, and it is cool to see the conversation going on already. The way I have come in to the cycling industry has been far from a traditional route, and the deeper I get the more confusing it is how intensely “the industry” is trying to isolate itself. Sure I got hooked on bikes through the racing scene, but I grew up skiing, hiking, camping, backpacking, canoeing and all that. Biking was always just another way to get outside and it still is just that, a nice way to be outside.

    All of a sudden I find myself steering a brand that it seems like some people are paying attention to and it feels more important than every to make this conversation happen. How do we be more inclusive of people who are underrepresented and neglected by “the industry”? How do we grow the sport in a more sustainable way? It is cool to be a small brand and be able to talk about those things, but also tricky when staying in business is a challenge on its own. At the end of the day I mostly have to talk about bikes.

    There are some other small brands out there doing a great job of this ( I saw some folks mention Swift, Crust comes to mind too, outershell). I know a lot of the people behind these smaller companies really care. We were never going to go to interbike anyway, but maybe we can make some change from our nichey little corners of the cycling world and talk to the outdoors people too. At least that is what I hope. Not sure that is possible at all from a convention center anywhere.

  • Philip Kim

    weird to hear john call out the industry for only having white dudes. The POC featured on this website are just part of the landscape white people cycle through.

  • keith wikle

    I’ve followed your blog a long time. It’s an interesting discussion. But is it a problem?

    Outdoor Retailer is a big event. It has a lot of different focuses. Hiking, Skiing, Climbing. My interest in OR, was through paddlesports. Paddlesports was always a very small, ugly, barky dog at OR. It never seemed to fit. Paddlesports pulled off and decided to have their own trade show in Madison Wisconsin. They had a consumer show called Canoecopia for years. But the trade show has split off. Is this better? I’m not really sure? I do surfing, white water, and sea kayaking, as well as expedition sea kayaking. Hiking and Climbing have actually adopted several paddlesports innovations over the last few years. There are way more drybag style climbing and backpacking bags and stuff sacks than there used to be. This all came from raft guiding and sea kayaking. It’s been massively beneficial to both industries to have different companies make this gear. Also drysuits developed specifically for paddlesports have both led the way and taken a lot from climbing and ski tech. Drysuits now use flexible plastic zips instead of bulky metal ones having seen them be very waterproof in a variety of other uses. So it’s a constant give and take.

    Paddlesports uses a ton of carbon fiber composite tech that could learn from cycling, and vice versa. I’ve seen incredible work from Werner, Epic, P&H and other companies in paddlesports that could probably teach cycling a thing or two about carbon fiber molding and fabrication.

    But OR wanted to have their show during peak outdoor season for paddlesports. It just didn’t work. And now they’re separate. And the show was always a zoo and the surfing/paddlesports biz wasn’t always getting the focus it should have. Skis, Climbing and hiking always seemed way more front and center.

    I really enjoy cycling, but this problem is largely of own making. Paddlesports has a similar problem. I’ve participated in cyclocross, road rides, fat biking, and other off road riding. The sport itself is elitist. It is very focused on racing, performance, and competition. Entry level recreation activity is always frowned on, but it sells. So going off to have your own show may solve some problems, and create others. Cycling seems like it would be big enough to have it’s own show just like the paddlesports one. But who would benefit?

    One of the awesome things about the cycling boom has been lots of small fabrication shops, lots of makers, and DYI folks. An outdoor show typically helps the big fish the most, and the smaller fish the least. So it’s kind of a big it depends.

    What does growing the sport mean? And how does this change how we all enjoy it?

  • Sebastian Schwägele

    I just don’t care. I just ride my bikes. Period. Luckily, I am not working in the bicycle industry and never will. I don’t make money with cycling. This topic is not important nor essential at all.

    Moreover, I am looking forward to the day when the hype will have moved on to something else, less talking about cycling, less people on singletrails, like it used to be in the early 00’s. Probably, websites like this one will disappear. All in its proper time.

    • Ah like the “good old days” – don’t hold your breath. ;-)

  • Alan

    I feel that big box stores such as REI, MEC selling bikes is terrible. I worked at MEC (REI of Canada) and the only reason they got into selling bikes is to increase their profits. The staff training is poor and therefore getting knowledgable advice is difficult. If possible, I support the small independent manufacturers and retailers; some of which are doing a great job at fostering community.

    • Mashira

      Very true. I worked REI for two months. It was a great experience but, yea, the bikes part seemed a second thought. Was kind of crazy some of the wrong info employees hgav customers sometimes.

      • The REIs I’ve been to have cyclists working at the bike shop and have been more than helpful. I stopped by one on a tour and grabbed some extra rack bolts. The dude working cleaned my chain and tuned up my cables for free. I know that’s anecdotal but it changed my opinion. My only beef is the Co-Op brand copied Salsa, but that is REI’s MO.

