After two consecutive down years, the bike industry has decided to take action to reverse the trend through both teamwork and competition.
Major manufacturers Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, the Accel Group’s Raleigh and Diamondback, as well as the family of QBP bike brands, have teamed up with Interbike and the NBDA to create a new competition to début at Interbike’s 2018 Outdoor Demo at the Northstar Resort outside Truckee, California.
The coalition named the event the Best Racer All-Around Prize, or B.R.A.A.P., and its members are hoping the inaugural event will be the first of what becomes an international series. The competition includes two days of racing with nine disciplines: a road race, road time trial, cyclocross race, gravel race, cross country mountain bike race, an enduro event, a downhill stage, fat bike short track and BMX race.
“We’re making great bikes for all these categories, and have done a great job demonstrating why cyclists need each of them, but we’ve done a terrible job of bringing them all together,” said a spokesperson for Specialized. “Now we have a competition that highlights the unique capabilities of each of these bikes and allows consumers to both enjoy these disciplines while providing more incentives for consumers and retailers to own all of them.”
With multi-disciplinary cycling becoming more popular—whether it be cyclocross and road, mountain biking and ‘cross or gravel, road and cyclocross—organizers feel the time is ripe for the new competition.
“NBDA research shows that the most avid cyclists own bikes from at least four of these categories. We have to face the reality it’s challenging to bring more cyclists into the sport, simply because there are so many competing forms of recreation,” said NBDA board member Michael Sara. “It’s common business knowledge that selling to the customers you’ve already acquired, rather than acquiring new customers, is far cheaper, so our focus with this event is to kickstart an effort to sell more bikes to existing customers.”
Sara mentioned that the manufacturers aren’t just collaborating on this novel idea, but also competing. “The participating brands plan to work with retailers to offer discounts to repeat customers,” Sara explained. “Wheel your Specialized Crux into your LBS with proof of ownership and a desire to sample gravel racing, and they’ll give you 10% off a Diverge gravel bike that will open the door to gravel grinding. Own more than one from the same brand? You’ll be able to stack discounts up to a whopping 40% off!”
While road cyclists are used to the concept of timed stage races, the event will be scored more like the CrossFit games, where competitors are awarded points for their placing in each event, with the winner being the one with the lowest total score at the end of the event.
“After the CrossFit Games incorporated cyclocross in last year’s event, we’ve gone full circle by scoring B.R.A.A.P. similar to how its done for the CrossFit Games,” said one of the event organizers.
Organizers have not finalized the rules, details and lengths of each event, but will announce the final rules in June before this year’s inaugural event in September. One rule is already in place, however.
“Racers will have to show proof of ownership of their bicycles used to compete for the B.R.A.A.P. title,” said Interbike’s Owner Emerald Expositions’ Darrel Danny, in a statement to Cyclocross Magazine. “Borrowing a bike from a friend or teammate defeats the purpose of this unique event, plus it really isn’t safe. We want competitors to buy a bike for each discipline, get comfortable and familiar with its discipline-specific features and componentry and race safely.”
When pressed as to whether racers will be required to show up with nine different bikes, or whether competitors would be allowed to compete in several disciplines on the same bike, or perhaps even recognized by doing so with a special category, Danny, an avid Nordic skier, rejected the premise and drew an obscure parallel.
“We’re not trying to create another Stowe Derby downhill and cross-country ski race and force people to compete in unsafe conditions with compromises in equipment,” Danny said. “A better comparison is a much more elaborate skiathlon, as seen in the Olympics. You’re not asking Olympic athletes to compete on combi skis there, are you?”
While skiathlon is just one timed event with one triathlon-like transition, the new B.R.A.A.P. event will have individual stages, perhaps allowing ingenious and mechanically adept or budget-constrained racers to make modifications to a bike between stages, but Danny discouraged such plans.
“A few people have claimed Interbike is becoming irrelevant in this age of exclusive press launches and dealer events, but we’re out to prove our show is a valuable partner in our exhibitors’ push to create new categories of cycling,” he explained. “This event demonstrates this commitment. Can you imagine the world of hurt we’d all be in if we just encouraged cyclists to ride the bikes they already own?”
Stay tuned to Cyclocross Magazine as we learn more about this new competition and prepare for its inaugural running in September.
This story was published on April 1, 2018.