Interbike 2016:  The “Who’s Who” of the Bicycle Industry

by Gary Strang, PCI #1457
London (ON) Police Service
IPMBA Membership Director

Normally my duties on the IPMBA board involve membership, welcome letters, working with organizations to develop their bicycle units and providing information on the excellent training courses provided by IPMBA.  I can’t overstate the value of peer-tested, peer-reviewed best practices as a foundation of any bicycle unit.  So when I received an email in early September asking if I could attend the 2016 Interbike in Las Vegas, well, I jumped at the opportunity.

For those of you who are wondering what Interbike is all about, it is an event that the “who’s who” of manufacturing attend to showcase their new product lines.  It encompasses absolutely everything to do with bikes and the sport of cycling.  Everything from the lightest weight camping equipment to the lightest weight carbon fiber wheel set is on display.  All the big names attend this show from within and outside of the US.  It covers road bikes, mountain bikes, electric bikes and every other unimaginable configuration of the like.  Every type of clothing for every discipline is also on display.  There was an incredible choice of clothing specific to gender and type of riding.  The many varieties of fabrics, waterproofing and other features were incredible.

The goals of attending this show are three-fold:  1) See new products; 2) Keep up to date with new trends; 3) Build relationships.  By the numbers, this show encompasses 328,000 square feet of space filled with over 1400 importers/distributors and manufacturers.  It is, as noted above, the “who’s who” of the biking world.

I was a “newbie”, having never attended this show previously.  Being a bike “junkie”, I couldn’t say no.  My inner roadie was crying out as I wanted to see the new offerings.  I was reminded on more than one occasion, “Gary, you’re there on behalf of IPMBA, working towards maintaining and building relationships with awesome vendors who support us as exhibitors, sponsors, Corporate Members, Product Purchase Program participants, and advertisers”.  So I stayed on track and fulfilled my obligation to this great organization.

I was also there to see what equipment or trends in cycling were suitable for our membership.  I’ll talk about that in a moment.  The outdoor show was held September 19-20, and the indoor show was September 21-23.  Yes, folks, there is an outdoor part of the show during which you can take some of the best equipment made out onto the trails.  Holy Cow!  Sadly, due to time constraints, I was only able to attend the indoor show.  Maybe next time I’ll get to attend the outdoor show as well.  Within weeks of being asked, I was on a plane to Vegas.  The show was held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on Las Vegas Blvd.  For anyone who hasn’t been to Las Vegas, everything is huge and far apart.  Bring your best walking shoes because you’re going to need them.

As this was my first time, I was completely overwhelmed.  The show is huge on anyone’s scale.  You walk into it with that feeling of “where the heck do I go first?”  You want to run from here to there, tempted by all the great stuff drawing you into the many booths.  I took a moment to breathe and then used my skills to map out an efficient course to follow.  I really wanted to make sure that I visited every display, vendor and business partner that has a relationship with IPMBA.  Occasionally, I indulged myself with a look at some sexy Italian bike brand that just made me drool (five minutes tops, I swear!).  I had serious work to do.  I wanted to visit our Product Purchase Program partners and find new ones who would provide other valuable offerings to our membership.  Yes, I really was working on your behalf.

I spent two days walking the floor, visiting booth after booth, talking about anything and everything to do with bikes.  At the end of day one, I was completely worn out.  I should have worn a pedometer because I put on some serious mileage.  On day two, I was greeted by fellow IPMBA Board Member Mike Harris, who came to help out.  His help was much appreciated.  Together we managed to make contact with all of our existing business partners and start forging relationships with new ones.  Many of these fine folks donate quality products to our conference silent auction, the sale of which help IPMBA with operational costs.  All of our board members willingly donate their time for the good of our organization, but it still takes good old money to make it run.

What I absolutely appreciated the most about attending this show was the ability to speak with the technicians, inventors and other folks who either had a hand in the development of or an in-depth knowledge and understanding of their new products.  I had the opportunity to speak with the likes of both Shimano and SRAM factory mechanics, for instance.  I asked so many questions and had them answered by people you can trust to provide the right answer.  What is that worth?  Some might say “priceless.”    I really enjoyed having access to the knowledge available at this show.  To actually talk to the designer and advise them what might improve their product for public safety use is a rare opportunity.

Those of you who read my report from the 2016 Toronto International Bicycle Show may recall my assertion that    I believe that at some point, electric bikes are going to be very big.  The trend remains and continues to grow.  Our aging population, congested streets and ever-increasing insurance costs will drive this forward.  As more cities actively build bicycle-friendly infrastructure, the industry is looking for ways to get more and more people on bikes, and electric bikes can fill that role.  We all know cops who would never ride a regular bike but would be open to patrolling on something with a motor.   

One of the interesting trends that I see coming our way is SRAM’s initiative to eliminate the front derailleur and go to a 12-speed rear cluster.  They call it a 1 X 12 system.  It has the same gear range as a Shimano 2 X 11 system but is more reliable because of the lack of multiple front chainrings.  Where does the chain usually drop?  SRAM has been at this for a few years now, but it’s really taking off.  By adding the extra “bailout” gear on the rear cluster, they were able to have the same range as Shimano.  I have been a Shimano fan for many years and continue to use them exclusively on my road bikes.  This was the year I jumped ship to try SRAM, having recently built my own mountain bike with their new configuration.  Perhaps I can report on it in the future.

Bicycle lights continue to get brighter at less cost and that’s a really good thing.  You just can’t have too much light on a patrol bike.  Having the ability to safely light up the night is a tremendous advantage.  I also believe in having the rear red flasher light on at all times of the day.  It helps motorists realize you are there so maybe they can stop “texting” until they get around you.  I’m thankful that in my area texting while driving has been banned and doing so carries a hefty fine.  It’s not perfect, but it sure helps. 

In sum, Interbike 2016 was a worthwhile experience.  I’m hopeful new vendors will pop up on our members’ Product Purchase Program, at the IPMBA Conference, and in the pages of IPMBA News.  I’m also hopeful to present future equipment articles on the new SRAM 1 X 12 system.   All in all, this was an amazing show to attend.  I just could have used some extra time to take it all in!

Gary is a 32-year veteran of the London Police Service in London, Ontario, and is currently in charge of the bike unit.  He rides to work and has done so for the past 20 years, including during the winter months.  On weekends he races on a road bike.  His favorite quote is, “cycling never gets easier; you just go faster.”  He was certified as an IPMBA Instructor in 2014 and is currently serving as membership coordinator on the IPMBA Board.  He can be reached at gstrang@police.london.ca. 

(c) 2017.  This article appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of IPMBA News.

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