Portland Bike Blog - Portland Bike Tours and Rentals

Just in time for Christmas, Old Town Businesses Celebrate new crosswalks

The Old Town Business Committee celebrated the installation of a new crosswalk at the intersection of NW 2nd ave and NW Couch st. at their monthly meeting on Thursday, praising the work of the Portland Bureau of Transportation and looking forward to more to come.

“These pedestrian improvements are critical to neighborhood safety- not only for local residents and business employees, but also for our customers in Old Town this Holiday season and throughout the year” said local Bike Shop owner Evan Ross of Cycle Portland, who sits on the business committee and who’s business is a stones throw from the newly improved intersection.

Old Town is going through a serious transformation and has had a significant increase in pedestrian traffic after the opening of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine campus and with an increase in housing units from projects like the Rick Block Apartments redevelopment. Other middle income housing projects are under way in the old Ericson Saloon building and will continue to bring more foot traffic to the neighborhood.

Several more projects either in their permitting stages or under construction will continue to increase the population in the neighborhood, including the development of a new 5 story mixed use building in the “L” shaped lot directly adjacent to the OCOM campus along with two other hotel projects in the neighborhood including the Society Hotel and the Grove Hotel project.

“I think local business owners are starting to raise their collective voice on topics surrounding safety and livability concerns in the neighborhood after years of frustration with high speed traffic coming off the Burnside Bridge unnecessarily risking peoples lives. This is a simple, cost- effective improvement that will make a big difference” says Ross.

Local businesses took center stage this fall by working with Better Block PDX- a coalition of individuals that have come together to create inviting and interactive places that challenge the notion that streets are only for cars – to facilitate a successful street re-design experiment on NW 3rd Ave that improved pedestrian access to businesses. The experiment was born out of the desire from local businesses to create a safer neighborhood while exploring alternatives to the current Entertainment District street closure. The current barricade design has created a noticeable difference in safety, but also a significant drop in revenue as reported by the Old Town Hospitality Committee, a group consisting of local bar and restaurant owners in the neighborhood.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has green-lighted the installation of several more crosswalks in the area, including the intersection of NW 2nd and NW Davis along with having just installed a new stop sign at the intersection of NW 3rd and NW Davis St. One of the only neighborhoods in downtown to lack adequate crosswalks, this will enhance the street-scape in a positive way for all users and create a safe space for holiday shoppers to explore a neighborhood going through a true renaissance.

 

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Utropstecken! Cycle Portland media love from the Swedes

Similarly grey winters, exquisite edibles, and a love for urban exploration by bike.

Portland and the Swedes are a match made in impeccably-designed heaven, and our counterparts across the pond agree!

Cycle Portland has been named a must-experience from the ünderbar writers at Hallen, a Swedish foodie travel magazine! You can check out the spread from the magazine here: Hallen-Sweden-FallWinter 2014.

And you, too, can share the microbrews, culinary creations, history, and exploration with friends and family all over the globe – Cycle Portland gift cards are available here!

 

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Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter Pannier Review: Style In The Streets

The Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier exhibits itself as a hip urban bag capable of getting you through your city pursuits, whilst keeping your cargo safely out of the elements. Here in Portland, we put a lot of wear and tear on our equipment, and in case you didn’t know, it also rains every now and then. I took the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier for a two month test ride, using it daily through everything Portland could throw at me. Was this stylish pannier up to the task?

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Sporting a capacity of around 17l, the Commuter punches in much smaller than other panniers I’ve tried to date. For my usual day-to-day I’ve grown accustomed to Ortlieb’s spacious 40l back-roller Classic. At less than half my normal size, it definitely took some getting used to. One thing I really liked was that though it *technically* only supports up to 15in notebooks, I was able to fully insert my 17in Macbook into the laptop sleeve without an issue – this is something I cannot say about my regular Ortliebs. This is likely due to the Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter having a rectangular bottom, wheras the Ortliebs are tapered. This gives it a less “dorky” look, and really gels with the aesthetics and design of the rest of the bag. When I initially started riding, I was concerned the rectangular dimensions would lead to heel strike issues (I ride a 26in Surly Long Haul Trucker). I found that on my rack I could space the pannier back enough that it wasn’t an issue, however I could definitely see this being problematic on a bike that was smaller than 54cm, or has short chainstays – check first to make sure.

