By ALAN SNEL
In the pantheon of Las Vegas trade shows, the national bicycle show known as Interbike might not rank up there in visitors with the big galas such as the mega consumer electronics gathering here in Sin City.
But I’m a bicycle nerd and proud of it and I’m here to say Interbike was an emotional lifeline when I lived in the humid, sweaty environs of Florida where you’re in the heart of hurricane season when Interbike rolled into Las Vegas the third week of September.
For the show’s 20,000 retailers, suppliers, manufacturers and bicycle lovers, Interbike was our Woodstock, Burning Man and Super Bowl of networking — a safe haven where a passion for all forms of bicycling bonded us all.
It’s a bittersweet week for me, as Interbike leaves Las Vegas for good after the last day of the show ends 2 p.m. today.
It’s moving its three-day trade show to Reno and its two days of bicycle demos to the gorgeous Tahoe area where it will be cheaper to stage the show in north Nevada after two decades in Las Vegas. It’s been at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for the past five years. A popular bike race called CrossVegas also shifts to Reno.
After I moved from Florida to Las Vegas in 2012 to work for the local daily newspaper, I rejoiced in the fact that I could wake up in my own bed and hop in my own car to soak up Interbike in my own town without travelling 2,500 miles. I’ll always hold my former editor in the highest esteem for actually allowing me to write not one but several stories a week when Interbike rolled into Las Vegas.
And could life get any better in 2015 when the cast of bicycling’s best movie, Breaking Away, held a reunion at Interbike?
The fact is that the industry’s biggest names such as Trek and Specialized stopped showing in Las Vegas. It sapped some of Interbike’s luster.
Many of the small exhibitors I talked with this final week said they will move with the show to Reno.
But my Tampa pal, Steve Toll, who created the ISM bicycle saddle, said he will not return to Interbike. He was disappointed in Interbike leaving Las Vegas and suggested Interbike move to Orlando so that bicycle industry folks can bring their families. I wish Toll would come to Reno. Now I will have to go back to Florida just to see this guy!
Another bike buddy from Florida, Gary Mendenhall of J&B Importers, didn’t think there were too many hotels near the convention center in Reno. Though, Gary noted, the setting for the outdoor demo in Tahoe will beat the windy, dusty conditions of Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City.
There’s a subdued tone to this week’s Interbike. Naturally for the swansong week in Las Vegas, it had smaller crowds. No industry awards dinner this year.
The week’s vibe lacked the buzz and energy of 10 years ago.
In fact, show organizer Pat Hus acknowledged it did feel weird — and I could not disagree. That’s just how it is when you stage your last dance in a particular town.
There was a feeling that Interbike ran its course in Las Vegas and it was time to freshen up the trade show with a change of venue. (Though Reno was a past Interbike home at one time for the 35-year-old show).
I’m sad it’s leaving Las Vegas. But Interbike isn’t disappearing off the face of the earth. I’ll make the trek to north Nevada next year.
And this week, I was able to cope with my Interbike good-bye blues thanks to the release of the official LVSportsBiz.com bicycle jersey.
Thanks for the Las Vegas memories, Interbike. I miss Bill Walton already.
Contact LVSportsBiz.com founder/writer Alan Snel at asnel@LVSportsBiz.com