The first ever BikeRadar Live was touted as Britain’s biggest bike bash. Jonathon Harker and Chris Keller Jackson headed over to Castle Donington witness the festival first-hand and see if it delivered on its promise...

BikeRadar Live: The Future of bike events?

Future Publishing’s unique bike festival, which took place over the weekend of May 30th – 31st got off to a strong start, attracting 8,472 attendees for its debut showing. Even more crucially though, the event that sought to attract cyclists from all disciplines while remaining family-friendly showed plenty of potential for the future.

The Donington Park setting, widely expected to play host to the British F1 Grand Prix next year, certainly ticked the boxes for further growth with the infrastructure, services and road systems more than adequate for the festivals requirements.

BikeRadar Live wasn’t Future’s first foray into bike shows – the last was at Stoneleigh Park in 2004 (and prior to that at the NEC). The show’s absence from the scene had arguably left a space for a consumer event calendar that has not been filled since.

Fast-forward five years and there were mutterings of a very British ‘Sea Otter’ arriving in the Midlands. And there were certainly similarities between BikeRadar Live and the US event; a hilly and undulating race track, both Laguna Seca and Donington offering such a challenge, a vibe of its own, serious international racing stars across several disciplines, dusty trails and wall-to-wall sunshine. Certainly, having amazing weather drove the crowds in, significantly boosting the pre-booked figure.

BikeRadar Live’s debut saw an impressive trade attendance too, with several big bike manufacturers pushing the boat out, including Scott and Giant. There were plenty of smaller manufacturers and trade distributors there too, showing off their wares and giving people the chance to touch, feel and ride their products. An impressive cocktail of old, new and bizarre from the cycling world appeared at the festival.

Celebrities, talks and film screening with MBUKdarling Steve Peat the ‘Royal Star of the Show’ along with Mark Webber, Graham Obree and Stephen Roache actively participating in the varied events. Even Hans Rey made an appearance late on the Sunday.

Just like Sea Otter, BikeRadar Live saw some product launches, notably ‘The Steve Peat Fender’ and a soft launch for Exposure Lights innovative ‘WhiteEye’ which powered the 12 Hour Enduro winner to victory.

Surely though, the greatest achievement of the weekend was BikeRadar Live’s ability to amalgamate and include much of cycling at one venue, and under one umbrella. Serious Pro Dirt Jumpers and heavily armoured International Downhillers mixed freely with Folder riders, ‘Bents, Time Trialists and Sportive Riders. This was inclusive, very family friendly, non-threatening and at times, awe-inspiring. You could stay all weekend, borrow a bike, get to speak with one of your favourite riders and have a good meal followed by DJ sessions that lasted into the small hours.

BikeRadar staff writers and testers were on hand all weekend to answer questions, along with commentators and senior figures within Future. From Future CEO Simon Wear to magazine staff, every figure camped on-site all weekend. Staff immersed themselves in the event, making themselves accessible, helping to understand how the public perceived the show, catering and facilities.

It seemed that Future pulled it off, and for those who attended (traders and the public) there were smiles all round. The UK responded to the eclectic cycling show, with its central location accessible and flexible, and given the adverse economic climate in consumer-land, this could only have been seen as the successful building blocks for 2010 and a bigger and better event.

But how was it for them? BikeBiz did the gentlemenly thing and asked Future how it thought the debut bike bonanza fared. BikeBiz spoke to publishing director Peter Stothard to get his verdict, and to find out what’s next for the fledgling festival…

Are you happy with how the event went? Do you have any particular highlights?
We are incredibly happy. The reaction from visitors, exhibitors, riders and sponsors has been overwhelmingly positive. For me, the weather was a highlight and seeing hundreds starting the Cycling PlusSportive and Gee and Brian going head-to-head in the MBUKDual Slalom Final will take a long-time to forget.

For Future, the weekend will be remembered as a fantastic first year – we wanted people of all ages and disciplines to be united by their love of bikes and BRL did not disappoint.

Did BikeRadar Live exceed your expectations?
We learnt a great deal from year one. It has established a solid base for our events team to build on. We felt the time was right to launch a bike event and the response from the trade and attendance backed our hunch. There is an appetite for BRL that we’ll build on.

How successful was BRL in attracting different sectors of biking to the same event?

This was a proper cycling festival – roadies and mountain bikers, families and young males mixing together. With everyone complementing the atmosphere, we would seek to keep the relaxed vibe as we grow the size and scope of the event. Getting kids on bikes was important to Future –and hundreds of kids left Donington inspired – wanting to be the next Gee Atherton, Graham Obree or Danny MacAskill.

What elements do you hope are improved on next year?
Over the coming weeks we’ll be closely evaluating all elements of the event. We’re actively asking exhibitors and attendees for their feedback, and we’ll make sure this is incorporated in our plans for next year.

Were you happy with trade support for the event?
We would like to thank exhibiting partners for supporting us. Response has been so positive that we’ve already had requests for more retailer space and bigger sponsorship opportunities for next year. We’ve proven the BikeRadar Live concept works and we look forward to 2010 with increased trade support.

BikeRadar Live wasn’t lacking in trade support despite being an unproven concept in its debut year. Many big names from the industry gave their backing to the event including Dahon, Fisher Outdoor Leisure, Moore Large, Extra, Leisure Lakes, Raleigh, Ison, Giant and Garmin, to name a few.

The festival also showcased a selection of new products, including the launch of Exposure Lights’ WhiteEye. The production version of the WhiteEye showcased at the festival builds on ‘Smart Port Technology’ introduced last year, where the charging port can be used as a power device for peripheral devices. Early port devices included a RedEye rear light and Micro version for their popular Joystick, along with a remote bar mount switch.

The WhiteEye has been designed to double up the output of the Joystick, offering 480 Lumens for just over 40 grams weight. Powered from the Joystick Smart Port it provides the same level of output as the next product up in the range (The Race), with a shorter burn time, but no weight penalty (the race is not helmet mountable).

At its first outing, the WhiteEye powered to victory in the Whyte Bikes / Exposure Lights sponsored 12 hour enduro. Exposure Lights had a great response from the public flowing round the stands and generated a lot of interest in the unveiling of the new WhiteEye.

Steve Peat was also in attendance at BikeRadar Live, both to race and to show off his latest product –Fast Fender. Long a collaborator with ‘Mr Crud’, Pete Tompkins, a signature front mudguard has been created to suit downhill and freeride duties, along with fashion-conscious riders. Crud has always taken an innovative stance to guarding against being covered in mud, having pioneered effective down tube mounting.

This new product simplifies the mounting of a forward facing motocross style guard, in that the fender is clamped to the handlebars rather than the more traditional steerer tube or fork brace. There are also stable mounting points on the product for number boards.

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