Freewheeler Tom H, when he heard that Gary Helfrich, one of the founders of (the old) Merlin Bicycles and a guru for all things titanium-bike-related was giving not one, but two talks at this year's Philly Bike Expo, dropped hints that we might go together, and maybe start off with a ride along the Schuylkill and up the Wissahickon. Well, that sounded like a great idea to me (after all, I saw that Bike Snob NYC was going to be there, too, as was Dave Moulton [for whom I've had a link over there on the right or years]), and since I'm up early anyway, the 6am departure time wasn't off-putting.
So up at 4, get coffee, get the commuter bike and gear into the car, and over to Tom's by 6. We had the littlest trouble getting my bike into the back of his truck, but then we were off to find parking behind the Art Museum, and then to do this route.
Much of that West River Drive is closed on Sunday mornings, and even what wasn't had so little traffic that we all but had the road to ourselves, until we turned up the Wissahickon trail and had to put up with joggers and dog walkers (and a few other bikes). We turned around when Tom thought we'd have just about time to get back to the convention center to get tickets and hear Helfrich.
The Bike Expo has valet security for bikes, so we left ours even though no valet was there yet. Helfrich's first talk was to start at 9, but the expo didn't open until 10, so we bought tickets and went to the lecture.
Helfrich (above) regaled us with stories about his life as a roadie for Aerosmith, then about getting started with bikes, and about the early (and then the glory) days of titanium frames. Below, a picture of his frame No. 3, the first titanium frame he sold. It's still on the road.
You can't see from this picture, but there's no braze-on for a rear brake, because they didn't have the metal to add one at the time.
I found Helfrich fascinating, even when he was talking metallurgy.
Then up to the expo floor. When we got in, I saw this tandem that reeked of adventure; that may be the mud of Nepal on the frame:
Then to the exhibitors. First, several Bilenky bikes:
That last is a tandem with a recumbent pilot and a standard stoker. Below: this vendor is specializing in bike clothes for women that are NOT just girly prints on guys jerseys. Some women (notably TEW) complain about the bike clothes available to them, so I try to let TEW know when I see bike stuff she might like.
Above, Calfee had some neat bikes, but the one that nailed me was this one: bamboo tubes and connectors of rosewood. Below, Velo-Orange, one of my favorite retro-grouch vendors. Do I want one of those fluted cranks?
Below: AllOneWord, an Etsy vendor making bike hats (she's recently moved to Philly). I don't have much use for a cotton bike hat, but I liked the Blessed Virgin one and the Candy Skull. But she makes wool hats that fit me better than the Walz wool cap did...
And since I'm a nutball about mirrors, and since she was there, I had to get the HubBub helmet mirror from this excellent woman, who also hosts a radio show and podcast about all things bicycle-related.
I also bumped into Dave Moulton, and told him how much I enjoyed his blog, and bought a book of his humor. As I was leaving, I met Francisco, one of the mechanics at Kim's Bikes, who was on my ride yesterday, along with his family. (Dave, I can vouch for him; he was there!)
... as was Mike Beltranea, a fellow volunteer at the New Brunswick Bike Exchange!
Above, Bike Snob NYC (Eben Weiss) addresses the crowd. Below, Dave Moulton listens.
After this, we went to hear Helfrich again (I liked Bike Snob NYC, but I'd rather have heard more of Mr. Helfrich), and then came home. It was a great show. Thanks for inviting me, Tom.