Global Bike Festival fan experience


The Austrian Alpine resort town of Saalbach-Hinterglemm will host an innovative new mass-participation cycling event later this year in which the aim will be to focus just as much on the experience off the bike as on it.

Sports media company Play Sports Group (PSG) has branched out by launching the Global Bike Festival, its first all-encompassing cycling event. Taking place from June 18-21, the festival is designed to be an unparalleled playground for cyclists of all abilities, with miles of routes, trails, climbs and descents designed for road, gravel, mountain bike and electric mountain bike riders.

Across the four days of cycling, après-ride, music and entertainment, festival-goers are promised world-class riding, live shows, hands-on bike tech tuition and coaching clinics by day; followed by parties and top DJ sets by night.

Perfect destination

The cycling component in Saalbach will include the famous Grossglockner – the highest paved road in Austria – for the road cyclists, as well as hundreds of kilometres of gravel trails and over 400km of downhill, cross-country and all-mountain routes for the off-road riders.

James Pope, events director at Play Sports Group, told Fan XP: “We are planning to bring together the worlds of mountain biking, road riding and gravel riding in one location. There are not many places or events where you can genuinely say that there is brilliant riding for each type of rider, but we’re confident we’ve found the perfect destination in Saalbach.

“There will be hundreds of miles of amazing routes and trails and the riding experience will be suitable for all abilities with plenty to test the more experienced riders and loads of support to help beginners.

“A bonus is that Saalbach is famed for its atmosphere and nightlife, so we are focusing just as much on creating the festival experience to make this the best after party in the cycling world. We’ve got a great DJ line up to announce that we think is a real step up from most cycling events. We want the partying to feel just as high quality as the riding!”


Digital engagement

UK-based PSG was acquired by US media giant Discovery last year and is behind digital channels Global Cycling Network (GCN), Global Mountain Bike Network (GMBN) and Electric Mountain Bike Network (EMBN).

June’s event will be powered by these channels, which have achieved more than 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube, and Pope explains that they will play a key role in the festival.

He said: “We’re quite unique as all our channels – GCN, GMBN and EMBN – have a real connection with our viewers, who don’t just consume our content but really become fans of the brands and presenters. There’s a relationship there that you just don’t get with traditional media.

“For many of our viewers we’ve been trusted guides throughout their cycling history and our presenters are big pulls in their own right. The festival allows us to really bring those viewers into the heart of the experience. They will be able not just to watch the presenters but will get to hang out with them, ride with them, get one-to-one advice and tips from them, participate in the GCN and Dirt Shed shows and get unique access to the brands and personalities.

“We’re really proud that we are a very ‘open’ brand. There’s no ‘us and them’, at the end of the day we’ll all be there because we love riding bikes.”


Long-term vision

PSG has said the 2020 Global Bike Festival will be the start of the company’s plans in the sports entertainment space, with the event locked down on a long-term basis through a three-year deal with Saalbach authorities.

Pope said: “We had interest from several locations and actually hosted two test events last summer in Saalbach and Avoriaz in France to help us make the final decision. Both locations are well known for mountain biking and offered amazing road and gravel riding, but in the end, we felt Saalbach had more potential to create the festival part of the experience. They have also really bought into our vision of how we want to develop the event, so we are confident they will be the perfect partner to help us bring the concept to life.”

Looking beyond June’s inaugural event, PSG already has expansion plans in mind beyond Austria, including particular target markets.

“Following the inaugural event in June our plan is to increase capacity and scale up over the next few years, adding more layers to the experience, including more races, entertainment and bigger name music artists,” Pope adds. “A large proportion of our channel audience is based in the US and Canada so, in the longer term, we would be keen to explore the potential of a US version, as well as taking the concept into other markets that align with our international audience.”


This exclusive insight into the Global Bike Festival is part of Fan XP- a newsletter designed to keep you abreast of the latest innovations, strategies and more regarding fan experience across the globe. To sign up, please click here.