Being There: Philly Bike Expo 2018
To enjoy the Philly Bike Expo, one must turn him completely over to the experience. I have been to other expos in the Philadelphia area in year’s prior, but the Philly Bike Expo at the Convention Center had an atmosphere of welcome and intrigue. If there was a better reason to go, I couldn’t find it. I jumped on the regional rail and never stepped foot outside again until I got back to my car. This came in handy considering it rained all weekend.
The Philly Bike Expo could best be described as an event in pursuit of cycling’s soul. While laymen immediately conjure images of the Tour de France and team riders hammering down a country road, the Philly Bike Expo searched – and found – the soul rider. Think the one-off bike with the unique kit. Anyone looking for giant company presence would be a bit let down. Sure there were booths by Wilier Triestina and Bianchi, but those two brands straddle the mass production line as well as the niche market. Once those booths were cleared, the world of beautiful small batch products came into focus.
I set out to zig-zag around the floor first to skim the products. I made mental notes of the booths to revisit. Here were many of the companies whose products I pined for. Some of the products have already been featured on creakybottombracket.com. Staying with the bikes and I kept finding myself pulled back to Coast Cycles’ booth more than once. The gumwalled bikes with gleaming fenders and equally vibrant frame colors echoed to me. Next to Coast Cycles were J.P. Weigle’s equally beautiful bikes. Richard Sachs lined his remarkable bikes up a few rows over. Van Dessel, a New Jersey-based company brought their line of road and ‘cross bikes. Local bike builder Bilenky Cycle Works attracted us with a tandem frame. Cinelli, Dean titanium, and Merlin also filled out the booths. Yuba Cargo Bikes gave us pause to consider trying out their mule bikes on the indoor demo course.
Like the bikes, there were brands with soul occupying the booths at this year’s expo. I had a hard time walking away from Walz Caps. I wondered if they knew whether I was walking by based on the moment I followed them on Instagram. I eyed up no fewer than five items to add to the Holiday List for 2018. Toast Tea Threads featured items to gear up for the cold riding season ahead.
Continuing the trend beyond bikes and apparel, the component booths at the Philly Bike Expo wowed. SILCA displayed one blue super pista pump next to a powder blue one. Don’t think I plan to make a creakybottombracket.com pump in Gulf colors. Down the way was LEZYNE, a company we have reviewed before. The steel drive floor pump has shown no problems two years in, unlike the pump it replaced.
The drive train brands brought out their varsity gear. Elite featured a riding expo complete with a Zwift set up. Rotor gave biofeedback regarding the pedal stroke on a computer screen. Shimano and SRAM offered views of their new items for next year. FSA, committed to challenging the major drivetrain manufacturers also had a booth. I have to add the fact I passed the Phil Wood table several times just to have a peak at their candy-colored hubs. Just out of site of their table was White Industries, a table I passed several times as well. The Expo organically absorbed me into the fold. Its presence was effortless and enjoyable.
The highlight of my visit was meeting Josh from NixFrixShun. While I went to the Expo to see the fruits of company labors I was still hoping to run into people on the other side of their products. I was excited to discuss his passion for his chain lube, an offering that is a favorite on the shelf at the creakybottombracket office. It was in mid-conversation with Josh that I realized this was what the Philly Bike Expo was about: the small companies with passionate people wondering if ‘cottage industry’ is the best way to describe their effort.
I had a train to catch, which was luckily somewhat downstairs from the venue, but on my way out I made sure to admire the hard work of the kids exhibit. Little kids were painting on temporary walls. Just on the other side of those walls was a kids’ demo center complete with ramps and cones. One kid was crying over his strider bike but the attendant got to the boy before his parents. Despite the expo closing in ten minutes, the attendant was still committed to giving the kids a good time.
As I walked through the Philadelphia Convention Center toward Jefferson Station, I admired the accessibility of the event as well as the overwhelming passion filling Hall E. I have struggled with getting back on the bike and the Philly Bike Expo sparked the desire to get back on the bike. It wasn’t the shiny bikes that did it, though they helped. It was the dedication of the people who truly believe they have a good thing going in an industry that feels like it has a good thing going. I let myself become absorbed by the 2018 Philly Expo; I can’t wait to come back next year with a full day and group of friends to expand this experiment.