NSFW (Not Safe For Wallet)

I found out that the North American Handmade Bicycle Show was being held in Portland. I Portland. I bike pr0n. The combination? Day trip! (Note: If you’d just prefer to skip ahead to the gallery, click here.)
Portland’s about a 3 1/2 hour fugly drive down Interstate 5. For a day trip, that’s a lot of time in the car. Last time I went (June), the mind-numbing chip seal (and getting up early) left me with a Butterfly Effect headache, as in “if a butterfly in Portland flaps its wings, my head pounds harder.”

I was very receptive to alternative means of getting there. Like… the train. Fare was slightly higher than what I’d spend on gas, but I could actually use the 7 hours for catching up on the reading/homework for the class I’m auditing then, if time permitted, play Civilization IV. Really, in that order.

The interior is spacious. Seats accommodate an average adult; there was enough spacing for me to set up my ginormous laptop; if the person in front of me had tried reclining her seat, it would have taken space away from her. For solitary travelers, they offer a preference to the single seat side of the car. There was a power outlet (!) on each side. Overhead space was big enough to stash all of my stuff.

About the time I was thinking “why don’t I do this more often?” the car filled with a burnt smell and the train stopped. Six minutes later, there were people walking the length of the train, doing a visual inspection. I felt bad for the guy on my side because just beyond the two foot bed of rocks supporting the track was a gully full of water, overflow from the last set of storms. One misstep, and he’d be swimming.

The train started up shortly thereafter. Then, an announcement:

“Hi folks. Sorry to interrupt the movie. You see we’re on the move again. We had a little, uh, emergency braking action. And we’re all… uh, we’re good. It shouldn’t delay us to our final destination. Thank you.”

My ticket included a coupon for a free beverage in the bistro two cars down. Walking through a moving train was challenging as there was no rhythm to the train rocking. I bumped into everything along the way. Apparently everybody on the train was in line for their morning coffee. The guy working the counter was not in a hurry.

Portland has an interesting feel to it.  (It was my first preference for relocation to the northwest, but the company I was interviewed had gone through a liquidation just as I was interviewing.  I ended up accepting the job in Seattle.)  Downtown is easy to traverse by foot, bike, or public transportation.

I lost my direction sheet and meandered over to Rose Center, where there was some kind of cheerleader competition going on. It briefly made me nostalgic for my alma mater:

Fight song fight
Fight song fight
Fight song fight song fight

According to MLKLifehacker, I should have been able to just text message Google for directions. I gave up when I saw the error message: “you must be under 30 to use this feature.” Plan B was to boot my laptop and use my mapping program. Bingo.

Outside the hall were a lot of funky bikes. Two dudes were on rigs that were jacked up so they sat 6′ off the ground. (Like this, but purely for show.) When I went in, they announced that people who locked their bikes to handrails should remove them before the fire department did.


Pugsley

Exhibit hall C was packed with people, many who obviously rode to the event. It’s unfortunate there was no official coat/bag check, because the many cycle commuters donning their Ortlieb Messenger Bags made it difficult to navigate. (I have a couple of Ortlieb handlebar bags — they’re great at keeping stuff dry.) Also, I would have liked to have ditched my coat.


Bilenky city bike
about $5k

The first task was to get a bearing of the place. I walked around the perimeter counter-clockwise. Vanilla‘s booth was mobbed. They do beautiful work, but with a 5+ year backlog and a healthy entry point of $2,800 just for the frame, it’s not something I could even fathom. I do wonder why he wouldn’t scale the operation. Portland seems to be a mecca for frame and paint work.


More cowbell!

I came away from the “quick” pass feeling like wood is the new carbon. I saw wooden wheels on full bikes, a Calfee made of bamboo, a hardwood-looking frame — in addition to the complete bike. There was even a wooden fixie using bull horns as its handlebars. The strangest material I saw was a bike made of chain mail, er, I mean kevlar and carbon fibre braiding. Two ladies will crochet a frame for you for $7,000. The complete bike is $12k.

Belt drive

I saw a lot more “city bikes,” or “randonneurs” (usually with a dyna hub) or porteurs (with an integrated front rack — obvious pun alert) than I’d expect at the Seattle Bike Expo, where there’s more catering to the racing.

It’s also encouraging experimenting with internally-geared hubs. Custom builders tend to lead technology. On paper, they appear to solve a lot of problems I run into during all year commuting. (Now if the dollar would stop taking a dump against other currencies, I could afford one.) There was also a carbon belt-drive bike with a Rolhoff hub and disk brakes. The newer belts are supposed to shed mud and road gunk better. (One advantage is they won’t rust, an experience I have with my chain after it dries overnight from a gentle bike rinsing.) They’re purported to last 10,000 miles. Of course, like most exotic equipment, if it breaks when you’re out on the road, you’re boned, but maybe it’s more reliable.

If I had to pick my top three bikes for my Lust List, they would be the Rene Herse (though with a wider gear range ;-), the Moots Comooter and JP Weigle’s randonneur.

—————-

I’ve been reading about bike lane “boxes.” I finally got to see one up close:

And, finally:

<Rare political commentary>

For this primary, we (in Washington state) had to declare a political party. (If you do not want to declare, your primary ballot is rejected.) The information gets sent to the two major parties, with no opportunity to ever “opt out.” The kicker is a vote in the primary either counts as half a vote or none at all. The Republican party allocates half of their delegates to the primary result, the other half to the caucus. The Democrats allocate 19 to elected officials (like governor Christine Gregoire), the rest to the caucus.

</Rare political commentary>

10 thoughts on “NSFW (Not Safe For Wallet)”

  1. Feh, you should have said something. I *live* in downtown portland. We could have had lunch, or I could have given you directions..

  2. Bike lust? I now have *train lust*! Sounds like you had a great experience with it, “emergency braking action” aside. 🙂

  3. Bike lust indeed.

    We went on Sunday and got there just as it opened. Much less crowded than the pictures I’ve seen of Saturday. WOW is all I can say. The paint on Pegoretti’s, LandShark’s and the Rue carbon fibre bike were outstanding. The Rue track pursuit blew me away. The green Signal bike was very nice, I talked with Nate and they built that one for him. I am in the market for a medium end steel bike, and they are definitly short listed, as are Co-Motion & LandShark.

  4. I was in Portland during this event the weekend of the 9-10th but didn’t get a chance to go due to visiting a friend (maybe next year if I’m into cycling that much).

    I’ve taken the train from Seattle to Portland a few times and it’s pretty good (and cheaper than catching a flight from Sea-Tac to PDX). I’ve only taken a bike with me on the Amtrak once but it was fun.

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