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New faces, record crowds, and lots of cool stuff: My PDX Bicycle Show recap

Posted by on March 26th, 2012 at 4:01 pm

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The typical show-goer was not your typical Portland bike scenester — and that’s a good thing.

The PDX Bicycle Show solidified its place on the regional calendar with an attendance record and another successful year. According to show organizer Aaron McBride with Pedal Nation Events, there were 5,700 attendees (up from 5,100 last year). They came to check out cool new products (from over 130 companies), be entertained, and learn about the latest and greatest in bicycling.

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Beyond all the neat stuff I saw and learned about (see it below) what struck me about the show was the lack of people I recognized in the crowds. Instead of all my friends from the bike scene, I saw a bunch of families and other folks that I don’t think showed up on bikes. Come to think of it, I’m happy that many people drove to the event (yes, you read that right). In my opinion, the most important thing this show does is to introduce bicycling to people that don’t shop at bike shops and who don’t yet feel comfortable on a bike (or at a group bike ride/event for that matter).

McBride notices it to. “For me,” he said after the show, “the event is unique in that it brings out so many new faces… Taking people from the ‘interested but concerned’ to riding for fun, then riding for health, then riding for transportation, then riding with family, and riding more period.”

The cool thing is, while the show offers a great environment for newbies, there’s also plenty of excitement for even the most seasoned bike lovers. Check out who I met and what I learned while roaming the aisles…

- By far the most talked about item at the show were these “Tree Piece” wooden bike helmets made by Dan Coyle of Coyle Design and Build in Corvallis…

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Coyle hails from Corvallis and is a self-described “DIY addict” and outdoor sports enthusiast with a background in biological science and experimentation. He started making wooden helmets 15 years ago for use in kayaking. Back then he used a chainsaw to make each one. He now uses computer-aided design and a CNC machining process and he’s looking toward the bike market to expand his business.

To put safety fears to rest, Coyle has done extensive testing on his helmets. Through a partnership with the Forestry Sciences lab at Oregon State University he has found that his helmets meet and exceed the CPSC requirements. “Wood can absorb energy in a way plastic can’t,” says Coyle. Tests show that 10-20% of the impact is absorbed by a wooden shell, thus leaving less work for the inner liner.

Coyle owns the patent on wooden helmets, but he’s even more excited about his development of a cork inner liner. When his wooden shells are combined with his patented cork liners, Coyle says, “There’s a chance we can make it perform even better than EPS [expanded polystyrene] foam.”

Coyle helmet cork liner

At the moment, Coyle still makes each helmet to the custom specs of his customers, who pay from $270-$300 a piece for the unique items. Even with the CNC process, Coyle says each one takes him about 7-8 hours to complete. And much like one of Portland’s custom framebuilders, it’s a process Coyle enjoys. Customers can choose what type of wood, shape, ventilation, staps, and liner they want. While he’s looking to raise awareness for his helmets, you won’t find Coyle’s creations at your local bike shop any time soon. “I’m not looking to make tens of thousands of these, just to get the price down,” he says.

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- Portland’s very own Showers Pass is doing quite well. Owner Ed Dalton showed off his new softshell (yet still waterproof) hoodie/jacket and then posed for a team photo…

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Team Showers Pass, L to R: Debbie Ginzburg, Laurel Thomas, Ed Dalton, Garrett Hardin, Stephen Lederer, Sue Grandjean (seated)

- I met Tai Lee with the Amgen People’s Coast Classic. If all goes according to plan I’ll be joining Tai and about 130 other folks for a ride down the Oregon Coast this September!

Tai Lee at PDX Bike Show

- It’s been several years since we shared the launch of Portland-based bike apparel company GEAR Pdx, so I was happy to see them at the show. GEAR’s Dylan Huerter was eager to show off his latest creation, a waterproof men’s jacket made with waxed cotton. This jacket looks really sharp, yet it still holds some key bike-friendly features. There is subtle reflective striping, vents across the back, and even a tail-flap that pops down when you need it. The best part is that it’s made right here in Portland.

