Portland's new BikeTown share system (pronounced BY-kee-town) officially launched July 20. And while we're certain that a number of Portlanders plan to pay $12 a month plus miles to use it for their daily commute, most users will be tourists or locals who'd rather pick up a random bike immediately than wait for a cab. Which is to say, impatient drunks who are not too drunk.
And so we decided to test BikeTown—with all its many flaws and virtues—with a bar crawl. We got $12 day passes and took BikeTown bikes on an eight-hour tour plotted to get us to the vastest possible array of bars located within one block of a BikeTown station, from the low-down diviest dive in Portland (the graffiti by the pinball machine reads "Never challenge a lesbian at finger games!") to its bougiest basement cocktail bar (amaretto sour, $14).
If you have guests visiting Portland and want to experience everything this city's bar scene has to offer, saddle up and ride this 8.3-mile route.
Because what's a bar crawl without at least one McMenamins…
2290 NW Thurman St., 971-202-7256, mcmenamins.com/bottleshop.
Get some cheap happy-hour bourbon cocktails…
2075 NW Glisan St., 503-222-1056, popehouselounge.com.
On the way to Portland's sunniest happy-hour whiskey porch—home to $5 cocktails in the afternoon—one of our riders was asked by a guy on the street whether she worked for BikeTown. Apparently, he wasn't willing to believe we'd ride one without being paid to do so. Meanwhile, a car on Northrup angrily lurched past a stop sign at us, repeatedly, in an apparent passive-aggressive anti-bike-share protest. We dinged our bells all the way up the street, located way too conveniently on the left handlebar. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.
Or, perhaps, the city's most refined cocktails…
1015 NW Everett St., 503-445-8109, teardroplounge.com.
We discovered our first BikeTown compatriot. The etiquette appears to be to raise your fist at the other orange biker and yell, "BIKEYTOWN!" Anyway, that's what we did while coasting down broad, bike-laned Everett Street en route to the teardrop-shaped bar where some of the city's finest mixologists serve alcoholic egg whites to makers of phone apps. The brand-new bikes ride smooth, and the seats are so sit-up they feel like Cruisers despite being funny 8-speeds. MK.
Or its most refined Long Island Iced Tea…
407 SW 10th Ave., 503-546-8537, pepelemokopdx.com.
Somehow, a celebrity gawking feels better when you're on one of six bright orange touristy bikes with embarrassing swooshes on them. Sam "Lebowski Cowboy" Elliott and I exchanged waves on 11th Avenue, just north of Burnside. I was on a dorky orange bike with a huge molded metal orange basket. Would we look more or less cool with a striped paper straw, in a chi-chi basement bar serving oysters and $14 grasshoppers to Japanese tourists? MK.
Drink Pabst at the Pabstiest bar in Oregon…
223 SW Yamhill St., 503-295-6613.
Despite its grizzled facade, the Yamhill Pub is a very friendly working-class bar with every wall covered with an amount of graffiti straight out of a 1970s NYC subway car, the bar filled with middle-aged men enjoying pitchers of PBR while old kung fu movies play silently on the television. The Yamhill is the state's leader in PBR sales, with a gentleman at the bar informing us the pub blows through 18 kegs a week, down from a peak of 26. After a round of pints and two $1 bags of microwave popcorn—an extravagant expenditure that earned a shout of "High rollers!!!" from the bartender—we were on our way to the waterfront for our next stop. WALKER MACMURDO.
Total bike ride time from McMenamins Tavern and Pool: 33 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 103.
Bask on the city's most famous beer patio…
1216 SE Divison St., 503-273-9227, apexbar.com.
Biking Waterfront Park en route to the bridge crossing was the most touristy we felt on the neon Swooshmachines. One person yelled, "We don't use turn signals here!" for some reason, and three groups of people took photos of us. A wrong turn also left us carrying the heavy bikes up a bark-chip path; BikeTown bikes are not great for off-roading, it turns out, though their large wheels tackle MAX tracks better than most.
When we got to the Tilikum, we had our second celebrity sighting of the day—the large-testicled horses of Cavalia—plus, the most open-road, clear-skied experience of the day. When I finally got to Apex, I locked my bike directly in front, not realizing that each time you lock a bike to a non-BikeTown rack, it charges you $2—there was a rack just a block away. We'd done the same at the Yamhill Pub, where there were absolutely no empty racks to lock to. Also, a left brake lever failed. Anyway, on Apex's sweltering patio, some in our group traded tastes of obscure rose-hipped Mikkeller and imported Ayinger—and for some reason two writers started a list of "what's cool right now" that included ketamine, the obese cat licking its belly on the patio, and the internet of late 2014. I liked my Pallet Jack. SOPHIA JUNE.
