It was up in the air as to whether the 2021 Eurobike would also be cancelled (like last year). However most of Europe has adapted to the covid situation and with the good vaccination numbers, this makes it possible to conduct large scale events with the necessary precautions. Under the new German 3G rules, exhibitors and visitors required a full vaccination, proof of recovery or a recent test to get in the door and masks for all indoor areas were enforced. For the final time, the world’s biggest bike show was held in southern Germany on the shores of Lake Constance that has views across to Switzerland and Austria.
Next year, Frankfurt will take over and even though the locals refer to their city as a large village, the new exhibition grounds are a sprawling collection of halls that are often challenging to navigate. On the flip-side, the Frankfurt exhibition grounds boast convenient access via the international airport and large central train-station plus it is be far easier to find accommodation within walking distance as opposed to across international borders which was sometimes the case for Eurobike where accommodation around Lake Constance would be booked out 9 months in advance.
2021 was an unusual show, in my case, it was the first Eurobike show in 20 years that I attended as an exhibitor rather than a journalist. Working for a young and innovative company, I planned their event so this also gave me a much better peak behind the scenes. Regardless of whether you were an exhibitor, a trade visitor or attending on the open days, there were big differences to previous years.
Numbers and Vibes
Notably, and not surprisingly, exhibitor and visitor numbers were down. Instead of the 1,400 exhibitors from 2019, this year the organisers recorded 630 exhibitors and 32,000 trade and general public visitors which is half the traffic.
The exhibition halls had ample space, broad passages and some with large sections at the rear cordoned off. There is often one dedicated hall for Asian OEM brands filled with hundreds of tiny booths and the travel restrictions meant that some Asian exhibitors who had planned to attend anyway were unable to travel so half a dozen booths were simply empty with apology notes.
Also of note, American exhibitors and visitors were also absent and even Zwift, who have a UK office and boasted one of the largest stands last time, were not on location due to company policy restricting staff from travelling.
There were some exceptions, American dialects could still be found. Feedback Sports who have bike stands, indoor bike racks and trainers were on location with a small team and part of the Paul Lange German distribution consortium that also includes Elite and Shimano. Niner was the only American bike brand and the founder Chris Sugai was at the show, Lezyne went almost unnoticed though Gates Carbon Drive kept up appearances – especially as drive-train solutions remain a hot-topic.
Yishun Bike was one of the few Asian exhibitors present as they have a European office and (I assume) some local staff although they still adopted the classic ‘heads down and glued to the mobile phone’ strategy which triggers the ‘walk straight past’ strategy from most visitors. However one of the highlights of the show was the Japanese Wind Tunnel Manufacturing company who displayed their portable, stackable wind-tunnel. The engineering challenges of creating a reliable wind-tunnel in a compact format shouldn’t be underestimated and the Aero Optim-Cell series resolves some of the fundamental hurdles that have prevented small scale wind-tunnel reliability and viability. At the conclusion of the show, the wind-tunnel modules were being transports to a major bike brand where the bikes and their UCI WorldTeam will undertake aero testing.
I counted one New Zealander and four Australian’s – all European based. The New Zealand brand Aeroe, who have a clever bike rack solution, were unable to attend personally however found another Kiwi in Munich who was able to represent the brand at Eurobike. There were no Australian brands and the travel restrictions meant that visiting Eurobike was also off-the-cards for Australian trade visitors.
One of the pleasures of 2021 was the vibe, no longer were there swaths of humans filling every space and obstructing throughfare – this year it was possible to calmly walk the length of the halls and rarely being blocked-off. Not only that, the lower visitor numbers meant it was possible to easily find and speak with the right contact person without waiting for years. Of course there were still a few exhibitors who felt that it was ‘cool’ to ignore visitors, but for the ones who were open, it was an opportunity to really take time. Amongst the show veterans there were a lot of smiles because it was the first time in 2 years to get face to face.
A number of brands attended Eurobike just as trade visitors so even when they had a stand at the last show in 2019, there were plenty of CEO’s, product, partnership and marketing managers roaming the floors.
For the first time it was easy to travel by car to the show and except for heavier traffic, there was hardly any real congestion. Usually cars are backed up for miles and many of the access roads are blocked for hours in the morning. I usually try to cycle instead and even the bike traffic was notably low.
Genuine innovation was very hard to find and part of this could be the slowing of industry and the supply-chain. The new Shimano 12-speed road-cycling groupset has captured interest of visitors but there were some more interest products.
Typically the Eurobike awards do a good job of identifying some great bike and product ideas however it felt a bit weak in 2021. Beyond the eye-candy, a Kettler cargobike (Cargoline FS 800) showed-off a masterpiece in mechanical engineering with the front wheel steering incorporated inside the hub for a compact and smart solution to the traditional bulky steering column.
A German brand called GRDXKN presented a printed clothing solution that transfers fabric into a 3D structure. They explained the benefits and while I am not sure of the direct benefits for sportswear, it was new and attractive.
The Belgium based Classified Powershift rear hub is a solution that incorporates 2-speed internal shifting into the hub while accommodating a rear cassette. As a result the front derailleur is no longer needed but it still offers riders a complete range of gears in a more compact solution.
A cycling jersey and shorts for pregnant women from Veloine caught the interest of many women I spoke with as both a smart and obvious idea for sportswear.
The final highlight was the German New Motion Labs who have developed a chain and drivetrain solution that promises increased efficiency and a far longer lifespan for Track cycling and for cargo bikes where chain and chainring wear can be extreme for work-cargobikes.
There were far fewer road bikes on display and even mountain bikes took a backseat to e-bikes. Hall A1 with the electric motor brands and ebike electrical solutions appeared to be the same as at the last Eurobike with just as many brands exhibiting.
During the public-days, the demo bikes provided by a number of brands were particularly popular and the outdoor exhibition area saw a lot interest and family crowds were wowed by Danny MacAskills Drop and Roll.
While a few of the exhibitors I spoke to expressed disappointment with regard to visitor numbers, most of them valued the opportunity to be able to spend more time with customers, partners and leads and have their eyes on Eurobike in Frankfurt in 2022 which promises to be big.