17 August 2010

Bikeless No Longer in Portland, Oregon


I picked up a copy of the latest edition of Road Bike Action for reading on the plane back to Tokyo ... and it happened to have a special on the Masi Grand Criterium, the bike that I rented last week (looks like the article it is not yet available on the RBA website, but RBA seems like a nice find -- though a bit too much U.S. focus for many Positivistas).  I am not one of those cyclists who was originally inspired by the 1979 movie "Breaking Away" (nominated for the "Best Picture" and other Academy Awards and on many "top 10" lists of inspirational sports films), but the article notes the great pedigree of the Masi Grand Criterium --  made famous originally when the 1978 model was lusted after and ridden by the star in Breaking Away.  The article also points out that a Masi Grand Criterium really should be red, not blue like the one I rented ... just as a Bianchi should be celeste green, a Gios should be cobalt blue, Cervelo black and white, and a Colnago should have a beautiful, multi colored paint job.


After 4-5 days of what the Japanese refer to as "family service" (mixed with "client service" via laptop and some clothes shopping for the next year or so in Tokyo), I stopped by Veloce Bicycles on Thursday in Portland and rented a road bike for the week.  They rent a very serviceable Masi bike (aluminum frame, carbon fork and seat/chain stays, SRAM Rival shifters/derailleurs, Shimano Sora compact crank and Ritchey wheels, bars/stem etc.) for $150 a week.  That'll do!  Why don't more bike shops rent out decent road bikes?  I don't know, but this is one area where a good directory by geography is still needed, I think.  Demitri, the co-owner, said that he has always wanted to tour in Japan by bicycle, so I strongly encouraged him to do so.

After a spin in the area outside Lake Oswego/West Linn near my Dad's house (including a couple of nasty, short hills) on Friday, I joined a Saturday morning ride -- one of about 15-20 each week sponsored by the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club.  They had a 3-day ride at the Oregon Coast, but still a regular "metric century" ride of 100 km near town.  Around 12 persons showed up by 7AM Saturday at a light rail "park and ride" lot on the outskirts of Portland, crossed into Washington State (over a bike path running across a long bridge in the middle of 10 lanes of traffic, complete with concrete barriers and chain link fence).  At first I thought I would get very frustrated with the pace, but once we got across the bridge things picked up.  On the first real hill, I was 2nd rider in the group as we neared the bottom, but immediately 5-6 riders passed me as they attacked the hillside, while I downshifted way, way down and started my plodding climb.  At least I could pass two of them again just by holding a steady pace all the way to the top ... and on the downhill on the other side, no contest.  We had a pleasant ride through the hills and flatlands of eastern Clark County Washington, a mix of forest, agriculture, and subdivisions, maybe 105-110 km in all.  The most prominent manmade features of the area were at least 4-5 huge public high schools, the best landmarks on the cue sheet/map.

We stopped for coffee (16 oz latte!) and food (in my case, a great "breakfast burrito" with fluffy egg, hashed brown potatos, salsa and sausage inside a soft tortilla -- a huge improvement on the 7 11 version from Takao) at the town of Battle Ground, Washington.  I had always thought of this part of rural Washington (and the adjacent areas East of Portland in Oregon) as strictly "bible belt" -- full of born again Christians attending church, doing adult baptisms, and trying to convert the rest of us.  So I was pleased to see that at least one church had been converted into a coffee shop -- the cross remaining in place on the steeple.

Two riders who I spoke with worked for the local government, one in the City of Portland's "planning and sustainability" function, and another an economist in the Water Bureau, in charge of cost-benefit analysis of their capital expenditure programs.  (Portland has GREAT tap water, from the Bull Run Reservoir on the western slopes of Mt. Hood.  ... then again, Tokyo tap water ain't too bad in recent years).  One of the stronger riders was a woman triathlete.  She said she had taught English in Kobe from 1991 to 1996 ... but did not know Jerome B., who may have overlapped.

After a turn around at Battle Ground Lake State Park, we started a longer down hill stretch.  When I got to the turn off at the bottom of the hills, I looked back ... no one in sight.  Soon Eric (the Water Bureau economist) showed up, but no others after 5 minutes.  We assumed they had decided to follow the cue sheet, instead of take the alternate route that had been suggested during our stop.  So we pressed on, eventually doing several detours of a mile or so back and forth to see if we could find the rest of the group.  Then we headed for home as a well matched 2-person team.  We made good speed and were at the cars before the others, despite our detours.  They pulled up just as I was about to drive away -- apparently 2 flats had slowed them down.

Saturday was the hottest day of the year around here (98 degrees high temp in Portland -- 36.67 degrees celsius).  But it was a dry heat, and no problem for riding, especially after the oven that is Tokyo.  Nicer summer weather.  Nice bike lanes.  ... nicer than the trip out of Tokyo as far as Takao/Itsukaichi, but not nearly as nice scenery as the countryside that lays beyond, in the mountains outside Tokyo.

I apologize to all for not having my P.E. jersey with me -- I really did not expect to ride, and so was not prepared to add to our "global domination" series of photos.  On the other hand, I acquired a great Mavic orange, reflective short sleeve jersey that you will see upon my return to Tokyo.  In fact, you will all see it from 1000 meters away as you approach, in any level of light.  So at least on Saturday I could carry on Jerome's tradition of the "orange bullet."

1 comment:

mob said...

Portland definitely looks like a nice place to ride a bicycle. In particular a nice bike like the Masi.

I am still waiting for my new bike to be assembled. This is Germany and not Japan, so when I called the bike shop yesterday and asked if I could pick-up my bike (one day after the agreed date), I was told that it isn't ready yet, but pobably it will be ready by the end of the week.


Well, they didn't know and anyway they will give me call, so I shouldn't bother to call them.

Considering emigration to Brazil to escape the call back.