Bikefag PDX: What the Fuck Was I Thinking?!
One of the hassles associated with moving across the country is the inevitable: “what the fuck was I thinking?!” stage. And I gotta lay it on you straight, readers: I’m there.
What the fuck was I thinking? It rains all the time. I have no friends (not true). I’m unemployed. And I’ve got a serious alternative cyclist inferiority complex:
I make it out to be pretty grave, though, readers.
So leave your cares behind. Come with me and find. The pleasures of a journey to the center of the alternative cyclist’s mind.
It all started in Fort Collins back on March 31st when Dad and I loaded up the Subaru and I hit the road.
I only made it to Boulder that day, but the next day I drove into a terrifyingly strong headwind, uphill, over the Continental Divide, to mountain bike mecca Fruita. I’d met a guy about a week earlier by the name of Cale Wenthur. Cale’s a real kindred spirit – sort of like a financially-stable version of me. We’re both about 5’8″/130. Both 29 years old. And we’re both moving across the country. We’re both mountain mountain bikers, although Cale is about the most Euro mountain biker I’ve ever met.
Cale started one of the raddest-kitted teams in history – Team Pegasus out of Milwaukee – and now he’s leaving it all behind to drive a van (you should really check out his van) across the country to San Diego. He’ll probably be experiencing a strong sense of “what the fuck was I thinking?” soon, but more power to him.
Anyway, Cale and I rode Fruita’s incredible trails for two days, guided by Aspen Street Coffee owner Tommy. Tommy is an absolute shredder on the technical stuff. He’s been doing it for years. And he rides exclusively on flat pedals, wearing Vans slip-ons (former BMXer). I was very lucky to have such a radical guide (wish I’d have taken a picture).
Here are some photos that I stole from Cale:
Fruita easily lives up to the hype. And I definitely wish I could beam there at least once a week to get sunburned and have screaming bike-gasms on their incredible trails.
I drove through Salt Lake City and Boise (and enjoyed both more than I thought I would) on my way to my to my next shredding destination: Bend, OR.
Bend was a little more “northwestern” feeling, despite it being called “high desert” (sort of laughable to a Coloradoan when it’s only 3,500 ft. high and raining..).
I’ll have to revisit Bend during the summer, as I couldn’t see any of the scenery and it was just sort of wet. But they had a great coffee shop called Thump, a great friend of mine named Erin, and a great shredder from Fort Collins named Todd Chance:
The really good trails in Bend were still snowed-in, but Todd and I managed to catch a window of decent weather and some dry trails on Horse Ridge. It was sort of mediocre mountain biking – a bunch of sandy volcano dirt that sort of makes noise as you ride on it, interspersed with jagged black rocks. But the downhill made up for everything – straight down the fall-line along a little ravine where you can go as fast as you have the balls for. I wanted to ride another lap immediately afterward!
Todd and I were both brand new to Oregon, so still repping Fort Collins.
I was forced to leave my cocoon of Fort Collins friend comfort and head into the big bad world of Portland the next day, where I pulled into town at 5pm, then raced the cat. 3/4 PIR Circuit Race at 6:30.
There’s nothing like racing a bike to make everything else in the world – financial worries, feelings of loneliness, bad weather, and really anything else – disappear for a little while.
And the Portland bike racing scene is really good.
I managed to race three times in the first week: PIR that first night; a 56-mile road race on a beautiful, rolling loop outside Corvallis on Saturday; and a hilarious mud-fest mountain bike race on Sunday. Here’s what I looked like afterward:
I have a lot to say about my:
First impressions of the Oregon bike racing scene.
First, the weather fucking sucks. I’ve barely ridden other than the races I’ve done because it’s rained every day other than one (I guess this stops at some point?). I knew going into this that the weather would suck, but I guess I still didn’t think it was real – like I could somehow bargain with the rain once I got here. Well, it’s real. However my first rainy road ride the other day was pretty fun. You feel like a badass riding in the rain. And most of the time the rain is passing and it’s sunny for 20 minutes, then cloudy for 20 minutes, then lightly raining for 20 minutes, etc. Once I get the gear and get used to it, I might just grow to love it.
Second, there are so many people that got into cycling from some sort of fixed-gear or skateboarding background. Cycling is definitely not the mostly-squares-from-the-suburbs sport that it is in Colorado. Also, the racers in Oregon mostly live in Portland, unline in Colorado where they mostly live in Boulder or other smaller/more suburban places (again, this is a first impression here, confirmed a little bit by looking at OBRA results). I’ve gotta tell you, doggs: it’s quite comforting to go to PIR and see a bunch of dudes with ironic mustaches racing in the pro/1/2 race. I mean there’s no way to really get at this without sounding really lame, but there is no doubt about it: the bike racers in Oregon are on average significantly cooler than the bike racers in Colorado. Sorry, CO…
Another thing is that the bike racers are more friendly here in Oregon. The way you say hi to somebody in a cat. 4 road race in Colorado is by glaring at them. But during my first road race last weekend, several people sidled up next to me in the peloton and introduced themselves. It was totally weird, and clearly a common-enough practice. I really liked it. Out of about 100 roadies, there was only one jackass repeatedly yelling at everyone to “pull through!”
The mountain bike scene looked equally rad. The race on Saturday was long and hard (like your dad), and I only went to Sunday’s race because I’m trying to court a team called Trusty Switchblade. They have really awesome team kits, and they’re sponsored by a really awesome shop, 21st Avenue Bicycles - a shop with a really awesome mechanic Amanda who has an awesome Production Company/blog called Backyard Blam. I definitely want a piece of this action (the shop, not the mechanic, pervz).
But I’m really glad I raced. The course would have been fairly wack, but the rain made the whole thing very entertaining and hilarious - especially for me with no skills in the mud, and some large-volume, low-tread-profile tires that acted as gigantic mud-pontoons. After half a lap, I understood why so many people were riding either thin-ass mud tires or cyclocross tires on their 29ers. I was riding plenty strong on the opening climb and start lap, settling into second place and opening up a little gap on the guys behind me. Then I crashed dramatically on a downhill mud chute and had to spend two minutes getting my front brake to function again. I thought of dropping out, but continued along, passing single-speeder after single-speeder. I improved dramatically at riding on slick northwest mud after two laps, and settled into a good groove of slowly cornering and running down the mud chutes. I found out I finished 8th out of 25, so I registered in the next race of this series and I’m making a goal of racing most of the single-speed races in this series.
There’s no substitute to knowing everyone in town, though, and I really miss my home racing scene in Fort Collins. I know that it only took a season or two to get to know everyone, and it’ll happen here, but for Christ’s sake can’t we just skip the “get to know you” phase and get straight to the “broing out” phase, Portland?!”
But there’s only one way to get in, and that’s by showing up and broing down!
I’ll talk more about not having a job and not being cooler than everyone else later on, but for now check out this awesome ride that I’m gonna do on Sunday:
You see what I’m saying about this town having a rad racing scene?