With cycling’s largest international trade show, Eurobike, having taken place recently, Oli gets perspective of the scale of the annual event, who attends and why.
Having just returned from his fourth ‘tour’ of Eurobike, I caught up with entrepreneur and owner of Privateer, Raoul de Jongh to get the lowdown. But before we get stuck in, some background for those of you who may be puzzling as to just exactly what Eurobike is.
Established in 1991 and based in southern Germany, Eurobike has developed into the most important platform for the cycling industry. Manufacturers and brands showcase (and launch) exciting new and innovative products as well as network with existing and potential dealers.
Over the course of the week, Eurobike hosts 1,400 exhibitors with 77,000 people attending from over 100 countries, making it a truly international mega-show. Traditionally the first three days are reserved for industry professionals, with networking being the primary goal. On the final day, the public get the chance to check out the latest and greatest tech, as well as demo many of the items on show – this is literally any bike geek’s dream come true.
Earlier this week I sat down with Raoul de Jongh to get some insight into Eurobike from the perspective of an industry insider.
Oliver Munnik: So Raoul, with Privateer based in South Africa, why would you attend Eurobike?
Raoul de Jongh: I make the trip because I get to connect with all of my suppliers in one place, in a condensed period of time, as opposed to having to travel to each of their head offices, which would require me to travel to two continents. Efficiency is what it boils down to.
OM: With 1 400 exhibitors, there must also be opportunities to pick up new brands that complement your existing stable?
RDJ: For sure. With Privateer being a distribution business with a retail platform, I have the opportunity to hand-pick the brands I work with, making Eurobike ideal for signing exciting new brands.
OM: We’ve heard that it’s futile attempting to walk the entire expo area … can you give us a perspective of just how big Eurobike is.
RDJ: Think of it like 13 Makros, side by side, filled to the brim with stands that all compete for your attention. Typically, the Asian stands draw you in and if they offer blank products (like frames) it would be quite easy to leave with your own bike brand!!
OM: Getting lost must be an issue?!
RDJ: Funny you say that, Eurobike have a fantastic app that allows you to plan routes, which streamline your day. Without it, it would be chaos!
OM: Given Eurobike’s scale, time management must be critical.
RDJ: It’s an intense 3 days of over-stimulation, being bombarded with information, so it’s very easy to get sucked into the hype.
From experience I find that spending two thirds of my time with customers, mostly in dedicated 90min meetings, and one third of my time getting perspective, is a good balance.
OM: With the internet’s immediacy, are shows like Eurobike still relevant?
RDJ: Eurobike remains a great opportunity to get a general overview of the market. While the Internet helps to keep us in the loop of what’s happening now, trade shows are an opportunity to get a unique perspective from marketing and product managers of the major brands around the world. Their insights – which look at least two to three years into the future – gently guide distributors like Privateer ahead of the public ensuring their product offering is on-point.
OM: In your opinion, what are the major trends you identified in terms of bikes and wearable gear?
RDJ: Eurobike is overwhelmingly dominated by ebikes – I like the idea of e-cargo bikes that offer modular attachments for carrying various types of loads in an effort to replace people’s cars. At the moment it is more relevant to European and Asian markets, but has the potential to gain traction in SA as our urban centres evolve.
Almost every manufacturer offered a gravel bike, which shows that they’re not simply a fad.
In terms of wearable gear, there is a big push on visibility – especially in the context of daytime visibility.
OM: If you look at what is happening on a global scale, how does South Africa fit into the picture?
RDJ: We are still a fairly unique market heavily skewed towards marathon stage races. This makes us more focused on the ‘competitive’ element of cycling, whereas the rest of the world is moving more towards lifestyle and commuting. I think as our urban centres develop cycling will evolve.
OM: Looking at the bigger picture, what stood out for you.
RDJ: For a South African consumer, the focus on daytime safety would be the most beneficial. Our roads are not the safest, so extending and enhancing visibility to daytime, with products like daytime riding lights, will be well received.
OM: Which stands stood out for you and why?
RDJ: Scott beautifully divided their stand in such a way that as you walked through it, they told you a story. I found it engaging without needing to speak to a single staff member. Campagnolo was a visual feast and looking at their stand made me want their product on my bike.
OM: Have you noticed changes since you’ve started traveling to Eurobike?
RDJ: I would say it has become more and more difficult to make a decent living out of cycling. In the past South Africans could go over, pick up a brand and come home knowing that the domestic industry’s growth would sustain their investment – even if it was a part-time or passion project. Nowadays, the industry is very crowded and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to establish yourself and/or grow.
OM: And finally, the most important question of all … who served the best coffee?
RDJ: Three years ago you’d be hard pressed to find a proper coffee machine at a booth. This year I’d say 50% of exhibitors had a full time barrister! My best coffee was pulled by none other than Stephan Sahm – assisted by Vincent Durant – at the Sahmurai Sword booth. It is always great to see familiar faces at Eurobike.
OM: Cool bru, thanks for your time it has been great chatting to you.
Raoul de Jongh owns Privateer, a company that offers a bespoke mix of cycling products for the artisan athlete. For more visit privateer.co.za or follow them on Instagram at @privateer_za
Oliver Munnik is a former professional mountain biker. Pinner by trade, he travels the world testing the latest and greatest cycling products as Bicycling’s Gear Editor.