Tuesday, December 6, 2011

PDX Love/Hate

I complain a lot about moving to Portland. It's a big city and I'm a small city guy. It's not as bad as Seattle, San Francisco, or any other big west coast city, but it's still a big city. The riding is good - for a big city. Which means that compared to Eugene or Corvallis (or even Salem), it pretty much sucks. The bike commuting is decent - except that it's soaking wet in the winter and the sheer size of the city makes biking from, say, Sellwood to NW PDX just a miserable affair. You may not get run over, but you'll be riding for a good long while.

The racing culture up here is strange as well. Portland is well known for being a bike Mecca - and it really is. There are bikes everywhere. There are more bike shops than you can shake a stick at, and there are thousands of riders who kit up every weekend in their best team kit and go pile on the miles. But at the same time, there's this really weird sort of vibe to it - it's clique-ish, kind of stuck-up and a touch inauthentic.

Here's a little list of my likes/dislikes with Portland cycling:

Like: Bike friendly coffee shops. Like the Ugly Mug in Sellwood, on my way home - just lean the bike against the window and go inside. Or Marsee Baking, where I have wheeled my cross bike inside while getting a bagel and coffee.

Dislike: Coffee shop rides all winter. OK, one or two are nice, but you won't find fitness at 15mph all winter while talking about racing. I miss the CSC rides in Eugene - hard endurance and race up the hills if you want to. So I go ride above conversation pace alone.

Like: Plenty of other people to ride with.

Dislike: No real open group rides, like CSC. It's all just team rides, emails every week coordinating events, negotiating pace, etc. In Eugene, it's just a matter of deciding if I'm going to the 8:30 Sat/Sun CSC ride or not, and seeing who shows up. No BS. Anyone who wants to ride hard can, and anyone who wants to sit in can. All are welcome. That doesn't exist in PDX, and they are slower for it.

Like: Races are closer.

Dislike: Portlanders still don't like to travel. Dorks. OBRA Championships had less than 30 guys this year.

Like: I always get a team to show up at PIR. Biggest OBRA race I ever did: PIR, with 120 guys. Wait... considering the above, that's kind of lame.

Dislike: PIR. Seriously, people, get over it. Y'all take some stupid risks considering it's the second-widest race course in the US (20 man pile-ups on a Tuesday night? Really?). You guys also treat it like a championship race, which it isn't. There's some serious negative racing out there. It's a Tuesday. It's for training. Ride your balls off, people. It'll make you faster for when you go race out of the city limits... oh wait, you don't.

Like: Saltzman road gravel climb.

Dislike: Everyone's obsession with gravel, Flanders, and talking about how Belgian it is to ride in the rain. No, it's not. It's Portland. And Belgians don't have bird tatoos on their necks, so get over it and go ride somewhere you won't find yourself changing a flat in 38F rain. You're not Belgium, Portland.

Like: Skyline road. The easiest way to get into "real" riding (i.e. not braking for lights ever minute)

Dislike: Skyline road. It's the easiest way out of town but I seem to ride it so damn much that it gets old. I want five more Skylines, going out in multiple directions.

Like: Springwater Corridor. OK, so I live right off of the corridor, but this is a pretty sweet trail that takes you straight out of town or along the water north and south. It's a relatively quick way out - except of course that it's like 12 miles until you are out of the city, and even then there's traffic.

Dislike: Sellwood Bridge. Just google it, along with the word "collapse". Bloody stupid, and you have to ride on the narrow sidewalk or dodge traffic.

Like: My team. Good guys. Funny. Race hard. No excuses.

Dislike: Rapha. Not the team, the company and everything it stands for. It's like W+K decided to design a bike company. Get. Over. Yourselves. Black shorts and pink stripes never made anyone faster. And stop talking about coffee like you have a fetish - we all like the juice, etc etc, go ride your bike.

Like: JVA, aka "Jen Voigt's Army", and more specifically this: http://internationale.teamjva.com/ since it's the anti-Rapha. This is awesome.

That'll do it for now. I've got to kit up and strap some lights on for the half-hour-plus commute home. Because Portland is awesome like that. But it at least gives me some time to consider how I'm going to crush all fools at PIR next season. Maybe I'll tell the wife that the commute was "epic" and "Belgian" before chugging some beers and drifting off into sleep, dreaming of birds who make fair-trade espresso.

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