 

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Though Thule is relatively new at making panniers, you can tell they put a lot of thought into their “Urban” design. Some neat features include a hidden exterior pocket for cellphone/wallet, and 1-way fabric on the exterior that lets you stash a light that can be visible when on, and hidden when off so that your lights don’t get nicked. (though I’d advocate that if you were depending on this feature to keep your light safe, you should really be worried about them running off with your whole bag.) This brings me to what I consider to be the most problematic part of the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter – It’s attachment system.

Thinking outside of the norm, Thule tackled a problem that almost all panniers suffer from – getting poked in the back by the attachment system when using the bag over the shoulder, or as a backpack. Thule’s flip-panel solves this solution nicely by having one side that is smooth metal, and one side containing the attachments. This solution does suffer a weight penalty as it puts more “bulk” into the bag, and as a trade-off requires you to use an attachment system that I’m not a big fan of.

 

Horizontal slots, while neat in theory, have been executed poorly in this iteration of Thule’s Commuter. If you’re used to simply placing your pannier at the side of your rack, letting it slide down to the tune of two satisfying “clicks” as it locks into place, you can think again. The first week I used the bag found me grumbling as I struggled to align both attachments in the dark, rainy night, only to have one of them “connect” and then have to reset the whole bag to get the other. I did get better at judging the angle over time, however this system is on the whole less functional than vertical hook type attachments such as the Ortliebs. After about a month, I started to feel like the bag was feeling “loose” while on the bike, so when I got to the shop, I turned it over only to find that one of the screws holding the hook had started to unthread. If it had unthreaded en-route, My laptop, and camera may have ended up in the road. It was not confidence inspiring. When I threaded the screw back in, I found that I could not find that perfect harmony between “to tight so hooks won’t work” and “loose enough the hooks work, but bolt doesn’t un-thread”. Whatever tension setting Thule used from the factory makes the hooks swivel perfectly, if they could add some blue loctite to the screw threads, to stop them from de-threading, I think this would go a long way. As for me, I never could find that “like new” action, and have resorted to forcefully “coaxing” the bag onto my rack since then.

My final gripe about the attachment system is that they did not include a “wear-bar”, and third attachment on the back side. Almost all of the bags that I know of include a plastic bar at the bottom that interfaces with the hard metal of the rack. This allows the bar, instead of the fabric to take the constant beating from rubbing back and forth on the rack. The Thule has no such bar, and thus wear-and-tear is inflicted onto the fabric itself. Over the course of two months, a significant wear pattern exhibited itself on the bag. Nothing broke through, but I wonder about the longevity of the fabric in this configuration. (My guess is that Thule didn’t include a wear bar so that the bag was more comfortable in “backpack/shoulder bag mode” with the included strap.) With no third attachment point, the ride characteristic of the Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter is left wanting.

A third attachment point keeps the bag close/locked to the side of the bike while going over bumps, or into steep turns. Without that, I’d liken the experience of riding over bumps with the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal to riding with flubber attached to your bike. As soon as you hit a large enough bump (there are plenty) the bag swings out, then bangs back into the rack, causing frame wobble, and at times steering trouble. This exhibited during a spell of Portland’s icy weather, when going over a (usually) harmless speed bump on the Hawthorne Bridge caused my bike to swing out from under me due to the side load of the swinging bag. I was fortunately able to recover the fall, but this oversight on bag design could have easily taken an inattentive, or inexperienced rider to the ground.

If you use this primarily in shoulder pack configuration, you’re probably not going to have this problem, but for anyone that attaches this to their normal rack, Thule really needs to fix this. According to Thule, the Commuter “Fits best on Thule racks, but will work on virtually any bike rack.” I have not had the opportunity to test this bag with Thule’s proprietary racks, but have seen them demonstrated. This appears to be true, however, it is my opinion that Thule is limiting themselves by designing towards optimization of a proprietary system. If they designed their pannier to be excellent in universal compatibility, and then made a rack that took advantage of those design choices instead of the other way around, I feel that they could see much larger market adoption with this pannier.

