When I walked into the Philly Bike Expo, I had no idea what to expect. I had arrived early, not knowing what the trip was going to be like, after freak October snow storm dumped 10” of snow in some parts of the area. Before the Expo had opened, they were already setting up for the vintage bike show and swap meet outside of the hall. There were a Hill Cycles vintage road bike with masterfully
drilled out chain rings, an early Zipp 3001 Triathlon bike, a Richard Sachs road machine, and bikes that would have any cyclist lusting for. Once inside the Expo, it just got worse.
The interesting thing about the Philly Bike Expo, is the variety of exhibitors. Clothing companies, handmade frame builders, advocacy groups, accessory makers, and even a retailer filled the hall with their products and services. There was definitely a little bit of everything, for everyone.
When it comes to bikes, I am sure everyone found at least one that they wanted to take home with them. For me, well, I’d need an separate garage for everything that I wanted there. There were 3 builders that jumped out at me, Bilenky Cycle Works, Holland Cycles, and Watson Cycles. Each had their own unique products that made me drool.
Stephen Bilenky is a local builder who has been part of the industry for over 40 years. Since 1983, he has been building lugged and filet steel frames in Philly.
His work ranges from stock urban bikes, to full custom road machines, to unique utility bikes. Each bike can be finished off with three levels of painting, from stock colors, to, well, probably just about anything you can imagine. They may not be cheap (what bike ever is?), but they are beautiful works of metal art. BCW had bikes of all ages and shapes that Stephen had built over the years, and a cool display to go with it. www.bilenky.com
Holland Cycles brings two materials together to make one great bike. While Bill Holland has been known for his Titanium bikes, he brings a twist, with his ExoGrid carbon infused Ti tubes. A diamond pattern is first cut out of the tubes using a computerized laser cutter for accuracy. Then, a carbon layup is wrapped
around a bladder, and an adhesive layer is added to help bond the carbon to the inside of the titanium tube. From there, carbon inlays are added to the voids cut out of the tubes so that when the heat and compression of the molding process takes place, the carbon layup on the inside of the tube will remain smooth, and not bulge into the openings. By adding this carbon process to the bike, Holland is able to help reduce road vibration on two frequency ranges. It also help to make a more torsionally rigid design, while keeping the ride smooth and compliant. I didn’t get a chance to ride the ExoGrid, but the finished product was very pleasing to the eye. Weights are also very competitive with other high end frames on the market. If Holland can build a frame for former NBA star Bill Walton, I’m sure they can build a great bike for you as well. www.hollandcycles.com
Watson Cycles also brought some interesting bikes to the show. Each one caught my eye for its own uniqueness. Andrew Watson custom builds frames that are built to last, but he also throws in some of his unique character into the bikes. Where else do you see wood detail work on bikes? His prototype snow bike, built for a friend riding in the Iditabike, had custom wooden planked front and rear racks, along with wooden caps on the top of the fork blades. The bike also featured huge Surly tires, and a custom bent handlebar to control the massive rig. Two flasks were also mounted to the fork blades. Come on, water freezes, and you need to stay hydrated, right? Andrew also had a steel cyclocross bike with a squared off wishbone seat stay to match the lines of the fork. One of the
most unique bikes in the show was his commuter, with custom wooden side car. He built the bike to take his 68 lb shop dog to work with him. The bike has generator hubs to power the front lights and LED brake lights mounted on the side car, disc brakes all around, and a trick way of attaching the side car to the frame. By welding a head tube to the bottom bracket, he was able to make a bike that can lean into corners naturally, without the side car coming off the ground. www.watsoncycles.com
On the clothing side, there were a few companies I was excited to check out.
First off, Rapha was there. Need I say more. They had their jeans featured, and I had a chance to try them on. The fit is slim, but comfortable. Not as slim as the
Levi’s Commuter jeans, especially below the knee, but still more of a modern straight leg. With many features built in to make these a sturdy jean for daily commuting wear, they do not look out of place for a night out in the city. Reinforced back pockets will hold your D-lock, a high back to avoid showing your “coin slot”, and the Rapha logo printed on the inside of the right leg that shows when the pants are rolled up for riding were all nice touches. Subtle pink stitching in some areas let you know it’s a Rapha product. www.rapha.cc
A surprise for me was a company called Road Holland. A new company to the
cycling industry, their goal is to make technical cycling gear, that is stylish on and off the bike. With fabrics that blend Merino wool and polyester, they will keep you warm or cool, depending on the temps, and also help wick away the sweat. The fit is a little slimmer than a slimmer than a typical polo shirt, but not as slim as your race kit. With pockets on the back, you’ll be set to ride, yet still fit in at the office on casual Fridays. Another subtle design cue I found today, is a pass through for headphone cords in the center pocket. Why all manufacturers don’t do this, I don’t understand, but sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference. www.roadholland.com
To wrap things up, there were a few accessory manufacturers that caught my eye too. Green Guru Gear (www.greengurugear.com) had their products on display that are made out of recycled tubes, wet suits, and climbing rope. Alloneword (www.alloneword.esty.com) brought handmade cycling caps fromCalifornia that were made out of various materials. The fit was perfect for me at least, and will look good off the bike. Bandbox Helmets (www.bandboxllc.com) had a display of men’s and women’s cycling helmets disguised as designer hats for those that do not want to look out of place with a sporty helmet and your office attire.
So this is just a sample of what you’d see at the Philly Bike Expo. There were plenty of exhibitors ready to tell you about their products and services, not to
mention the food inside and out of the hall to fill you up. If you wanted to learn more about a specific area, there were also seminars held, talking about topics from conservation, how to dress for the winter, and the history of cycling. Throw in a fashion show, a fastest wrench competition, sponsored road and mt. bike rides, and even free valet bike parking, and you have a great two day event. Congrats to Bina of Bilenky Cycle Works for putting on another great event. I’m looking forward to next year!