        • Shreddy Krueger

          I worked as the Master Tech for several REI stores before returning to a smaller shop, and in my experience, the marketing and branding definitely brought people in the doors that were either new to cycling altogether, or were returning after some hiatus, and offered a low pressure reintroduction to the sport. We offered free hands on maintenance classes, courses on long distance touring, and management was really receptive to anything that we thought would increase the number of people on bikes in that area in general, not just the amount that bought bikes from us. I was offered way more opportunities to advocate cycling to a larger, varied group than I could ever reach in a smaller shop, and the larger budget allowed a greater spectrum of bikes to cover all genres of cycling, from entry level Novara/Co-Op hybrids, to high end Ghost mtbs. I don’t think it’s detrimental at all to have larger stores dabbling in cycling for these reasons alone. Would I rather sell a bike from a smaller shop? Sure, but I’d also rather see more people on bikes in general. Slippery slope.

        • Mashira

          I worked the NYC flagship and have been to the REI bordering Sprain Ridge. It’s a hit or miss. Not denying friendliness, and I really enjoyed working there.

      • Alan

        Agree

    • It’s a shame MEC sucks but REI has done a lot for and with cycling. MTB Project is their app for starters.

      • Alan

        It’s great that REI has done some good for cycling. However, large organizations have the ability to purchase product in big quantities and therefore get a discounted from the manufacturer. This makes it a lot more difficult for an LBS to stay in business.

        • m burdge

          REI, as well as MEC, are consumer co-ops, meaning they are owned by the people who shop there and return the profits to their owners–i.e., people who shop there. Like any business, they work hard to control costs and maximise revenues and profits. They do get lower prices due to the volume of products they buy, but there is nothing stopping LBSes from forming co-operative buying groups and negotiating similar prices from vendors. If every angry LBS owner would co-operate, instead of blaming and complaining, they could access volume discounts as well. One of Canada’s largest hardware and home centre chains, Home Hardware, operates as a buyer’s group, where each store is owned individually, but each store owns a share in the larger buying group that negotiates the best price for products, and returns the savings to its members. LBSes could do the same if they wanted to. But then, maybe the Internet is just a fad and we all can just go back to business as usual…

          • Alan

            Good point on buyers groups. I can’t speak about REI, but I have first hand knowledge about MEC focusing on profits not for their members, but for the senior managers to build there careers. And they cut down on the training for staff members across the board, which does not provide for knowledgable customer service for their members(owners) BTW, I do not own an LBS, or even work in the bike industry.

      • Michael

        I can’t speak to what it’s like to work for MEC but I can whole heartedly endorse them for supporting MANY outdoor initiatives including our local mountain bike trail advocacy and maintenance organizations.

  • Jordan Muller

    In a way, isn’t Rivendell ahead of the curve on this? Functional, multi-purpose bikes. Functional, multi-purpose clothing. Functional, multipurpose outdoor/camping gear. Thanks to their ethos . . . or marketing . . . or both, when I think of Rivendell I actually don’t think about cycling, I think about hanging out outside with bicycles. Its more of a lifestyle brand, even though that’s such a shitty phrase.

  • benreed

    It seems like the industry is focused on the highest of the high end, both in terms of bikes and trails, and it’s making us even more isolated. The political issue (not working together with other users, environmental groups) is something we in our local trail building org done a fair amount to try to change and we’ve had a lot of success over the past 20+ years staying as user neutral as possible (160 miles and counting!). However, we’re starting to run into the problem that many (mostly younger) cyclists are demanding machine-built “progressive” trail that is purpose built for mountain bikes like you see popping up around the country in places with tourist (or Wal-Mart) money to burn. This is a problem for grassroots, volunteer-based organizations a number of reasons: (1) it’s way more expensive as it can’t really be volunteer built or maintained beyond a few offshoots, (2) it isolates you politically since hikers, runners, ect. either aren’t interested or are actively opposed, and (3) land managers and corporate donors are way less enthusiastic about “mountain bike trails” than they are about “multi-use trails.” My fear is that this is going to end with bikes being even more sidelined in all but the most bike friendly of places.

    • Rabob_c

      There are hundreds of thousands of miles of hike-only trails. A few miles of flow trails in a few select cities aren’t going to kill anyone or “ruin” the bike industry.

  • whiteryanc

    I work in the industry and have been saying this for years. With the rise of bike packing and obscured/non-specific riding variations the line between general outdoor sports gear and the cycling is increasingly blurry. As a manufacturer, we have gone to OR for sourcing purposes anyway, and we’re just now waiting for our cycling-specific sourcing partners to jump on board and come to OR.
    There are competing shows that lots of brands go to like Performance Days in Germany or NY that achieve roughly the same/better affect from a sourcing perspective but it’s always great to look at what different disciplines are doing to innovate fabrics, trims and construction techniques in equipment and apparel.

    To segregate made sense when bike shops ruled and the show was very much about relationship building; but now that it’s more of a product showcase and B2B tools are so strong I think it’s advantageous to see what trends people are interested in in other sectors of parallel markets (i.e. skiing, hiking, paddle boarding, whatever floats your boat) to help drive your buying decisions based on what the consumer is doing during the part of their life they’re not on the bike (which is probably most of it for a lot of people).

