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November 14, 2021 / bikesbytesbites

Philly Bike Expo (and more) 2021

The Philadelphia Bike Expo is back. It happened this past weekend, at the Philadelphia Convention Center.

Before the Expo

Of course, my trip and logistics were more complicated than just going to the Expo. I had called my cousin, Joy, to see if she wanted to join me at the Expo (which we’ve done before), or I could include a visit to her place before the expo. Alas, a visit to the expo was out of the question — she was recovering from broken bones (not the result of a bike crash!), so had to stay at home. However, I could help her out by visiting for a few days before the expo. So I did.

The Amtrak train to Trenton was quite pleasant — all the Northeast Regional trains seem to have luggage racks that can be converted to bike racks. I paid the extra $20 for the bike, even though the folding bike could have been folded up as luggage — it’s much easier and I want to support Amtrak’s efforts. It was fairly easy to get the bike onto the rack, not so easy getting it down, but I managed.

Bike Friday in Amtrak’s Bicycle Rack

We spent a lovely two days at my cousin’s place. One of those days was my birthday, so she baked me a Birthday Cookie. (Note to grammar nerds, self included: We were able to use the sentence, “I’d like some cookie”, and have it be grammatical.) And I did my first extended walk on the Delaware and Raritan Canal Path, accompanied by Joy and Hudson. The path is definitely bikeable, but wide tires are recommended.

Then it was off to Philadelphia on a SEPTA train. For the first time, I got off at Jefferson Station (renamed from the Reading Terminal?) On previous trips to Philadelphia, I’ve documented some of the many murals around town. I decided not to do that this trip. But I was impressed with the murals at the exit of the Jefferson station and puzzled by the sculptures I saw lining Arch Street in Chinatown, as I made my way to the Convention Center. And I made sure to ride through the alley of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, directly across the street from the Broad Street entrance to the Convention Center.

I went to the Convention Center on Friday afternoon, to help the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia set up their booth. And from there, dinner with Phil & Cliff, friends from Philadelphia, at a fantastic Mexican restaurant, the Condesa. It shares its building with a hotel. When I couldn’t find convenient parking for my bicycle, they let me check the bicycle during dinner. Sigh. It was so chilly out that we changed our reservation to be indoors, but their outdoor area was so well designed we could have eaten there! Next time…

The next morning, there was one more activity before the Expo — a short bike ride to breakfast in West Philadelphia (oops, sorry University City). The Drexel and Penn campuses and the area around Thirtieth Street Station certainly have changed since my student days (a l-o-n-g time ago). The Bulletin Building, where I used to park my bike when I commuted by train to my job out in Radnor, is now a multi-use building, the centerpiece of Schuylkill Yards. We ate at Sabrina’s Cafe, in a Victorian building right on the Drexel campus.

Philly Bike Expo 2021

Finally! My friends and I rode to the Expo and used the indoor valet bike parking run by Neighborhood Bike Works. The expo was a bit smaller this year, with fewer exhibitors spaced farther apart. My plan is always to start by taking a leisurely stroll around the floor, noting the exhibitors of interest, then return to those exhibitors to buy something or learn more. Oh, and squeeze in any seminars that look interesting. This all had to be done in one day (Saturday), because I was getting a ride home with Catherine, a friend from DC who joined me last night, and we wanted to leave early Sunday. No problem — I’ve found that one day at the Expo is usually enough. (Plus the Philadelphia Veteran’s Day Parade is on Sunday, so getting out of town if you’re driving can be a challenge.)

The list of exhibitors still seemed pretty extensive. I was impressed by a few of the custom bike makers, Royal H Cycles and Tanglefoot Cycles. I especially liked Tanglefoot’s motto, “Tools for retro-futurists”, although I’m still not quite sure what it means. There were lots of non-profits, all grouped along one aisle. I picked up many (paper!) maps for bicycle trails from one of them — some bike routes to check out next year!

I concentrated on accessories, looking for some of my favorite vendors, or vendors who had been recommended to me. Nittany Mountain Works is minus one small handlebar bag, earmarked for use on my Bike Friday. (Hmm, I don’t see this bag on their web site. But I do see the little waist pack I have been interested in, but that I totally forgot about at the show.) Green Guru had a great assortment of products, many made from used bicycle inner tubes. (I recently learned that some REI warehouses collect the tubes and contribute them.) I bought a mid-size zipper pouch to use as a bicycle first aid kit and a replacement for my ID card holder. (The current one is leather and not holding up well.) Then I went with Catherine when she bought a Kryptonite light. Interestingly, Kryptonite has changed its official name to Kryptonite Lights and Locks. And the corporate entity could have a booth at the show but not sell anything, so they directed us to VeloJawn, a Philadelphia bike shop. (D*mn, now that I think of it, I could also use a new, more powerful light.) Catherine also found some interesting looking chain lube from Silca.

Goodies from the Bike Expo

I attended two seminars. I really enjoyed the first one, despite my initial concern about the title: “Bike Fitting and the Myth of the Women’s Bicycle”. The presenters, two women who are professional bit fitters, talked about how the marketing of bikes for women is not working, and what is really needed to get a proper bike fit for anyone. I was disappointed by the second talk, “Women of the Bicycling Industry.” It seemed to be about all the wonderful connections the two speakers had made, to get to where they are now, and wasn’t particularly informative about the industry per se.

After the second seminar and one more quick look at the exhibits, I had time for a short bike ride around Philadelphia. A highlight of that was ride was going by the Museum of the American Revolution. There was a re-enactment of the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-1778.

Getting Home

Even though we left fairly early on Sunday morning,the police were already blocking the streets for the Veterans Day Parade. Our detour wasn’t a major delay, and it gave us a chance to drive through the Italian market neighborhood of South Philadelphia to get out of town. Our rest stop was at a Wegman’s in a Baltimore suburb. Then, home.

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