View Full Version : Trek Portland vs. Other Options

12-27-2007, 01:06 PM
For road riding, this spring I hope to step up from my hardtail mountain bike. The bike will primarily be a commuter (30 miles roundtrip Vancouver to downtown although I don't ride every single day). I will also use it for longer road rides and low-key intermediate level "races". When commuting I have access to a relatively secure, covered bike rack.

I have decided disc brakes are mandatory, as is a relatively "quick" bike. In wet weather I spend more time cleaning and adjusting the rim brakes than anything else on my bike. And they are messy, and subpar for stopping.

The Trek Portland is my first choice so far.


My primary dislike about the Portland is the triple chainring. I want a compact double, and to swap it out would be another $200-plus on a bike that is already at the high end ($1700) of my range. It would also be nice if it came with full fenders at this price, although another $100 for fenders is no big deal.

Given my disc brake requirement, most of my other options are cyclocross bikes (Lemond Poprad Disc, Cannondale Optimo or XO1, etc). However, very few have fender eyelets. There are strap-on fenders, but I doubt they work as well. A decent quality, quick "road" bike with disc brakes and fender eyelets is rare, although you would think demand would be high.

Are there other bike options I am missing?

Anyone with a Portland who can share pros and cons?

12-27-2007, 02:44 PM
I don't own one, but have been eyeing one at my LBS. I've heard great things about them. A few people on Bikeportland.org own a Portland. But you might want to check this out...

I just googled "trek portland reviews"

I noticed no one replied to your post yet so I thought I'd share this with you.

12-27-2007, 08:59 PM
I don't own a trek portland but it seems like a very well equipped bike. It seems like it would be a great commuter bike in addition to a light touring bike. I don't know about the racing though.

I have a touring bike that I commute with. I figure it's my slow truck that can haul a bunch when needed. Two panniers (neither heavily loaded) and a handlebar bag for my normal commute. Three more bags can be added when I go on fully loaded trips. My bike has a triple chainring (48-36-26) and a wide rear sprocket (11-32 9-speed).

It just doesn't seem that a double chainring with a corncob sprocket would work for commuting just as I know my bike wouldn't work for racing.

My 2-cents

12-28-2007, 12:15 AM
I own one - have had it since Aug 2006. I put an average of 50+ miles a week on it. Also, I took it on Cycle Oregon this past year - I was one of the few cyclists with disc brakes, and they proved very useful on a 10% downhill.

I ride in all sorts of weather and the brakes handle fine, although they may make loud noises in wet weather, I tend to think of them as a horn to get driver's attention. I have had pretty much 0 issues with the bike, granted I perform alot of maintenance myself. The brakes are easy to adjust and have good modulation, and the components are pretty good.

Before I bought it, I evaluated the Poprad and a Redline, but the Portland was geared faster than the Poprad, and is aluminum rather than steel, which felt a little better to me. I added a Brooks saddle and full fenders, and have not been disappointed so far.

12-28-2007, 12:57 AM
Here's a favorable review on the Portland's disc brakes: Avid mechanical disc brakes (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkwSAwHRHeJEAB6lXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4MWF0dW0 zBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMwRjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0Y4NjFfNzQEb ANXUzE-/SIG=11o8c5nip/EXP=1198920192/**http%3a//bikemag.com/gear/082905_avid/)

Says they squeak a lot and wear out pads fast in wet weather, otherwise, they're great. Cost $250 front and rear, minus hand levers. Wonder how their weight compares to a caliper setup. It would be fun to try this bike out, just to see if those brakes are the slick setup for really rainy downtown riding.

12-28-2007, 10:36 AM
Good input.

I definitely don't expect to be competitive trying to race a Portland. I'm just looking for a "roadish" bike that would work "okay" in a low-key race, just because I can't justify a separate road bike if I also buy a commuting bike. I already have a mountain bike and an old "walk the dog and/or whitewater kayak shuttle" bike.

Actually, I can justify it, but I can't get it past my other half.

12-28-2007, 02:24 PM
Good input.

I definitely don't expect to be competitive trying to race a Portland. I'm just looking for a "roadish" bike that would work "okay" in a low-key race, just because I can't justify a separate road bike if I also buy a commuting bike. I already have a mountain bike and an old "walk the dog and/or whitewater kayak shuttle" bike.

Actually, I can justify it, but I can't get it past my other half.

You could even go with a Trek 1000 or 1600 and feel a world of difference compared to your MTB. You will soon become a fast cyclist my friend.

