Bruce Sandell, founder and managing director of Rouleur Classic, discusses how we can continue to make cycling exhibitions a success
Cycling shows and exhibitions have had a tough time over recent years. With more distributors and brands hosting their own in-house events, it has become harder for event organisers to secure brands to exhibit their products. But through innovation and differentiation, together with collaboration with exhibiting brands, there’s still space for these shows to flourish and attract both the biggest names in the industry and also the cycling enthusiasts to come and part with their hard-earned cash.
We’ve learned a lot over the past four years of the Rouleur Classic, making sure that attendees never come back and say ‘I saw that last year’ – variation and keeping up with industry trends is key to this. We have a different content theme every year, each deeply rooted in racing and the heritage of our great sport – this year being Grand Tours. But we also make sure that the experience is different, with new bar areas, an updated theatre setup and lots of new feature content never seen before.
With industry trends ever-evolving, people wish to see brands and products that are interesting and relevant to them. It’s for this reason that we’ve got established features in the gravel, e-road and indoor training categories. There are so many exciting launches in this space that as event organisers we can’t ignore them, even if it may initially seem outside the usual comfort zone. E-road bikes are developing and evolving at such a fast rate, with many models reducing in weight and developing lots of exciting functionality. I personally am so bored with the cynics – as far as I am concerned if they get people on bikes or back on the bike, it helps make the world a better place. To reflect this, we’re welcoming electric bicycles from several brands including Colnago, De Rosa and Wilier to this year’s show.
Each cycling exhibition has developed its own identity for what it showcases and when it falls in the calendar, with our November positioning falling at a time when attendees have put their best bike away for the winter. They then come to the Rouleur Classic to be inspired, get excited and find out what to buy and drool over for the following year. The show is built on premium exhibitors displaying their best products and the intimate environment that we create breeds quality conversations with customers who are genuinely interested in everything that is on offer. Each show needs to find this personality and therefore audience.
Alongside the product, the setting also helps to set the tone. The large scale traditional exhibition spaces work for the more mass-market shows, but we strive for somewhere unique, different and with character. Then we build all our exhibitor booths from four size options – this gives a consistent look and feel for the show more akin to an art exhibition than a bicycle show. The event also serves to bring the print publication to life, through the Rouleur Classic Theatre, where cycling TV presenters interview pro-riders past and present live on stage. With any exhibition stage presence, as an industry, we need to make sure that we’re speaking to those that are helping to shape our trade as we know it. This year, we welcome riders such as Lachlan Morton and Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig who have put their names on the map, not just through results this season but also their passion for the sport in general.
Looking at all the cycling shows in the calendar together, I see more specialisation and better consumer experience is needed. The success of our show proves my point and it’s something we will continue to work on. There is a lot we can all still learn from each other to continue improving and evolving, working closely with exhibitors to ensure that we continue to attract consumers to the event without ever hearing them utter ‘I saw that last year’.