IFMA is, without question the one unmissable trade show in Europe: only the least adventurous bike trade veterans, with little interest in developments beyond the UK and no interest in the latest trends and developments would want to miss it. With something like 750 companies from almost every country in the world, and significant presences from all of the big European players (for some of the USA brands, you'd do better at
Interbike in Vegas in a couple of weeks), it's a one-stop-shop for all of the latest products. And, of course, you can get to meet the people, too.
Of more interest to me, in my publishing niche, is the huge variety of new inventions, innovations and downright mad ideas that come along each year. The more interesting technical developments are usually split between the big money of Shimano, SRAM etc and the smaller one-man-bands trying to break through with new ideas.
There are four (full) halls this year: each one considerably larger, I'd say, than the NEC halls we're used to for UK events. I read somewhere that you'd have to walk five miles just to walk past every stall once. On Sunday there's a public day, but for now,it's just trade.
The first hall is filled mainly with huge stands from the buying groups ZEG, VZG and various others, together with the large companies (Biria, Kynast, Derby Cyclewerke etc) who supply them. These huge stands are the powerhouse of the show, where a lot of the business is done. There's not a lot to see if you're not a buying group member, mind: you won't get past the door.
The next hall along is a serious contrast. The exhibitor list for the 'buying ring' hall runs to one page: in this, the 'Far East supplier' hall, it's five. Here, you'll find seemingly endless rows of tiny stands, often with shiny aluminium components wall-racked on the back wall. Mostly it's OEM stuff, often cheap copies of whatever the major brands launched a few months ago: no-name pedals, cranks and the like, but just occasionally
there's a few interesting ideas - and because it's cheap doesn't mean it's not good quality.
The 'Far East' isn't really separated from the rest of the show, and kind of melds into the contents of the two remaining halls: the medium and small manufacturers and importers from Germany and the world. Every sector of the industry is represented: from locks to computers, from racing and mountain bikes to the weirdest recumbents. Alongside the overwhelming run of stalls, a few special areas stand out...
The 'inventor park' is well-described: anyone with an idea can, for not much money, get a little space at IFMA to introduce it to the cycling world. Some canny small manufacturers, by no means inventors, also use it as a cheap way to have a presence: it lacks kudos, but standard IFMA stand space isn't cheap.
Of course, a test track is de rigeur for any self-respecting bike show, and IFMA obliges. Adjoining this is the 'Extra Energy' area, where electric-assisted bikes (or pedelecs, e-bikes, whatever) have an area to themselves, with perhaps 30 companies represented.
My next report will cover my first day's travels round the stands, and any news and rumours I pick up along the way. So far I've already heard (but not had confirmed) that one European electric bike manufacturer has just gone to the wall: more later...
PETER ELAND produces Velo Vision magazine from York in the UK. He launched this in March following the collapse of his former employer Open Road, and has been quietly building its readership in the specialised bikes/bikes as transport niche, and three
issues have already been published bang on time - almost unheard of in the
enthusiast cycle publishing world...