Ride time from Yamhill Pub: 45 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 168.
Get basic at the High Dive…
1406 SE 12th Ave, 503-384-2285. thehighdivepdx.com
The marathon ride to Apex left me sweating through my jeans, so when it came time to embark once more, I and two others succumbed to the heat and cheated by riding 0.6 miles in a car to the blissfully cool, dimly lit High Dive. The unfussy midrange hangout's corrugated metal façade gives the exterior a kind of "Etsy pool shack" vibe that isn't entirely compatible with the pseudo-Twin Peaks interior, but the quiet and the cool made it an ideal location to explore such pressing questions as which member of the company was more of a Carrie Bradshaw versus which was Marnie Michaels. Generations clashed until the Jell-O shots. GRACE CULHANE.
Ride time from Apex: 3 minutes. Estimated calories burned: For me? Zero.
Worship at the House of sours…
939 SE Belmont St., 503-265-8603, cascadebrewing.com.
Out in front of the barrel house, a woman was measuring the BikeTown bike racks with a tape measure—frustratedly losing her place as the tape scraped along the street. And maybe it was all the sour beers or the salty pickles, but the conversation turned acerbic at Cascade Barrel House. Should I have told my boss the political candidate he supports is a warmonger? Perhaps not. I swigged the Bing blanc, which tasted like cherry pie, and high-fived the Berkeley-grad intern who was the only person at the table sufficiently concerned about the impending Mad Max hellscape arriving at the hands of the capitalists. ZACH MIDDLETON.
Ride time from the High Dive: 3 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 16.8.
Get local with 99 Oregon beer taps…
710 SE 6th Ave., 503-235-8272, loyallegionpdx.com.
It seems the later in the day we got, the more bikes in each rack had little messages that read, "Bike in Repair." Unable to get the full number we needed, we ended up walking the few blocks to Loyal Legion, home to the longest Oregon beer menu in all Portland, plus sausages and air conditioning. Nearby, I picked up some cowboy boots on the sidewalk—perfectly wearable and somehow utterly abandoned. Perhaps they once belonged to Sam Elliott? MK.
Eat jackfruit tacos at the city's ultimate hipster patio…
600 E Burnside St., 503-236-4536, rontoms.net.
It's less than half a mile uphill from Loyal Legion's halls to Rontoms, but at this point it was too much effort. BikeTown's caloric tracker says this ride burned 15 calories, the equivalent of 1.5 almonds or 2.5 jelly beans. Instead, we opted for jackfruit tacos and vodka sodas. The bamboo-lined patio is perpetually filled with Zooey Deschanel look-alikes and tattooed brand ambassadors. It's not a place you want to be seen sore and sweaty, but any self-consciousness was easily fixed with gin. ENID SPITZ.
Ride time from Loyal Legion: 5 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 15.
Tipple a tiki drink at a refurbished dive…
1430 NE Sandy Blvd., 503-235-7972.
By 6:30 pm, a blanket of clouds was forcing hot, wet air down on our remaining posse as we pedaled up Sandy. I realized—swearing, aggrieved—that I'd found my third consecutive bike unequipped with a functioning fifth gear. Sandy Hut is a dank, denlike dive that serves tiki drinks and barrels of rum. I ordered the Sandy Sling, a towering glass of fruit and booze based on the Hunter S. Thompson standby. My companion was mystified that I'd managed to find an $8 cocktail during happy hour, then noted that the man playing pool behind me looked precisely like every divorced deadbeat dad from '90s movies. ZM.
Ride time from Rontoms: 5 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 22.
Drink wildly alcoholic patio slushies at the ultimate Portland neighborhood bar….
14 NE 22nd Ave., 503-233-4181.
By now, almost no one was left of our crew. Two of us pulled our bikes from the racks by Voodoo Doughnut and pedaled aimlessly on our busted fifth gears to the city's cheapest and friendliest patio bar for viciously alcoholic and wonderful creamsicle slushies—only $4, with enough vodka to get the same chemical tang as an actual old-school Creamsicle. Outside, a couple punched endlessly, confusedly at the locking keypad of a bike whose orange was less creamsicle, more Nike (RGB 233, 88, 20, according to the Nike brand guide). One try, two tries, three, but they couldn't figure it out and lost interest. No BikeTown for you. MK.
Ride time from the Handy Slut: 3 minutes. Estimated calories burned: 15.