Las Vegas has a lot of conventions, and they are now squeezing the conventions to get a little bigger slice of the pie. When it comes to the Interbike convention, they squeezed just a little too hard, and now Interbike has been moved to Reno. They are never going back, and here’s why.
Reno, Nevada…and Lake Tahoe
I’ll post the pics and info about the indoor convention hall in another article to come soon (add link here, after you sober up, Ron). This article is only about the move to Reno, and also the outdoor demo part of Interbike. If you want to be able to walk to the indoor meet, and also the depot for the free buses to the outdoor demo, book a room and the Atlantis (a very large hotel/casino), and…just a few blocks away is the Peppermill. I did not get a free room, electricbike.com paid full price.
For those who are new to Interbike, there are three big global bicycle conventions each year. Taipei in Asia, Eurobike in Germany, and Interbike in the USA. For years, Interbike has been held in Las Vegas (see the article we wrote in 2014 here, and also the 2015 Interbike meet here). Interbike is not designed for bicycle customers, it is a way to get manufacturer representatives in the same building as bike shop owners for face-to-face meetings. It would be rude of me to suggest that the phones and email in China are tapped, so I wouldn’t dare say that. Bike shop owners can see the new products that are coming out, so they can decide if they want to carry them on their shelves.
What’s new? Not much when it comes to ebikes. The real story this year is Reno.
The new location for the Interbike indoor convention is Reno, Nevada…and the outdoor demo portion is a one-hour drive away at the BEAUTIFUL Lake Tahoe resort in the mountains. I carefully chose this map, and modified it so future ebikers can bring it up on their smart-phones if they are driving-in from the San Francisco bay area. All the hotels had FREE buses to-and-from the airport, and also to the convention hall, and finally, to the outdoor demo at the Northstar resort (only one hours’ drive away).
Northstar is a snow-skiing resort at the north end of Lake Tahoe, and they have been trying to draw-in summer business with mountain bikes. Last year I was told that the final two contenders for a new Interbike location were Denver and Reno. Denver is already fairly large, so I guess Reno wanted it more than them when they placed their bid. Snow-ski downhill runs make a great base for creating a series of summer downhill (DH) bicycle runs. The outdoor demo in Las Vegas had been in a place called “Bootleg Canyon”. It wasn’t bad, but…Tahoe is better. It was also about 80-degrees F (with a light breeze), instead of 100F in Vegas, with lots of tall pine-tree shade along the way. Not vital for a “business trip”, but…noice!
Interbike is about business, so the fact that Lake Tahoe is gorgeous (and also uncrowded in September) is irrelevant. That being said, if you are a bike shop owner who is carrying ebikes, the outdoor demo in Lake Tahoe is better that the previous ones for this reason…Attached to the outdoor demo are very steep paved roads, and also cable-cars that take people and bicycles up to the top of the mountain so you can bomb down ski-runs that have been prepped as a DH bicycle trail.
Two different manufacturers can make whatever claims they want about their products, but…the bullshit stops when the GO-flag drops. Las Vegas had a few mild hills, but not like this. There is NO comparison. The reason off-road ebikes are important for us to pay attention to is that…many places have no restrictions on off-road ebikes (unlike the heavily-regulated street-legal versions), and all of the most dynamic developments always start with the off-road models.
The Downhill Runs
The one area where Reno absolutely kicks Las Vegas’ ass is the outdoor demo portion of the Interbike meet. The weather is much nicer in September, and the downhills were superb!
This “looks like” it’s a pic of a heavy duty electric cargobike with 20-inch tires, and it is (Tern GSD, with a Bosch mid drive). However, it also shows the cable cars that rapidly took Interbike enthusiasts up to the top of the ski runs. These cable cars transported the people, and also the demo-bikes. Half of the bikes only had pedals, and half were ebikes. I also noticed that some of the ebikes didn’t wait in-line for the cable-car, they simply rode up the hill on the battery, set to the max-assist.
Lake Tahoe is a well-established snow-skiing resort. What that means to us is that there is a deep infrastructure already in place. There was not much of a line at the outdoor cafes in September, and the first thing I did upon my arrival was to get a grande burrito and a beer at the Los Arcos Mexican grill (it is the breakfast of champions).
The movie “Snatch” is not for children, and they called our canine friends “Dags”. The outdoor demo and also the convention hall are both “Dag friendly”. Please clean up after your Dag, we want to keep Interbike as Dag-friendly as possible.
The “Outdoor Demo” was not crowded, and I attribute that to the fact that this location is a new venue, and bike shop owners want to wait-and-see if it is worth going to. I say YES!
The most important reason to go to Interbike is to test-ride the ebikes. Everything else can be handled by phone and email if needed, but nothing beats an actual ride to settle any arguments. If you want to ride, you have to tell the registration desk when you sign-in, and you must sign a liability waiver just in case you crash. They will issue you a wrist-band to go with your necklace badge. Some booths required a drivers’ license to test-ride, and some provided a loaner helmet just in case you did not bring one.
If you are a hard-core gambler and party animal, then Las Vegas probably has more to offer, but if you want to sample DH ebikes, then Reno/Tahoe is better. For the next few years, I will assume that Reno will remain less crowded, and more bicycle-friendly. I saw a lot of electric car charging stations (Teslas, Nissan Leafs, and Chevy Volts), and I also saw Reno residents who were riding pedal-bicycles without any connection to the Interbike meet.
