It was muggy and rain was threatening when I crossed over the Hot Metal Bridge to attend the Pittsburgh Cycling Expo. I pulled up outside the IBEW Circuit Center and checked my bike in with the parking valet, took my ticket and headed inside. Right inside the door was the check-in station to make your donation. It is also where the event staff claimed that they did not know anything about the donation option and the cost was $5 no matter what. I had planned on donating on my way out. I brought a 20 dollar bill with me, and had planned on donating all of it if the expo was at least decent. However the ladies at the front were prepared to deny me entry without my $5 up front, and when I pointed out that it said “$5 Donation At The Door” on the front page of their website their response was, “I don’t even know how to answer that.” Which is bullshit. If an event promotes itself as donation, but doesn’t honor that system they deserve some bad mojo or karma or whatever. I paid the $5 up front but there was no way I would donate more after that.
I tried to shake it off and enter the expo with a clear head, but I was just irritated. It did get my juices flowing when I walked into the room and the first thing I saw was a front rolling keg transportation worthy cycle from Thick Bikes staring back at me. The room itself was about the size of an elementary school gym complete with a stage at one end. There were four rows with vendors on each side and a small concession stand in the back. I looped the outer aisles first and then spun down the middle.
One thing about this expo that struck me right away was how most of the vendors were about the experience of cycling and not so much the products. There were products galore available including local companies like Fiks Reflective, Aerotech Designs and Thick Bikes represented but there were many more vendors trying to build support for their cycling related cause. The overall reason for the expo is to help fundraise for the Montour Trail. According to the creators of the event, “The proceeds from the Pittsburgh Cycling Expo will go toward completing the gaps and operating and maintaining the trail.” But despite their own cause being important the expo hosts didn’t eliminate other cycle groups rather they encouraged them to join by offering free vendor tables for non-profit organizations. That knowledge helped calm my earlier frustrations a bit. Every other table seemed to have a group looking to support cycling in their local community and use cycling to support another good cause. And they were all excited to tell you how participation in their upcoming ride would help create greater opportunity for local cyclists, local farms or even charitable medical groups. I doubt there is an upcoming weekend that will go by without an organized ride to support something going on. That said, there were still plenty of cool stickers, free bike mags and buckets of candy to keep this guy happy.
As always, the best thing about expo’s are the people. This was no exception. The place was packed with enthusiastic bike lovers. All the bike racks were filled, and it was often crowded enough that I’d skip a table and come back later. As someone who is relatively new to Pittsburgh (10 months and counting) I’ve grown to appreciate how supportive of each other the cycling community is. Every event I’ve gone to from this expo, to the Colin Albrecht fundraiser at Over The Bar, and to the Undie Bike Ride that occurs monthly, has been packed with people excited about the rise of bicycles in the Burgh. It is truly one of my favorite parts about this city.
In review, this is an expo for people who are looking for organized rides, wanting to get in touch with the local culture of biking, like charitable causes or just need a destination to pull those two wheeled monsters out of the garage and enjoy an afternoon rolling along the river trail.