Last March, a new bicycle expo called Detroit Bike City debuted at Detroit's Cobo Center, adding momentum to the city's already growing enthusiasm for two-wheeled transportation. This Saturday the expo returns to the downtown Detroit convention center -- just in time for spring -- and Cobo's management is excited about its prospects.
Thom Connors, Cobo's general manager and regional-vice president of venue management company SMG, said the Bike City organizers have worked hard to find sponsors and sell exhibit space.
"They got off to a great start last year with a one-day event where their attendance exceeded expectations," he said. "There's every reason to believe that they will be even more successful than last year."
Jason Hall, a Detroit entrepreneur who is putting on the show with partners Mike MacKool and Mike Sheppard, said he's amazed by how much the event has grown.
Hall told The Huffington Post there will be 90 vendors this year -- nearly triple the amount as in 2012. And, of course, there will be tons of bikes on hand, for all kinds of bike-lovers, including racers, commuters, leisure riders, fitness cyclists and kids. There will even be some unique vehicles on hand to fire up people's imaginations.
"With our show we wanted to showcase every kind of bike," he said. "We were really successful this year attracting creators and inventors. We really went outside the box in terms of your standard road and mountain bikes."
Some of the more interesting bikes appearing at the show will be tall bikes from the Michigan-based VanLoozen Brothers company and the Firefly, a covered and illuminated recumbent trike manufactured by Geospace Studio.
This year there will also be more of a focus on custom bike building. Bike geeks will be able to stroll through an expanded custom bicycle section and have an opportunity to speak with Bob Keller and Herbie Helm, two builders who are well-known in the field. Representatives from the TechShop makerspace will also be on hand to build a bike up from scratch to completion and give it a test ride.
In addition,the 2013 expo will also feature a special Detroit marketplace, BMX stunt demonstrations, a bike swap section, auctions, a showing of the documentary "Bicycle Dreams" and even a special "Tweed City" Friday charity pre-event for the group Bike MS, which contributes to multiple sclerosis research.
Connors said Cobo has been extremely impressed with the show. Following last year's success, they agreed to sponsor the Bike City group in a mentorship program with the Detroit Creative Corridor Creative Ventures program. It gave the expo's organizers access to a collective office space and advice about marketing and sponsorship.
Detroit Bike City's emerging success makes a lot of sense to Connors. He sees a remarkable "synergy" between the expo and trends taking place in Detroit's residential and entrepreneurial communities, like the renewed interest in bicycle rides and Shinola's decision to begin manufacturing bicycles in the city.
Connors thinks this isn't just good for bikers, but good for Cobo as well.
"We have to grow the business, and new shows have to start somewhere," he said. "For many years Cobo has not had a new public show launched, and this past year we've had two of them: a new golf show last month and the bike show. And both of them show promise to be successful in the future."
He sees the bike expo playing an important role in making the convention center more of a destination for city residents and people from all walks of life who live in Southeast Michigan. It's something he believes is vital to Cobo's continued growth.
"This is the type of event, these are the type of organizers, that are going to help us do that as we complete our $300 million dollar renovation and rebirth of what I think is a very important cornerstone to the revival of downtown Detroit."
The Detroit Bike City show takes place at Cobo Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit their website.