12-31-2007, 08:01 AM
You might look at a Cannondale 7 'cross bike. It has disc brakes, but no fender eyelets. But it's relatively easy to use strap on eyelets to mount fenders. And you might be able to get the shop you buy from to swap the crankset out for a compact at a pretty reasonable cost.


01-02-2008, 09:42 PM
Has anyone heard of problems with disk brakes? They're a great idea for riding in rain and mud, but I'm not sure about them. Check out this posting on wikipedia:


scroll down to disc brakes and check it out.

Another interesting link at the bottom of the wikipedia article regarding disc brakes and quick-release failures. Lots of technical info if you want to sort through it all.


01-03-2008, 09:29 AM
I dunno...it mainly seems like this guy James Annan has a belief that discs are dangerous. But a lot of the crashes he cites as evidence seem to be inconclusive as to what really happened. Plus, his information goes back to 2003. If this were really a problem, I'd think that someone would have sued by now. It doesn't seem reasonable that the bicycle industry would stand behind a flawed product.

I have a bike with the same disc setup as the Portland. I haven't had any problems with it to date, but I'll probably double check the QRs, just to be on the safe side. I'm not concerned about it being dangerous, though. There just isn't any conclusive evidence.

01-03-2008, 10:16 AM
The wikipedia article is good. There's quite a bit to be learned from it. It helped me fully understand the difference between single and double pivot caliper brakes better. I have two bikes, with one system on each.

The article raised some good points about disc brake systems; that the wheel has to be dished to accommodate them, making the wheel somewhat weaker laterally; that disc braking applies additional force to spokes compared to that of caliper brakes, meaning you shouldn't use lightweight double-butted spokes; also, so far the disc setup has made it hard to put panniers on bikes.

01-03-2008, 11:59 AM
I'm not sure about racks and panniers not fitting over disc brakes. Maybe it was a problem with older versions, but the new bikes I've looked at seem to have the disc caliper inside the seat stay. That's probably why they have to dish the wheels to accomodate the brake being inside the stays, or forks on front. Also, is the dropout spacing wider on disc brake frames? I have noticed that some of the rack manufacturers are making special wide racks to fit over disc brakes.

To me there were too many uncertainties about them so I opted for a bike with cantilever brakes when I bought a bike last fall (Surly Long Haul Trucker). I've had two bikes with V-brakes and don't like them. Too hard to adjust and keep from squealing and dragging. I thought V-brakes would end up replacing cantilever brakes on MTB and touring frames, but cantilevers seem to be making a comeback of sorts. They appear to be the preferred brake on cyclo-cross bikes.

By the way, I love my Surly LHT, even though its heavier than all of these aluminum frames with disc brakes that are out there. Guess I just love the classic old-school touring bike.

To stay on subject, look at a cyclo-cross bike if you want a reasonably light frame good for commuting, off-road, and relatively speedy recreational rides. They won't have all the rack/fender mounts of a touring frame, however.

01-04-2008, 09:25 AM
I have a Trek Portland. And I went through the same considerations as Schrauf before buying mine.

I too was surprised there wasn't a road bike as versatile as the Portland - something with disc brakes, that could take fenders and a rack for touring and/or commuting, and something light enough to be a fast bike, but also durable enough for knobbies or just the general beating a bike takes in an urban environment. The Portland was the only thing I could find that offered all this.

I have ridden my Portland almost every day for the past 15 months. I typically commute about 12 miles each day and do ~30 mile rides on the weekends.

I have had a great experience with my Portland. I have no complaints. I have found it to be very durable, capable of doing whatever I want it to, and it has a better fit for me than my Bianchi road bike.

Here are some more specific observations:

1. The brakes are fantastic! I stop much faster than others in the wet weather. I brake hard often and I have not yet worn through my original pads (though I am close and have purchased replacement pads). I will never go back to regular brakes now. They are easy to adjust; there is a red knob on the brake that puts you right where you want to be with one or two cliciks. They are loud at times, but I regard noise on a bike, especially when approaching intersections, as a good thing. If you don't like the noise, you can give them a gentle tap and it usually stops.

2. The fit of the bike is also great. It's a little shorter than a standard road bike, and that's a better feel for me because I like the agility that provides. One problem is that, when my foot is forward on the pedal, I can hit it with the front wheel when I turn it. That may be the only drawback, but it's a rarity.

3. The shifters, drivetrain, etc, have all performed well.

4. I prefer a backpack, so I have no rack. But I like the option of having disc brakes, fenders, and a rack all at once in case I want to do a tour or haul a lot of stuff.

