The History of the Bicycle Leadership Conference
By: PeopleForBikes Staff
For more than two decades, the BLC has gathered bicycling leaders to shape the future of the industry.
While bicycle supplier conferences focused on commercial and social aspects date back to as early as the 1960s, the Bicycle Retail Education Conference (BREC), held in Orlando, Florida, in 1995, was the first industry gathering dedicated to educating participants. Sponsored by the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA), the BREC attracted an audience of retailers and their suppliers who wanted to interact with them.
As supplier attendance grew, educational content expanded to suit both audiences. In 2001, the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (BPSA) joined with the NBDA to promote the first joint conference, renamed Bicycle Business Leadership Conference, in San Diego. Subsequent joint conferences in San Diego, Austin and Phoenix grew in popularity and attendance.
In 2008, BPSA and NBDA parted ways, citing challenges to create a single agenda that was truly helpful to both retail and supplier audiences. The now rebranded Bicycle Leadership Conference, hosted by the BPSA, went back to San Diego for 2009. In 2010, the conference moved to Monterey, California, taking place the three days before the Sea Otter Classic, the world’s largest cycling festival. Attendance increased by 50%.
“Having been involved with BLC planning for two decades, it’s great to see how attendance has steadily grown and the content has become more sophisticated,” said Ray Keener, former executive director of the BPSA who ran the first Monterey BLC in 2010. “The industry has become disconnected during COVID, and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone back together at the in-person BLC, March 21-23 in Dana Point!”
In 2019, after five years of jointly hosting the BLC, PeopleForBikes and BPSA’s organizations merged, unifying the bicycling industry advocacy organization and trade association. Today, under the stewardship of PeopleForBikes and their 160+ industry volunteer leaders on boards, subcommittees and working groups, the BLC stands as the premier bicycle industry event gathering for leaders to learn, network and grow bicycling and the bike business. The event is created by bike industry leaders for bike industry leaders to shape a brighter future for more and better bicycling nationwide.
Notable BLC Sessions Throughout the Years:
“Bikes for Transportation: Redefining Urban Mobility” — 2018
“Unconventional Marketing: Beyond Social Media and Traditional Advertising” — 2015
“Motorized Bicycles: Is it Finally Time?” — 2010
“The Rise of Cities — Urban Leaders Pave the Way for Cyclists” — 2011
“Outdoor Has Evolved — What Can We Learn From Them?” — 2017
“Leaders of the Future: How Do You Prepare?” — 2010
“Make Your Company A Great Place to Work” — 2016
“New Movements: Bringing Newcomers into Cycling” — 2015
“Supply vs. Demand — Are We Listening to the Right Signals?” — 2017
All of these sessions and more laid the groundwork for this year’s BLC, shaping up to be the best conference yet. We are meeting the moment of the pandemic-fueled bike boom of the last two years and have a spectacular lineup of leading experts from in and outside the bike industry tackling the biggest challenges and opportunities facing bicycling today.