While the winter winds howl this weekend, bicycling enthusiasts from across Iowa will be warm, toasty and indoors, kicking tires, planning bike trips and sampling new cycling technology. The annual Iowa Bike Expo is scheduled for Saturday at the Iowa Events Center in downtown Des Moines.
The event is being organized by Mark Wyatt, of Coralville, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. “This is our biggest bike expo ever,” Wyatt says. “We’ve got 146 vendor spaces and 50,000 square feet of bicycles, gear, events, destinations, anything you want. If you’re shopping for your summer on bicycles, this is the place you want to be.” One of this year’s seminars will focus on a hot trend in bicycling and bike tourism known as “bikepacking.”
“It’s a lot like backpacking but on bicycles,” Wyatt says. “This is becoming a big movement to do more ultralight touring, camping and going where the roads and trails won’t take you.” The weekend’s events include a conference today that’s just for engineers, city planners and other municipal officials, in an effort to teach them how to build better bike trails and other cycle-friendly features in their communities. Wyatt says Saturday night is the big event, centered on RAGBRAI, the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.
“This is our fundraising gala, our RAGBRAI announcement party,” Wyatt says. “The pinnacle of the evening is when they announce the overnight towns where RAGBRAI is going.” There will also be live music and a silent auction to raise funds for bicycling programs. The weekend includes a statewide Safe Routes to School meeting, where attendees will earn about “walking school buses” and how to start a program in their communities.
Other attractions include an Iowa Women’s Bicycling Meetup, a fashion show for bike attire and a competition showcasing hand-built bikes. Expo admission is free.