The Magnum line was mentioned by several bike shop owners as a “good seller”. Customers liked the comfortable posture, and…for fairly flat commutes, a rear hub remains an affordable and adequate choice. Retail is $2,099. It had a thumb-throttle, and also a speed-sensing PAS (I like having both). I can see the appeal for newbies, but…I am used to a 1500W mid drive, so I am spoiled. I recommended that they also offer a suspension seat-post as an upgrade option.
The actual output for the well-known BPM hubmotor was near the 750W street-legal limit, and it also had an integrated USB outlet for charging your smartphone, or GPS device.
The very German Spitzing company is known for a couple things. They use every engineering trick in the book to achieve the highest wheel-torque from the max watts allowed. The TQ motor is rated as 120-Nm. You don’t need to understand what a “Newton Meter” is, to understand that…Spitzing is the most powerful!
They also use a lot of carbon fiber in the frames, so…don’t ask what the price is unless you are sitting down, and your mouth is empty. The thing I also noticed is that…the paint resembled something you might see on a high-end automobile. My pictures don’t do justice to their paint, it was Wunderschön!
In the pic above, I parked a demo Haibike at the bottom of a downhill run to show what you will see if you go next year. The Haibike was one of the brands that bike shop owners listed as a good seller, and I have to agree with the performance-to-price they provide. There may be better-performing ebikes, and also cheaper ebikes, but…this is what a lot of customers are actually buying.
In the pic above, this intrepid ebiker was showing off a DH trike with hand pedals, made for paraplegic riders. You use the Bafang BBS02 at 48V to help you grind up the hills, and then you rest your chest on the provided pad, while using the handlebars to steer while you bomb down a DH run.
If you are looking for “unusual”, then this lime-green stand-up scooter from Glidecycles.com was interesting. Their highest-spec model uses a 48V battery with 19-Ah of range, powering a 2000W hubmotor. The wheels are 26/20 “fat” with 4-inch tires, and large-diameter hydraulic disc brakes.
The Rambo brand is interesting. They come with a carbon-fiber wrap, but the frame is actually aluminum. The motor is reported to be from Bafang. One unusual thing about them is that the Rambo website shows they are providing financing, with monthly payments as low as $88 per month (I just checked, their most expensive models are sold out at present, coincidence?). The website shows that they are clearly “hunter friendly”.
You could tell the bikes that were getting a lot of love because they were taken back out just as soon as they were dropped-off back at their tent. No time to wipe it down, just swap the battery and send it back out. Back in Bootleg Canyon in Las Vegas, I had felt rapidly drained from the heat and sun, but…at Lake Tahoe, the cool air and shady trails made me feel like I could go all day.
The aqua-colored Izip Zuma in the pic above uses the TranzX mid drive. As recently as 2016, this Zuma model still used a 500W rear geared hub. Even being a mid drive now with dual disc brakes, I was told these are selling well at around $2,000, price dependent on dealer.
The TranzX mid drive has torque-sensing, and it worked as advertised with a very smooth and instant response, compared to the less-expensive speed/cadence sensors which have a reputation for a slightly jerky on/off result. However, I found the 350W motor to be uninspiring on hills. To be fair, my mid drive back home uses 1500W, so I am spoiled.
The Aluminum frame and small battery helped the ebike remain fairly light, and if you ever did ride far enough to drain the battery, you could pedal back without the weight being too much of a drag.
The mild-assist power level means the small and light battery should last a decent amount of distance, but the 350W power level limits this system to fairly flat land with a few mild hills. In that user-profile, this model would work great.
Spitzing makes expensive and extra-light carbon fiber frames, and they had an unusual step-through at their tent called the “Schwabing” (that is the name of a trendy cultural district in Munich). As you can see in the pic above, they have no seat-tube, and the chain-stay is cantilevered from the rear axle to support the seat. Plus the 14S battery is mounted under the downtube (Spitzing is calling it 48V, but we have been calling 14 cells in series a 52V pack).
It also uses a Gates belt-drive with a NuVinci hub. With 120-Nm of wheel torque from the TQ motor, city riders with steep hills will benefit from a mid drive system that was actually developed for off-road mountains. If you can find a dealer, the retail is roughly $6500.
I misplaced the part of my notes with the info for the mid drive road bike in the pic above. It used carbon fiber, so it was ultra-light. The beam-style of chainstay allowed the use of a Gates belt without needing a “frame break” joint. I really liked the color-scheme, and it indicates to me that ebikes are selling well enough that manufacturers are willing to be more bold, and take some risks.
I could have included a dozen pics of Lake Tahoe, but if you want more, simply go to google images. Here are a few I took myself from the window of the free shuttle bus.
Lake Tahoe, September 2018
The Outdoor Demo at Lake Tahoe was much better than back in Las Vegas, and it was also less crowded.
You may be wondering why I didn’t post pics of more of the ebikes from the outdoor demo. Well, there wasn’t much there that was new, and the really big news was the change-of-venue to Reno / Lake Tahoe. Also, it wasn’t as crowded as the past outdoor demos in Las Vegas. And as far as news goes, the weather was much nicer.
The Indoor Interbike Convention
Here’s a teaser pic from the article I wrote next about the indoor convention center meet. I am required to post a pic like this for the IRS, so I can log this trip as a “business expense”…
This was the first event where I used Uber / Lyft, and I have to say that it went quite well. I was not sexually harassed even once, and I tipped well.
Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, October 2018