‘Bike’ accessories show options for fitness retailers

Savvy fitness dealers who traveled beyond the Health & Fitness Business show to peruse the Interbike trade show floor saw more than bikes. There were scores of accessory items that, for many, could make a lot of sense to carry, from indoor cycling items to no-size softgoods and cool bottles.
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As intended by show owner Nielsen Expositions, there indeed was some natural synergy between the Health & Fitness Business Expo and Interbike show. Combining the shows -- together for the first time Sept. 22-23 in Las Vegas -- certainly brought more retailers as well as more media into the fitness hall. And a sharp, forward-focused retailer could find some accessories among Interbike’s bikes, chains, and derailleurs that could complement a fitness mix.

“The businesses are definitely a little bit different,” said Tim Porth, vice president of Octane Fitness, “but there are definitely some dealers who cross over.”

The savvy fitness dealers who did get down the hall to peruse the Interbike trade show floor saw more than bikes. There were scores of accessory items that, for many, could make a lot of sense to carry. Chief among them, of course, are bike accessories that can be used for indoor bikes, although anybody who sweats also needs to eat, stay hydrated and chart or track progress. Products to satisfy those needs could add-up to impulse buys or attract customers between big-purchase sales.

And a number of fitness customers are fair-weather cyclists who want to stay in shape and continue to train in the off-season.

Spinning your wheels

Indoor cycles are bikes after all, and there are plenty of bike accessories that fitness dealers can add so their customers don’t head off instead to the cycle shop. Chief among them are shoes and pedals. No brand has a better name for that combination in the bike industry than Shimano, so it should be no surprise that the bike component leader, which prioritizes R&D, has created a shoe specific to indoor cycling.

Shimano’s WF23 (MSRP $100; www.shimano.com) is built with an Eva midsole and feels more like a running shoe than a bike shoe. The SPD pedal cleat is attached higher up inside the shoe’s outsole so it won’t wear as badly on the floor. Plus, that midsole means it can take some pounding.

Though not as jarring as mountain biking, holding a hard, rubber bike handle for an hour or more can be tough on your wrists and sweaty hands. German manufacturer Ergon (www.ergon-grips.com) has gained a solid reputation in the bike industry for its ergo-dynamic grips that cut down on the pounding of mountain biking. They are also ideal for relaxing on an indoor bike. Top of our list were the easy-to-grab GP1 BioKork grips (MSRP $29), that would not look out-of-place in a home gym setting. New at the show were GC2 BioKork grips with three-finger (MSRP $60) and GC3 full bar ends (MSRP $70), ideal for grabbing on to when spinning at high resistance.

Ergon also debuted a PC2 flat pedal (MSRP $70) that might appeal to indoor cyclists who simply do not want to invest in bike shoes. Built with superlight composite materials and a non-slip surface, the pedals were designed to maximize the position of the foot and provide better energy transfer than standard flats.

Yummies

There was an onslaught of fitness-oriented drinks and food at Interbike, but two types stood out to SNEWS as plausible items for fitness retail: Fizzy drop-in tabs that create an electrolyte hydration drink from water, and a waffle (more on that later).

Among fizzy tabs, a forerunner in the category was Nuun and it still is a top dog. As all of these tabs, the product comes in small, easy-to-carry tubes that won’t go stale on your shelf and take little space to merchandise. To use, just snap off the lid, pop out a tab and into the water it goes like good ol’ Alka-Seltzer – plop-plop, fizz-fizz. Nuun (MSRP $19.50/three tubes; www.nuun.com) has no carbs or sugar, though it is flavored (our favorite is the caffeinated kona cola, but there are decaf flavors). Others include CamelBak’s Elixir (www.camelbak.com). One newer product is called Motor Tabs (www.motortabs.com), which does have calories if you want that boost too.

These sorts of drinks are digested well mid-workout than heavier drinks and mixes, plus they won’t bust open and spread liquid or powders all over a gym bag or floor. Oh, and they won’t get munched surreptitiously by staff either.

The most unique, yummiest energy snack -- although honey sweet -- was Honey Stinger’s Organic Stinger Waffles ($1.39 for a two-pack; www.honeystinger.com). Based on European snacks that Honey Stinger co-owner Lance Armstrong enjoys, the thin waffle doused in honey has been a crowd favorite at shows this summer since its introduction. Each waffle is just 160 calories and provides energy through the honey, which is said to not cause the crash associated with most sugars.



Impulse buys


Softgoods are trickier for fitness retailers since most don’t want to deal with sizing and the inventory involved. But Buff’s Seamless Headband (MSRP $13; www.buffwear.com) is the type of impulse buy that could make sense. Half the length of the standard Buff -- which first gained fame for its prominence in the early days of the “Survivor” reality TV show – it’s a contemporary sweatband that is a seamless, quick-dry microfiber and thin enough to not feel, well, dorky. Plus, they come in a myriad of colors and styles, and you can get pretty small runs with the design and colors you want -- how about something cool-looking with your store’s name on it?

While focused on cycling at Interbike, Polar USA has developed a heart rate monitor that’s ideal for treadmill use. The Polar WearLink transmitter with Nike+ (MSRP $70; www.polarusa.com) is a strap-on HRM that works in conjunction with iPods and Nike running shoes (though the Swoosh brand is not required). Run on the tread and the HRM will download all the vital information to your iPod so you can analyze your workout later.

And then there are bottles, which are always an easy accessory sell. Of course, there were a gazillion of them on the show floor, as we covered at the Outdoor Retailer show in August (click here to read that Aug. 20, 2010, story), and some are not just utilitarian. Stanley’s one-handed bike bottle (MSRP $20; www.pmi-worldwide.com) was appealing for gym use since it’s not plastic, yet easy to drink from while in mid-workout on a cardio machine. Unlike metal bottles, it won’t get crushed easily, it’s easy to clean, and you’ll do your part for the environment by not using and tossing plastic. It was also designed to fit in a bike water-bottle cage, making it a good choice for those indoor cycling workouts.

--Doug Schnitzspahn

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