The fabric that the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier uses is is actually pretty neat. On the sides, gunmetal grey gives it an industrial look, and the cuts of the side pockets are very stylish. It has more of a fabric, than plastic feel, which is quite nice to touch, and doesn’t smell like PVC when new. This pannier does get it right in the looks department. I also found no issue with the waterproofness of the material. I do wish they used a similar/more durable Cordura type material on the bottom, as the current material already scratched/punctured on my bag. The bottom fabric appears to be a rubber laminate, but it’s not bonded very well and is prone to scuffing off under normal conditions.

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Overall, 17 liters is a respectable city size. I feel the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter pannier could benefit from keeping the same shape, and expanding a bit in the capacity department. I don’t think it needs to be as big as the monstrous 40l Ortlieb Backroller, however upping it to 25-28l would allow me to carry all of my regular items, and a bit home from the grocery as well. If I were to make it, I’d expand the top fabric by two inches, and make the strap 3-5 inches longer. If this bag is really crammed, you can’t actually get the buckle to thread, and latch, leaving you with an open-ended pannier, lengthening the strap would solve that.

If you routinely carry a laptop, gloves, rain jacket, camera, repair kit, and want to do it in style, the Thule Pack ‘n Pedal Commuter is the pannier you’ve been looking for. If you want to carry that, plus say, a 6-pack, a bag of salad, or something else measuring solid larger than 4″x6″ – you may want to look into something a bit bigger.

Thule Pack n pedal 1

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The King of Baskets: Minoura Gamoh Review

This Staff review courtesy of our masterful mechanic, Mike P.

As a recent transplant from Ames, IA I landed in Portland, OR where commuter bikes reign supreme. My main commuter just wasn’t cutting it anymore so I decided to build a new commuter that was better suited to carry out everyday tasks here in Portland. This meant purchasing a robust steel bicycle frame with all the necessary braze-ons for accessories such as fenders and racks. I wanted a front porteur rack or basket that could handle a moderate load so I could carry groceries or the occasional package to the post office all while maintaining the aesthetic of my vintage bike frame. While paging through our parts catalog I quickly came to the decision that a front basket would be a better option for me as I rarely carry anything large enough that would require a rack without some sort of enclosure.

I came across the Minoura Gamoh King Carrier front basket, which seemed to hit everything on my checklist. Minoura makes two models the King Carrier and the King Carrier Jr. Made of durable steel tubing and maximum load rating of 40lbs both of these baskets are plenty strong and are guaranteed to fit 26” and 700c bicycles. These baskets feature a real maple wood bottom, which is weather treated for longevity, and looks fantastic! With all of my stipulations fulfilled my next decision was size. I measured the dimensions of the most common object I would be carrying, a grocery bag, and made my decision off of that. The King Carrier measures 11.4” x 16.9” x 4.3” and the Jr model at 9.5” x 13.4” x 4.3”. It turned out that the Jr model was the best fit so I ordered it.

Upon receiving the basket the first thing I noticed was the build quality. Smooth welds and brilliant gloss black finish perfectly complimented my bike. Installation was a snap; Minoura provides all the necessary hardware and brackets to install on almost any bike, from 26” to 700c. For installation the only tools required are 5mm allen key and 10mm wrench. Follow the instructions and you should find that it will only take you about 15 minutes to install. Once installed you will be able to safely and securely carry just about anything that fits inside! It’s been two months and I have been absolutely thrilled with the performance of this basket.

I would be hard pressed to find a better functioning basket on the market right now. If you are in the market for a front basket that will stand the test of time, look no further. Come by the shop today to have a look, we are more than happy to order one in for you!

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Gift Cards are Here!

Are you having trouble finding the perfect gift for those bike lovers on your list? Can’t decide between new tires, new brake levers and new all-weather brake pads? Here at Cycle PDX we have made your shopping experience easier by offering gift cards! These gift cards can be used for everything in our shop! Including tours and rentals!

Check out our website and see for yourself how easy your holiday shopping can be! http://www.portlandbicycletours.com/gift-cards/

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