5. I wrecked on my Portland recently, slamming into a curb at about 20 mph. It flew about 30 feet across concrete and landed hard, as did I. It fared much better than I did and came through it with hardly a scratch.

6. The fiberglass front fork absorbs a surprising amount of road vibration.

7. I like this bike so much that I am saving up for a custom-built titanium frame based on the Portland. I may make a few tweaks, but otherwise it will be identital, just lighter. Then I will likely buy a second set of wheels to put knobbies on and do cyclocross racing with it.

So, as you might have guessed, I can unhesitatingly recommend this bike.

01-04-2008, 09:49 AM
Sorry to hijack the thread a bit!

What Ti frame you looking at A_O? A word of unsolicited advice if I may? Don't be too hung up on the Portland geometry when you have the frame designed. Especially when you are already experiencing toe overlap. I would have the fitter design the frame then compare it to the Portland geometry. Don't even mention the Portland until they are done. Just explain what you want from the new bike. If the designer is worth a damn, they should be able to explain handling differences as well as explain why you might need something other than the Portland specs.

Anyway, just look out. You will leave with a different drawing wherever you go and there are a lot of people with no business designing custom frames, doing exactly that. I would have the frame designed at The Bike Gallery or possibly Rivercity. Just be aware that both these shops have people with no idea what they are doing designing bikes. They also have the most skilled people in town. The Bike Gallery will eat the cost of the frame if the finished frame is not what you wanted. Not sure about Rivercity, but you should make sure they will honor the drawing before ordering.

Oh by the way, why not steel?:)

Good luck!

01-04-2008, 10:14 AM
Well, that doesn't really instill confidence!

I haven't gotten beyond the idea of wanting to do this and talking about it informally with a few folks. It will be months before I have the money saved anyway. And I'm interested in all advice!

My goal is to have the lightest frame possible that is still extremely durable. I'm not sure what that is. My carbon fiber mountain bike has been great so far, but I've only had it for one season. I'm still open to other materials, but I have really seen the value of taking off a few pounds.

01-04-2008, 11:13 AM
Updating my earlier post on the Cannondale 7, it appears that it does have at least one set of eyelets. I saw one on the way to work this morning. It had full fenders front and rear, attached to eyelets on the frame. No clamp on adapters.

To add a bit to steelsreal's comment; a good steel frame with a carbon fork can be built at around 4 lbs. these days. That's maybe two pounds heavier than a Carbon frame, or 1.5 heavier than Ti/Alu. Two pounds is two full water bottles...or skipping dessert for a week or two! :)

Steel has so many inherent advantages - strength, cost, repairability, asthetical. Talk to some of the local builders at the N. American Handbuilt Bicycle Show next month to see what options you have.

01-04-2008, 11:45 AM
A.O., I was wondering if you had happened to pinpoint what part of the Portland's frame geometry results in your foot sometimes hitting the front wheel. It could be a number of things such as: top tube length, head tube angle, seat tube angle, fork rake or even crank length.

I just did a little search and maybe answered my own question. It's probably the seat tube angle. fitwerx has got a pretty good discussion of frame geometry:

Frame Geometry and Handling (http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0oGkxOQln5HknEA2SpXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE4bG44aWF lBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDNARjb2xvA3NrMQR2dGlkA0Y4NjFfNzQEb ANXUzE-/SIG=12ogamkqg/EXP=1199564816/**http%3a//www.fitwerx.com/NewFiles/Tech%2520Center/BicycleGeometry.html)

01-04-2008, 12:21 PM
nuovorecord: My girlfriend never misses an opportunity to bring up the fact that if I just lost 10 lbs, I wouldn't need a lighter bike. True enough. Anyway, I probably should look further into the pros and cons of the various materials.

wsbob: I wonder whether it would be possible to isolate one component as responsible for the problem. You could probably change a couple of dimensions a little each and solve it. The odd thing is that I like the feel of the Portland so much. I became a bike rider by getting into mountain biking and good at handling technical stuff. This bike has the feel of an agile mtn bike, but I have to think about positioning my feet before I turn the wheel very far. It's an interesting issue. Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

01-04-2008, 03:33 PM
I really like my Cannondale 8... which isnt exactly what you are looking for (I prefer a triple front to a double, don't have an issue with standard brakes and it was the only road bike in Portland I could find in my size in my price range, but I got it for 1200$ too (typical tall person story- the bike was special ordered but never picked up, so they gave me ten percent off as it was last years model.)

I would say though that if you have ridden the trek, and thats what you want- get it. Its your ride no? You can always change the gearing later.