Event Review: Bike Expo by Joe Reinemann

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.

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13 Responses to Event Review: Bike Expo by Joe Reinemann

  1. j.n. says:

    Perhaps if people knew it was happening, they might have made it to the event. This is the first I have heard mention of it this year. Did they advertise it? Where/how?

  2. Melissa says:

    I randomly came upon the Expo since I was headed to Craftstravaganza, it struck me as odd I hadn’t heard about it earlier.

  3. Lowrah says:

    This is what Joe was getting at… the advertising/ promotion of this event seemed to only reach one contingent of cyclists, the 30-60 “drive-the-bike-to-the-Trail” crowd. It’s not that it wasn’t promoted, but it was that the event was not targeted toward j.n. or Melissa or “urban cyclists, hard core commuters, racers, seniors, special needs cyclists, old-bike aficionados and other varieties of cyclists.”

  4. Snak Shak says:

    Yes, Laura. It seems like a missed opportunity to really engage a broad cross-section of cyclists and expose newer riders to the many facets of cycling as well. As Laura points out, this did get some publicity on the local internet sources, but better outreach to the public might have raised awareness.

    • Lowrah says:

      Missed opportunity- I was unclear what the focus of the expo was. Was it a tradeshow? To encourage people to ride new trails? To try new bikes? To drink beer and socialize? As a recruitment event for Bike MN members? I feel like the expo was a little bit of all these things, which made it feel unfocused and diluted.

      I would like to get answers to these questions: How do you consume media? Where would you look to find out about an event like this? How could the expo reach you? What kind of expo would you attend?

  5. Dan B. says:

    I get the feeling that the group organizing it isn’t putting a whole lot of effort into the process. It wasn’t even on my radar until early April when Paul Wyganowski mentioned it to me — by way of asking me to share a booth with him and Vincent Dominguez.

    The next time I heard anything was the Monday before the event when I got a voicemail from the organizers offering me a spot at a reduced rate. Given that I don’t have tradeshow infrastructure yet, I didn’t return their call.

    Based on my visit Friday, I’m glad I didn’t make the effort — I think your assessment of the crowd was spot-on, and there were notably fewer vendors than last year.

    I’m working on getting my shit together for Minnecycle, coming up at the end of September.

  6. Blanc2 says:

    I did not know of the event at all. I commute to work on a bike I built myself. I know Joe and a few others via Mpls Bike Love, but don’t often visit MBL. This one was not on my radar at all.

    • I think it was under-promoted. From Dan’s comment, it seems like the potential vendors were less aware of the event as well. This may be a communication/messaging issue that resulted in a homogenous Expo.

      Thanks for the comments, by the way. This is the kind of dialogue that makes a site interesting!

  7. Ted says:

    Nice write up Joe. I’m wondering if that location is ideal for the more rounded crowd you said you wished were present. Just like certain bike shops cater to a certain crowd, an event like this based on its location and vendors are going to bring a certain crowd.

  8. always says:

    The Bike Expo is always lame and always dedicated to the demographic you highlighted. You only need to look at who organizes the show to understand why it is so myopic and boring.

  9. adventure! says:

    I wonder how much of the dearth of interesting exhibitors is due to the cost of exhibiting. Most of these shows aren’t cheap to do, so it’s reflected in booth cost. So the people/companies that can afford to do it are the Clif Bar/car-top rack/luxury bike tour package types. There was a recent show here in Portland where the bike craft folks pooled their resources in order to exhibit. But it still set them back (money wise) quite a bit. And this show also suffered low turnount, so it’s a lot of money to pony up for maybe not a lot of return.

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