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– Remember Retroshift? That cool new shifting system invented by Portlander Adam Clement? Well, he’s doing quite well. He sold out of his first batch just 90 days after going public and orders came in from 12 countries. Now he’s focused on refining the product (including making even more of it here in Portland) and the brand. “There are four options now,” Adam told me yesterday, “Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo… And now there’s Retroshift.”

Adam is definitely onto something. I tried his shifters for the first time and was pleasantly shocked at how intuitive and smooth it was to shift through the entire gear range with one quick sweep of the lever. We’ll be hearing a lot more from this guy in the coming years for sure…

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- This is Roger Colwell, owner of Sunset Cycles, a shop with two locations on the west side (Beaverton and Bethany). Roger runs a solid shop and serves a lot of families and roadies in Washington County.

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- In the Green Gear booth, I came across this very nice rain cape. It’s made by Cleverhood, a small company in Providence, Rhode Island. Not only is this the best looking rain cape I’ve ever seen, but it’s made 100% in Providence! I have never used a rain cape, but this company is making me seriously consider it…

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- Making their debut at the show were these fun “Pub Runner” bikes being marketed by Hopworks Urban Brewery. The bikes are flip/flop “Draft” singlespeeds from SE Bikes with special Hopworks stickers. Bruce from Hopworks says they’ll be sold locally at Bike ‘N Hike stores and they’ll be on display at HUB’s Bike Bar and SE Powell locations. Retail will be about $350 – $550 and they’ll be available in a month or so. Consider them the ultimate Portland souvenir for beer lovers that just don’t need another pint glass…

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- Introducing Sacro Bosco Bicycle Works! This new Portland-based company (with some business roots in Tallahassee, Florida) made its public debut at the show. Their main product are wooden rims handmade right here in Portland by finish carpenter Louis Todd. Company founder Will Cress said they make both 26 inch and 700c versions and the rims are available in either tubular or clincher models. He’s even working on a MTB downhill rim with a carbon fiber liner for added strength.

The rims are made of a variety of woods including ash, white oak, beech, and maple.

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Louis Todd
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Cress is a vintage bike fan and got interested in wooden rims after seeing them on old bikes. He initially thought he’d make them just for bike restoration hobbyists, but now makes clincher models which he says perform quite well for urban use. While he’s aware of wooden rim makers in France and Italy, Cress said no one else in the U.S. making these. Retail price per rim varies from $175 – $195.

In addition to the rims, Sacro Bosco is looking to be a full-fledged retail store that specializes in high-quality, hard to find classic bike items like Gilles Berthoud Saddles and parts from Velo Orange. Cress is also working with local builder Mark Simmons of Belladonna Cycles to offer a stock frame and fork that goes well with Sacro Bosco’s offerings. At the show, Cress displayed a gorgeous, copper-plated Belladonna…

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Cress is from Portland, but lives in Dublin, Ireland where he and his wife own a shipping company. Prior to that, he worked in the movie business (his brother David Cress is the producer of Portlandia, a show you might have heard of). Stay tuned. I think we’ll be hearing more about these guys in the near future.


- Check out L.A.-based Zycle Fix. Ike (in photo below) is looking for Portland bike shops to carry their line of low-priced ($325 complete) steel fixies with bold color schemes. While we don’t see packs of kids on these in the central city, these bikes are hugely popular in more suburban areas across America. I could see a shop in east Portland do real well with these…

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- Trials superstar Ryan Leech wowed the crowds with performances throughout the day. Somehow he managed to do death-defying tricks on his bike while talking with the crowd the entire time. He’s a great ambassador for the sport, as evidenced by all the high fives he got and the long line for autographs after each show…

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- Portland-based electric assist experts Ecospeed showed off their new Electric Mountain Drive system on a sweet Quixote Cycles longtail…

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Ecospeed’s Tad Beckwith explained that the Mountain Drive system is different from their other offerings because it has better clearance (sits above the chainrings) and an integrated chain-guard. This system comes with the crankset (with crankarms made in Portland too!) and retails for $2,700 to $4,000 depending on the battery type. At that price, it’s obviously not the right solution for everyone; but for those who can afford it, Ecospeed is a game-changing upgrade.


