Sea Otter finished up this past Sunday. As usual, there was crazy weather to contend with and all kinds of cool racing and bike nerdery going on. It was exactly what Sea Otter always has been and always will be.
The big difference this year is that Sea Otter teamed up with the fine folks from Eurobike (Messe-Friedrichshafen) to create what was being billed as the largest outdoor cycling festival and “tradeshow” in the US. In keeping with this incredible new relationship and enhancement of the event, exhibitor space rates went through the roof, as did race entry fees and other associated costs of providing a worldclass event/ exhibit.
Thing is… it wasn’t any busier, it wasn’t any better, it wasn’t any different than years past (except for the increase in cost). Disclaimer– this was my first time attending the event, so these observations/ comparisons are based off of feedback I received from other exhibitors at the event. If this was supposed to be a premiere cycling event, in terms of being an exhibit/ festival/ tradeshow… it was a flop. As an actual race, it was superb as always. The racers and the people who come to hang out and gawk at the event, really make it what it is- a celebration of cycling (even if that celebration takes place in the rain and tornado-like winds).
I know that the race organizers and Eurobike had very little time to pull this together, after making their announcement of joining forces just a few months ago (the end of November). It would seem that once Eurobike realized their proposed “Eurobike-Portland” wasn’t going to work and that they were receiving so much negative press, they simply decided to shrink their ambitions for a year and start off a little smaller. Well… can’t say it worked. Many people doubted whether or not they would have enough time to create what they were claiming they would. It seems those folks were at least marginally correct. Don’t get me wrong, I’d call the event a success, but it wasn’t what it was billed to be and certainly didn’t merit the incredible cost hikes.
Here’s another point that may seem like I am just trying to pick a fight; where were the folks from either Sea Otter or Eurobike during the event? During the entire event, neither I nor Jill Hamilton (our Haro MTB Brand Manager and my partner in crime at Sea Otter) saw hide nor hair of anybody from the event. Many of us in the industry complain about costs and other issues associated with Interbike, but at least every year at Interbike I get a visit (or several) from somebody from the show organization thanking me for my business and checking in to see how things are going. It might seem like nothing, but it does make an impression- a little humanity goes a long way. Nobody disputes that the Eurobike shows are great. They are widely regarded as well run, well attended and well respected by exhibitors, retailers and consumer attendees. It’s a strong brand with a lot of potential. When they announced they were coming to the US, many people thought it was a great thing- including myself (though I argued with the date).
It seems that Eurobike has made a series of strange steps all along the way and it really begs the question of whether or not they are serious about coming to the US or if they even understand the US market. The way they handled the announcement and then the disappearing act they did, were both missteps. Then that was followed up with an overall strangeness in how they dealt with Sea Otter, on down to the lack of any known follow-up with US exhibitors at the event. It just doesn’t make them look like they know what they are doing or that they really have the desire to chase the US market. Was Sea Otter just a way to save face after all of the negative press they received over Eurobike-Portland? Nobody appears to know.
One other point that needs to be mentioned; kudos to the folks at Interbike! Not only did they handle the original announcement about Eurobike-Portland well, but they attended Sea Otter and met with exhibitors. I met with Rich Kelly and a few other folks from Interbike during Otter and they didn’t even mention Interbike once. It really did feel like they were simply there to see things for themselves and to say hello to friends. Gripe all we want about Interbike, this little touch was not unnoticed by me and surely wasn’t unnoticed by many other folks as well. Good job folks!
So, what’s your take on this all? Exhibitors- Did anybody from Eurobike/ Sea Otter come talk to you? Did the event have more traffic than ever, to match the cost of attending? Am I making too much of nothing? Please share your thoughts…
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser