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Philly Bike Expo gets rolling this weekend

It's an action-packed weekend for Philadelphia's bike lovers. Thousands will pedal to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday for the sixth annual Philly Bike Expo, the city's largest celebration of cycling.

Patrons inspect a bike at the 2014 Philly Bike Expo which will be held this weekend.
Patrons inspect a bike at the 2014 Philly Bike Expo which will be held this weekend.Read moreCredit: Scott Kingsley

It's an action-packed weekend for Philadelphia's bike lovers.

Thousands will pedal to the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday for the sixth annual Philly Bike Expo, the city's largest celebration of cycling.

The festival will feature more than 160 vendors and exhibitors (a record for the event) and 20 informational seminars, along with several hands-on demonstrations, themed bike rides, and food trucks.

"Over the last five years, biking in Philadelphia exploded," said Stephen Bilenky, founder of the Philly Bike Expo and the North Philadelphia repair shop Bilenky Cycle Works. "There's a growing bicycle-commuter population and a big, enthusiastic recreational bike community here, and we're trying to encourage it."

Philadelphia is the most-biked big city (of population over one million) in the United States, according to a 2014 U.S. Census Bureau survey. The Philly Bike Expo unites the region's bike enthusiasts with the organizations, companies, and artisans who fuel their passion.

Bilenky said that the festival attracted about 4,000 people last year and that it has doubled in size since it was first held in 2010 at the 23d Street Armory. What makes the expo different from others, he said, is the variety of vendors.

"How do we get together the bike nuts, the bike-tech geeks, the city riders, the people doing advocacy who are fighting for roads and things, instead of having this segmented, disparate community?" Bilenky said. "Everyone likes bikes for different reasons, so let's get all the reasons together for one show."

The festival features a range of events, from Gary Sanderson's antique-bicycle displays to fast-paced BMX demos. Seminar themes include advocacy, history, lifestyle, and technical issues. Those looking to stretch out between lectures can attend daily cyclist-inspired yoga sessions.

This will be Wayne Bingham's fifth year attending the festival. Bingham, 65, owns Mel Pinto Imports, a niche bike-product provider in Virginia. He'll hold wheel-building demonstrations on both days of the festival.

"I've been to a lot of trade shows, but the Philly Bike Expo in particular is a very diversified show," Bingham said. "There's a sense of community and camaraderie, especially with the regulars."

Mel Kornbluh, 69, has used a tandem (two-person) bike for 40 years. He said he and his wife, Barbara, have traveled roughly 183,000 tandem miles on trips around the world. Mel will hold a Tandem 101 lecture from 3-4 p.m. Saturday, and Barbara will exhibit Evelyn Hill, her line of cycling apparel for women.

Mel said that they've visited "thousands" of bike expos, but that this was one of their favorites. "It brings enthusiasts and people that live the lifestyle of cycling together," Mel said. "A bicycle gives you tremendous freedom. You can get on that and feel 7 years old again."

Bilenky said he hoped to see at least 5,000 people at this year's expo, and he believes it'll only keep growing.

"In terms of a livable city, all of a sudden, people are saying, 'Bikes are a thing,' " Bilenky said. "They're green and ecological and sustainable.

"You can drive a car, but it's not your life," he added. "But for some of these bike people, like myself, your bike is your life."

The Philly Bike Expo takes place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St., Hall E. Tickets: $10 for day pass; $15 for day pass with seminars; $25 for all-access pass. Information: 215-740-7068, www.phillybikeexpo.com.

csasko@phillynews.com