  • Good points, John. Ruminating on this for a while now as the snow falls over here, perhaps the question/s I’d be looking to ask and seek out answers for are two-fold:

    1. How can the Bicycle Industry look to its close neighbor the Outdoor Industry to model itself as more inclusive vs exclusive while maintaining it’s own identity/spirit which I think really makes it a unique discipline?

    And 2: Where can both the Bicycle and Outdoor industries at large work together in mutually beneficial projects to achieve long term objectives? Furthermore, how can we better facilitate those conversations?

    I’m not sure if combining both events makes sense (Emerald Expositions owns both OR and Interbike) but certainly, crossover brands that bridge those gaps between disciplines make sense to be physically present at either of those types of shows. And as many have stated, the smaller regional events that mix riding with product placement where you can integrate all facets of the industry from company’s large and small, shops, brand ambassadors, vendors, suppliers and cyclists of all skill levels, seems like it’s headed in the right direction. There’s a time and a place for tradeshows but large Vegas-style shows feel like something less appropriate now.

  • Adam Leddin

    Totally agree. Why should bike shops just be bike shops? Why can’t they be more of a lifestyle shop? It might help to attract more customers that will keep it afloat. Look at Deus Ex Machina. A tiny portion of their customers are actually motorcyclists, most of them want part of the lifestyle and culture.

  • Jonathan Raspa

    I think that one reason you don’t see bicycle trade events piggybacking onto outdoors events is that the type of cycling that would fit into that market is only a portion of the entire bicycle market (mind you, I’m limiting this market to North America only; Europe is a completely different ball of wax). How do you fit road cycling into the outdoor industry? It’s competitive nature sets it apart from the more collaborative/exploratory/commune-with-nature experience that characterizes the outdoor industry. That doesn’t omit the fact that both can be about challenging yourself, broadening experiences, and building communities within your activity/sport.

    But that cleave between the nature of sport and activity is one that cycling can easily navigate: it can be both. There are niche competitive aspects of outdoor activities (rock-climbing is a great example) but they are typically very small segments, and rarely representative of the outdoor activity as a whole. This still doesn’t encompass a third major market of the bicycle industry: commuters. How do you fit that market into an “Outdoor World” type event? Commuters may still use equipment that is marketed for mountain biking or “adventuring”, but their use of it is for a different market.

    Interbike was a show that was able to cover all three of the major bicycle market segments, plus fit in all the niche bicycle products and pursuits that felt their market was more “bicycle” than “outdoor”. The outdoor market is too broad (not intentionally, but by its nature) to allow for that level of brand and market individualism to really stand out. What is a bikepacking-specific product in the bicycle market could just end up being labeled “bike” or “mountain bike” in the outdoor market. Should we sacrifice the individualism inherent in our communities and companies just to get access to a broader market?

    I do agree that in pursuing policy goals, the two markets do have major overlap, and there are duplicative, short-sighted efforts that could be far more effective (with better outcomes) if they were combined. @johnprolly:disqus one line in your opening really stood out to me:
    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.
    I can’t tell you the number of cyclists I met, sold bikes to, and conversed with who as competitive cyclists couldn’t care less about these topics, but others in more “outdoorsy” roles would put those issues before their identity as a cyclist (commuter/ MTB-er, etc). The fact that the competitive road cycling market represents so many dollars (not actual individuals!) means that the conflict between “outdoor” cycling (however you want to characterize that) and racing will keep the policy, marketing, and so many other efforts split on priorities. Which is a real shame.

    This doesn’t even delve into the national-to-local prioritization of cycling as a legitimate mode of transportation in this country, and how that impacts so many communities and groups across the country. How could that be addressed as an issue by outdoor retailers? I don’t think it’s impossible, but it’s a long way from getting that conversation to be taken seriously, especially in a country like ours, with it’s geographically and politically complex and conflicted regions. Not even going to go into the political-economic complications of online shopping, or tariffs that impact the bike industry alone. :)

    Overall, it’s a complicated issue that is tough to wrap your arms around, and a small change like having bike industry representation at Outdoor Retailer could have enormous positive effects, or no impact, or a very negative one for the bike industry. Good conversation starter; it’s important that we think about these issues, and try and get that thoughtfulness out to others that don’t read this site!

  • surlymv

    John: Thank you for starting a great and important discussion. Your site has many fantastic bikes so this is a way to gather people and then discuss where cycling is headed. I’m talking ALL bikes. LBS are hurting, independent business is struggling. If we do not focus on getting youth into cycling then they will only know box store bikes and move on to their x-box by age 8-10. The shop I work at seems to only serve 40+ year old cyclists since they are the only customers who actually show up and buy stuff.
    I’m open to any ideas since I love bicycles. At least with bikepacking we have escape bikes for the apocalypse.