I "Heart" The Heartland

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I’ve heard it said that Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between. The view from my new office seems to bear this out. If you know me, then you know that I use the term “office” very loosely. I am currently working out of a hotel room outside of Williamsport. Wild turkeys, elk and porcupines abound, nearby. Although there’s something to be said for having a home sweet home, I could also make a case for the awesomeness of housekeeping, free printing, fresh cookies daily and living out of a suitcase! And I know it could be worse- at least I don’t have to sleep in a subway sleeping bag!

Presently, I’m knee deep in The Heartland Velo Show (August 27 & 28, the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.) This will be the first show that I am overseeing from start to finish. This one is really my “baby”. So, don’t tell me it’s ugly, even if I scotch tape a bow to its little bald head! I announced the Heartland Velo Show right before NAHBS, and it’s picking up speed. Sponsorships, exhibitors and other participants keep rolling in. The Midwest connection to the bicycle industry dates back to the turn of the 20th century and Madison boasts a vibrant, thriving cycling community today. The Alliant Energy Center is only 2 miles from downtown via the bike paths, and I feel really good about my choice of location and venue.

The Heartland Velo Show isn’t going to be just about framebuilders showing off their stuff to each other, though we’ll have plenty of that, and in the nicest way, of course! For this event, we’ll be emphasizing history and how-to. I’ve already got Richard Schwinn all set to make a presentation entitled “Schwinn Paramount – Handbuilt Legend”. Richard is such lively speaker and a larger-than-life presence. His appearance at San Diego had people spilling out into the hallway, so many wanted to hear him.
Since announcing the show, I’ve added a concours d’elegance to the mix, and there’s going to be a raffle of two wheelsets from Rolf Prima. There will be yoga instruction for cyclists taught by Diane Lees of HubBub Custom Bicycles. Eugene, Oregon’s Co-Motion Cycles will present a seminar on tandems (still working on the specifics!); my dad, Stephen Bilenky of Bilenky Cycle Works, is going to give a talk on “The Framebuilders’ Family Tree”, (all the intricacies of who started where and where they are now); and Mary Elizabeth of San Francisco’s alloneword will conduct a workshop on “The Care and Feeding of Wool Cycling Apparel”. Those pesky critters can be so temperamental! And on top of all that, Madison’s own Banjo Bicycles will host a framebuilders’ open house, and will sponsor a ride to the show. There will also be a Saturday night party at Williamson Bicycle Works in downtown Madison.

One of our most instructive and novel exhibitions will be courtesy of Doug Fattic, of Niles, Michigan. Doug has trained and educated several hundred new framebuilders since he began his framebuilding school. At the Heartland Velo Show, Fattic will braze a frameset in a live instructional presentation of the craft.

One of the challenges I have to deal with is coming up with a cohesive mission statement for the Heartland Velo Show. I’m hoping that by having something definitive in writing, I’ll be able to point out what the show is and isn’t to anyone who wants to know. So far I’ve picked out some bullet points:

- Preservation of the Midwest’s rich bicycle heritage

- Focus on framebuilders

- Making other artisans of bicycle lifestyle products feel welcome

- Embracing the entire spectrum of cycling culture

- Showcasing friendly, affordable, creators

- Making sure to invite companies both large and small

- Cooperation/non-competition

- Promoting the craft

- Sharing knowledge with each other and the public (teach and learn)

Maybe I’ll make those into magnets, throw them at a refrigerator, and create a poem. I’m really into poetry right now.


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