Bike Expo: The Intersection of Cycling and Commerce by Joe Reinemann.
I went to the Bike Expo both late Friday afternoon and again during the middle of the day Saturday. My initial impression on Friday was that the Expo was a bit of a disappointment this year – several booths were unstaffed at 5:00 PM on Friday, the number of exhibitors seemed smaller than I remembered from the past and the events listed in the Expo guide had little appeal for me. I spoke with several of the vendors and the confirmed that it had been a slow start but they were hoping that things would pick up on Saturday. I was, too.
Saturday was not much different, although there were a few more people attending the event, and did run into a few friends, some of whom I had not seen since last summer. We chatted, got caught up after the long winter and had a good time comparing notes on the Expo and our lives. That was easily the highlight of the event for me.
The vendors on both days included a sampling of a few local bike shops and a couple of shops from outstate Minnesota and Wisconsin. Also present were two local cycling clubs, MORC (who is very good about participating in events in general) a couple of trail organizations and chambers of commerce, and the various bike advocacy groups. Finally, there were a handful of vendors selling vitamin supplements, photography, car-top bike carriers and other bric-a-brac. The only truly unique booth was hosted by a group of local Twin Cities frame builders showcasing their skills. Of course, we had a beer garden this year, sponsored by New Belgium; in addition to pedaling beer they were plugging this year’s Tour de Fat as well.
Yes, the weather was bad this weekend – epically bad as a matter of fact. I am sure the economy also had an adverse impact on participation in the Expo as well, but the two other events at the State Fair (“Craftstravaganza” and a horse show) both had huge turnouts, so that can’t be the only answer. I was also struck by the lack of diversity in the attendees – I noticed relatively few attendees under 30 years old or over 60 years old. For the most part, the Expo seemed to cater to the “drive-the-bike-to-the-Trail” crowd and missed out on ways to really engage the urban cyclists, hard core commuters, racers, seniors, special needs cyclists, old-bike aficionados and other varieties of cyclists that give the Twin Cities such a rich and diverse cycling culture.
Upon reflection, I am wishing that the Expo would have delved deeper into the various aspects of cycling and offered more to riders of all levels. Our broad cycling experience and perspective is one of the greatest assets that Twin Cities cycling has, in my book. An Expo that celebrates that diversity, rather than simply providing another information conduit and commerce vehicle is more in line with what the cycling community is asking for.