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CycloFest opens second edition Thursday with format changes

Published October 18, 2017
The U.S. National Whitewater Center has more than 25 miles of trails for CycloFest attendees to demo bikes.

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. (BRAIN) — Interbike's Fall CycloFest trade and consumer festival is set to begin its second edition in Charlotte on Thursday with a new format aimed at making it easier for retailers to take part in education sessions and also demo bikes from nearly 20 brands.

Rather than run seminars and tech sessions concurrently with the demo at the U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, the mornings of the two trade days will be devoted to education, with the demo starting at 1 p.m. Thursday and at 11 a.m. Friday.

Interbike vice president Pat Hus said that at the inaugural CycloFest last fall "there were a lot of retailers who wanted to be in the education but they also wanted to be able to get out and ride because it's such an amazing place to go ride. The exhibitors were frustrated too because the traffic on the first day was really light, but we had 150 people in conference rooms on education sessions.

"People wanted that education, but they were conflicted. So that's why we're staggering it — it allows people to do both," Hus added.

CycloFest organizers also made a last-minute addition to the education slate with a pair of sessions from point-of-sale system provider Lightspeed due to strong retailer interest at last month's Interbike expo in Las Vegas.

"It was an observation we had at Interbike — they were slammed. The retailers were all in that booth, presentation after presentation. We spoke to them in the last couple weeks and asked if they were interested. So that's something new we're bringing in," Hus said.

The education schedule for the trade days also include tech clinics by RockShox Campagnolo and SR Suntour, as well as a two-part Mann University GEAR retail sales training program.

On Friday, the demo will now be open to consumers starting at 1 p.m., a response to the drop-off in dealer attendance exhibitors saw on the second day of last year's demo.

"Thursday was busier than Friday, and we didn't want to see that let off. That's why we opened it up in the afternoon to consumers," Hus said.

CycloFest continues through the weekend with a consumer demo Saturday and Sunday. More than 3,000 consumers attended the two days last year, with the majority turning out Saturday. Hus said he expects the same pattern this year.

Last year, 1,150 retailers from 600 stores pre-registered for CycloFest, with about 500 attending over the two trade days. Pre-registration this year is down about 15 percent, which Hus said was not unexpected given the tough year for the industry.

"It's not that different than what we experienced with Interbike, so not surprising. But I think we're going to have a good turnout. I just don't think it's going to be as big as the consumer piece. Last year we had about 500 retailer bodies out there. This year I'll be stoked if we get 400 or 450," he said.

Exhibitor count is also down, from about 115 last year to fewer than 60 for the second edition.

"We have a lot of the key brands back, but because it's a consumer demo event, some of the brands who thought it would be more of a trade event found out most people were out there to ride bikes," Hus said of last year's festival. "For some exhibitors the outdoor event just doesn't work. Like clothing companies that didn't come out there to sell stuff, just to display, I think they found it wasn't everything they had hoped. So I think we've lost some of them.

"And I think there are a number of brands that are trying to shore up financials after a difficult year. So fourth-quarter events, if those companies are behind on margin, are getting clipped," Hus added.

There should be plenty of bikes for both retailers and consumers to ride on the Whitewater Center's 25-plus miles of trails and surrounding roads. Nearly as many bike suppliers as last year are set to demo, including returning brands Pivot Cycles, Rocky Mountain, Santa Cruz, Specialized and Haibike.

Those companies will exhibit with other brands and industry organizations in a new location closer to the Whitewater Center's facilities, which include its manmade rapids, a stage for music acts, and the Pump House Biergarten, where an industry happy hour is set for Thursday night. Last year the demo was staged in a dirt lot underneath the hum of high-voltage power lines.

"It'll create more engagement with the Whitewater Center. I think it's going to work out awesome," Hus said.

Organizers are also bringing back the Fall CycloFest Cyclo-Cross race, which is part of the North Carolina Cyclo-Cross (NCCX) Series, on Saturday, as well as the Sunday Social Ride for road riders on the final morning and the Gravel Grinder Social Ride on Sunday afternoon.

Three new enduro and cross-country mountain bike races were also planned for this year's festival, but Interbike pulled the plug on them this week due to low registration numbers.

"It's a bummer, but we're still learning here. We tried to throw a bunch of racing at it in the hope that we'd draw a bigger audience, but what the Whitewater Center has been hearing, and we have as well, is the people that are coming out are coming out to demo bikes, not to race. They're not bringing their own bike to race. They're coming out to throw a leg over all these cool brands we've got. That's the driver," Hus said.

More information: cyclofest.com.

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