Portland's bike culture borders on the freaky. Zoo bombers. Chunk 666. Critical Mass.
Metal junkies, one and all, these hotshots have taken over our roadways and are redefining what it means it to be a biker in P-town. Now comes word the two-wheel terrors are taking on Halloween.
Hide your children.
Way out west, past Forest Grove's McMenamins Grand Lodge, Johnson Farm sits on the shores of Henry Hagg Lake. While it may look like a set from Friday the 13th, it's actually the site for the infamous, 10th annual Cyclocross Halloween Festival.
Cyclocross is a lung- and thigh-burning sport that fills your mouth with soupy mud. It destroys almost any bike and wreaks havoc on your ego and nut sack. It's not a sport for wusses.
Now try doing it in a dress. Or dressed as the Jolly Green Giant, or a furry Care Bear.
Normally cyclocross is serious stuff. The sport started as a way for professional bikers in Europe to keep training during the cold winter months but has now become an American phenomenon. Last year, Portland was the site for the largest competitive cyclocross event in North America.
Made up of equal parts road racing, mountain biking and steeplechase, the standard cyclocross steed is basically a road bike with more clearance for knobby tires. Races usually are held on a one- to two-mile loop course and feature a battlefield of barriers, run-ups and off-camber rutted muddy corners.
The Halloween Cyclocross is like a circus sideshow as you line your bike up next to a fat Spider-Man and a straight (most likely) Tinky Winky. An air horn announces the start of each race, and for the next 45 minutes you're pedaling like you've got a grizzly on your ass.
To be the first into the trees and down the singletrack is the first goal. As you fly out of the forest and around a corner, one of the first barriers will probably cause you to stuff your mug into ankle-deep sludge. Spit and look up and you'll see Reynaldo, the Champion Mexican Wrestler, passing you. It's all in good fun.
Or is it? This is a competitive event, after all. No matter whether you are dressed as Miss Piggy or Napoleon, you still want to win the race as well one of the gag prizes (or beer) offered up as your reward.
Sounds kinda like Critical Mass, except that CM isn't about winning races but winning over converts. One of the primary goals of CM over the past decade has been to get people out of their cars. And while you may or may not agree with the method to the riders' madness, it's
likely you've witnessed one of their rides on the last Friday night of every month. That's because, just as rush hour starts to boil, it's hard to miss a mass of choppers, double-tall homemade hoopties and plain old bikes criss-crossing the streets of downtown. While every Mass ride has its share of crazy getups, this Friday just so happens to land on All Hallow's Eve. Who knows what to expect? Christmas-trimmed bikes? Drag-queen trikes? Perhaps a mobile marching band on two wheels? It will be a show, doubtless. And besides, where else in town can you bike next to a guy who looks like George W. Bush without the threat of tear gas?
To get to Johnson Creek Farms, head west on Highway 26 from Portland. Take Highway 6 exit and proceed to Highway 47. Head south on 47 through Forest Grove. Look for Hagg Lake signs. Follow CrossCrusade signs to the Farm.
Live music, barbecue, pumpkin carving and fun rides Saturday, Nov 1. Racing starts at 9:30 am Sunday, Nov. 2. Price for beginners is $17 (plus $5 for one-day license). For a full schedule of cyclocross events, check out www.crosscrusade.com
Find out about the Halloween Critical Mass ride at www.subluna.com/criticalmass/