‘Wheel’ connections for city cyclists at Philly Bike Expo

The third annual Philadelphia Bike Expo hosted cyclist-friendly events.

The Philadelphia Bike Expo hosted a fashion show, combining staples of biker fashion like cycling socks with high-fashion high heels. | TAYLOR FARNSWORTH / TTN
The Philadelphia Bike Expo hosted a fashion show, combining staples of biker fashion like cycling socks with high-fashion high heels. | TAYLOR FARNSWORTH / TTN

The Philadelphia Bike Expo returned to the city for a third year at the 23rd Street Armory on Oct. 27 and 28 to help promote cycling throughout the city.

Philadelphia is ranked as one of the Top 20 bike-friendly cities in the country. The number of people commuting by bike in the city has increased by more than 150 percent in recent years, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. With an expanding cycling community throughout Philadelphia, the representation of cyclists of all levels is growing.

“There really isn’t anything like this on the East Coast,” Isis Shiffer who was involved in organizing the event with Bilenky Cycles, a bike shop based in Philadelphia, said.

The Philadelphia Bike Expo brings together cyclists from all backgrounds, from competitive cyclists who race in all disciplines, including mountain, track, road and cyclo-cross, to those who ride as messengers, commuters and leisure cyclists.

The expo, which is in its third year, attracts vendors from all across the country to come and display their products and services to the city of Philadelphia.

Vendors showing at the expo included bike shops, cycling clothing vendors, cycling related T-shirts, jewelry, bike parts and messenger bags.  Not only were there products available for the competitive cyclist, but there were also some that were relevant for anyone in the city of Philadelphia and beyond.

Although the expo brings together people from all across the country, it continues to have a hometown feel to it, said vendor Mary Elizabeth of alloneword, a handmade custom cycling hat business that she runs in Alameda, Calif.

“In San Francisco it seems like a big town show, but here it seems like, ‘You’re my neighbor, come on down,’” Elizabeth said.

Cycling in general is seen as a promotion for an eco-friendly lifestyle, as there is not as much waste involved as there is with driving a car, but cycling as a sport is not free from waste entirely.  When getting flat tires, the tubes and tires go to waste.  Some companies have discovered a way to reduce the waste even more by incorporating the eco-friendly ways into products.

“It’s about sustainable adventure, an eco-friendly lifestyle and how to reduce your impact as an adventurer,” Davidson Lewis, founder of Green Guru Gear said.

His Boulder, Colo.-based company utilizes the waste from bikes and other products and materials to create things like bags.

“We set up recycling programs at bikes shops and climbing gyms,” Lewis said.

Not only does the bike expo provide opportunities for vendors, but it also gives the community a chance to learn more about the sport through different events and workshops.

The workshops included bike fittings, women’s cycling discussions and more. Beyond the workshops were books signings, alley cat races, “fix-a-flat” contests, parties, raffles and a fashion show, among others.

The alley cat race, held on Oct. 27, was an informal kind of bike race that incorporated different checkpoints and tasks completed by competitors.

“They have to run up the art museum steps, they have to boat across the river…I’m really nervous, but we do have a life guard,” Shiffer, who organized the race, said.

With events such as the alley cat race, cycling is being emphasized as a fun activity that is more than just a mode of transportation.

Another event at the bike expo was the fashion show featuring the products of various vendors.

The fashion show, which was held at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, brought cycling styles, from traditional cycling spandex to more fashion-forward pieces that were modeled by both men and women.  The women wore heels with their cycling socks, whereas the men wore traditional cycling shoes to show off trends.

“Here in Philly, so many more people wear my hats [than in California],” Elizabeth said.  “It is great to see them represented in the city and the fashion show.”

Cycling in Philadelphia is more than just getting from point A to point B: It is about the connection to the community. As recognized throughout the weekend at the Philadelphia Bike Expo this past weekend, there are opportunities and connections to be made through cycling.

From the fundamentals of buying a bike and bike repair, to the community-oriented activities such as the fashion show, the Philadelphia Bike Expo aimed to demonstrate the growth of the cycling community in the city in years to come.

“I want everyone to be on a bike and not feel intimidated,” Shiffer said.

Taylor Farnsworth can be reached at taylor.farnsworth@temple.edu.

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