- Did you know there’s a new bike apparel company that makes their own stuff and has a retail store in downtown Vancouver? Sweet Spot Skirts is the brainchild of Stephanie Carroll, a former Realtor who covered up her spandex shorts with a small skirt a few years ago and has never looked back.

Carroll was brimming with energy at her booth as women of all shapes and sizes tried on her skirts and — nearly everyone I saw — ended up buying one. Made right across the river in Vancouver, these cotton skirts come in a fun variety of patterns and sell for $69. They snap on quickly and sizes go up to 26, “For my big girls!” Carroll said with a smile. Up next for Sweet Spot? Carroll says she’s doesn’t want to leave out the boys so she’s working on a “biking kilt.”

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- It appears there’s an effort to “Free Forest Park.” My friend Jeremy gave me this new sticker he had made and then a few minutes later Joe and Joshua from Northwest Trail Alliance showed off these new shirts. Interestingly, Jeremy was not aware of the NWTA t-shirts when he made up his sticker! Great mountain biking minds must think alike…

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Joe Barcott (L) and Joshua Hutchens.

- And finally, what real bike show these days doesn’t come with a fashion show? Check out a few of my favorite shots from the “One Fine Day” bike fashion extravaganza…

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Cheers to show founders and organizers Aaron McBride and his partner Andrea Updegrave-McBride for making this all happen. Mark your calendars for next year’s edition which is already set for March 23-24.

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  • Evan March 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    Had a great time at this years show! Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers that made it happen. Love to see all the innovations that an event like this fosters and the great examples of cycle powered economy.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • eric March 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I wasn’t aware that velo-orange was difficult to find.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Brad Davis March 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Great coverage of the show! It is really cool to see so much innovation and energy pushing the viability and joy of human scale transportation to new levels in America. With all that is going in to it, cycling can not help but keep growing.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • mh March 26, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I was so hoping to find someone interested in making waxed cotton rain chaps. The high-tech ones I’m using keep failing, and I’m looking towards old technology.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Cody March 27, 2012 at 8:05 am

    I had an opportunity to chat with Adam from Retroshift, and I was pretty impressed. The man is friendly and the product is simple, effective, competitively priced, and light. It’s obvious that he is dedicated to supporting a local manufacturing base and local bike shops (he gives good healthy margins for the LBS and it’s the same price everywhere). He also told me that Retroshift branded shifters are coming around June and that he hopes to build custom brake levers eventually.

    Coincidentally I just damaged one of my STI shifters from a drop off my stand, so Retroshift may very well be in my future.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Daniel Coyle March 27, 2012 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for taking the time to chat with us at the show. I wish I could get pictures that good! That was our first show and getting such an enthusiastic and interested crowd of vendors and attendees made being a part of the community a real reward for all the work we had done.

    Interested folks can learn more and give us further feedback at http://www.coyledesignandbuild.com as well as on facebook at “Coyle Design and Build”.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Gordon Inkeles March 27, 2012 at 11:45 am

    New review of Ergon (Ergonomic) handlebar grips. You don’t need to put up with numb hands and wrists.

    http://bikesocial.blogspot.com/2012/03/ergon-handlebar-grip.html

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dwainedibbly March 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Mrs Dibbly & I had a great time. It’s really cool being able to talk to the principles & inventors of these small companies. We spent time with the effervescent Stephanie Carroll of Sweet Spot Skirts, the NWTA guys (who showed me the engine of the single-track trail builder), and Adam Clement of Retroshift. I bought a pair of Bar Mitts, but missed the Cleverhood booth, somehow. Mrs Dibbly spent some time talking with Ken at Renovo about a step-through made of wood.

    It was a great experience, and we’ll be going back next year, for sure.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • RetroRoger April 2, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I love the PDX Bike Show and applaud the lovely couple that so bravely stepped up and created it! Great coverage…spot on with some of my faves.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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