Portland’s bike scene is a cogset of many sprockets.
If any great insight has come from the months we spent compiling Willamette Week’s first glossy Bike Guide, it’s just how many moving parts make up our cycle culture. From a distance, this city’s horde of cyclists may look like a single piece of machinery. Get closer, though, and you find it’s a layered stack of separate gears. Some of those gears are large and some are small. Most people shift between two or three, but very few use the whole range.
We like to think of this publication as a derailleur of sorts—an efficient little gadget that helps keep your chain on track and hopefully lets you shift smoothly when you’re ready to tackle a new route.
The first section of this guide is intended as a handy resource for finding where to go when you need new rain pants or technical advice from someone who knows a lot more than we do. Because although the writers who worked on this guide are avid cyclists—about half of this newspaper’s staff bikes to work—none of us has ever rebuilt a wheel. That’s led us to patronize a large swath of this city’s bike shops, and we’ve written about our favorites for different types of bicyclist. We also compiled a full directory of Portland’s 60-odd bike shops, listing what they sell, what they repair and how much they charge to fix a flat.
Second, we want to expand your familiarity with those lesser-used gears. So, after tackling the Urbanist culture that dominates and defines Portland cycling, we downshift to the smaller groups pumping up Oregon’s muddy trails, sprinting around the velodrome, tailwhipping local skateparks and doing the yeoman’s work of maintaining optimum weirdness through weekend bike polo matches.
Along the way, we’ll introduce you to six people who epitomize different aspects of what it means to be a Portland cyclist and then give you some ways to get involved in each scene.
No matter how many group rides you did during last year’s Pedalpalooza, how impressive your time on the Ronde PDX (the toughest ride in town) or how many times you’ve pedaled out to the coast on logging roads, there’s something about this city’s bike culture that’ll amaze you.
Like the fact this city not only has the most active cyclocross series in the entire world, but we’re now just a short drive from both the largest mountain bike trail system on federal land in the country and the nation’s largest covered skatepark. Oh, and you can ride while dressed head-to-toe in local gear printed with the pattern of Portland International Airport’s beloved carpet. If that doesn’t get you excited to hop in the saddle, well, maybe you’re more the scooter type. —Martin Cizmar