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The perfect “Portland Bicycle”

Posted by on August 2nd, 2005 at 10:31 pm

Chris Smith over at the Portland Transport blog has started a conversation about what the “Portland Bicycle” should look like. It’s ironic that he brings this up because I had this same conversation with a Portland-based bike industry insider just last month.

So here’s my .02 on what it should look like:

  • It must be look good. A major weakness of the Breezer line (besides being too expensive) is that they are too dorky looking for most riders under 40. Take a page from Apple’s book…good design sells.
  • It must be produced with environmental sustainability in mind. Perhaps Matt O’Rourke at King Cycle Group should be hired as a consultant on the project. He leads a company that is 100% responsible in how they treat the planet and they produce their products domestically (mostly right here in Portland).
  • It should have an internally geared hub. Single-speeds are impractical and derailleurs are a pain to maintain in the rain.

By the way, we’ve got quite a bit of bicycle manufacturing facilities and know-how right here in our own back yard. Mountain Cycle/Kinesis is in North Portland and Sapa , based in Sweden and one of the largest bike manufacturers in North America is based right over the bridge in Vancouver. And of course we’ve got our share of frame-building talent like Sacha White at Vanilla Bicycles and Joseph Ahearne of Ahearne Cycles. I think it would make a lot of sense for the State of Oregon, the PDC and other organizations to get behind an effort to create a Portland commuter bike brand. Why?

  • We, as a city, already have the name recognition and “brand” for cycling that companies spend millions to create.
  • A successful bike brand could generate tax revenue for the state and city.
  • It would be a PR dream for everyone involved by being promoted as an agressive and innovative way to help curb obesity and dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Can you say, Platinum-level bicycle friendly city?

Is this a crazy idea? Am I lost in a bike love bubble? I’d love to know what you think.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

16 Comments
  • Curt Dewees August 3, 2005 at 8:05 am

    If you read the Oregonian’s Jonathan Nicholas, you already know that his column in the Friday, 7/29, issue announced that Trek Bicycles, based in Waterloo, Wisc., is coming out with a bike named the “Portland” in 2006.

    Here’s the link to Nicholas’ column:

    http://tinyurl.com/bvcjd

    I went to the Trek website, but they only show current, 2005 models, so I can’t tell you what the supposed “Portland” bike will look like.

    Another interesting sidenote: On the Trek website, there are at least three different photos of cyclists riding Trek bikes at very visible Portland locations: two on or near the Hawthorne Bridge, and one showing a cyclist crossing the Broadway Bridge with the “Go by Train” tower in the background.

    (www.trekbikes.com)

    Check out city bikes/hybrid/comfort bikes for the Portland photos.

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  • Kevin August 3, 2005 at 10:09 am

    I have reservations about the internal gearing. Sure, derailleurs can be a pain, but every mechanic knows how to take care of them. Internally geared hubs, on the other hand, seem to require more expertise, more specalized tools, and reportedly have terrible service manuals. I know a guy who’s had a bike built without any derailleurs — with internal gearing in the front as well as the rear — and it’s been a maintenance nightmare.

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  • Tales of Slow Brave Athena August 3, 2005 at 10:22 am

    more on commuting

    I’ve been thinking more about commuter bikes, and interested to hear your comments. It’s a good topic—how do we attract more people to cycling, and how do we lower the resistance? How do we make it irresistable? Part of the…

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  • Adam Stonewall August 4, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    I’m not a law expert, but I believe state constitution or charter forbids the use of state money to foray into private enterprise. Something about state capitol competing with the private sector. Otherwise I love the idea- although I wonder if some of the local scenesters would dismiss the bike as too “gimmicky.”

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  • Jonathan Maus August 5, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Kevin:
    I agree with you about the maintenance issue around internally geared hubs. Perhaps a der. that is maintained correctly is the better choice.

    Adam:
    I’m not sure about the legal issues…but I’m sure there’s a workaround if someone important enough really wanted to make it happen. About the local scenesters…that’s why the bike has to be designed with some style…but of course no matter what there will always be critics.

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  • Frank August 11, 2005 at 12:12 am

    yes, please use my tax dollars to market and manufacture a state-owned bike brand. What a terrific idea. NOT!

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  • James August 14, 2005 at 12:51 am

    The intenral gear hub is the most common bicycle drive train in countries where people do actually use bicycles as transportation, germany, sweden, finland, denmark, japan, etc, but what do they know, they only use bicycles as transportation..Gear hubs are not hard to maintain as long is you read the damn manual and figure out how to adjust the indicator chain and don’t break the clutch. I don’t see how one man’s project schlumpf drive bicycle can been seen as sufficient evidence for anything.
    I’m about to put a new Sturmey Archer SFR3 hub in my Rivendell Quickbeam, chances are nothing will go wrong with it, I’ve had 70 year old bikes with completely reliable gear hubs, but if it breaks I can fix it, if an anthropology major can repair gear hubs a local bike mechanic should be able to figure it out, chances are they can, there are a lot bike geeks in Portland shops who know gear hubs.

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  • […] First look: Trek’s new “Portland” As you may remember from a comment to a previous post, Trek Bicycles is planning on a new bike model for 2006 called the “Portland”. This last weekend, Trek held its annual dealer-only show and photos of this new bike are just now starting to show up on web forums. […]

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  • Jessica August 23, 2005 at 4:39 pm

    What is it about the Breezer bikes you think is too dorky? They look like, well, commuter bikes to me–once you slap fenders, racks, lights, upright bars, lock mounts, etc. on pretty much any bike it’s kind of lost its sexiness, to my mind. But then, I don’t mind riding an “ugly” bike, so maybe it’s just me.

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  • Jonathan Maus August 24, 2005 at 9:07 am

    Jessica:
    Good point. But I’m sure there are some talented designers and product managers that can put there heads together and come up with a sexy, yet utilitarian bike. Those Dutch “Gazelle” bikes would be a good place to start…they’re sexy, elegant and practical.

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  • Patrick Cassidy September 16, 2005 at 11:46 am

    QUOTE
    it should have an internally geared hub. Single-speeds are impractical and derailleurs are a pain to maintain in the rain.
    UNQUOTE

    Internal hubs are practical workhorses for utilitarian cycling, and the newer ones are a great leap forward in terms of efficiency and dependability. If you want more people on bikes, continued internal hub development is what you should be hoping for.

    Deraillers are a pain to maintain, period.

    And I am not convinced singlespeeds are impractical. You just need to choose a gear commensurate with your ability and adjust your attitude, expectations, and riding habits a little bit. I ride a 68 gear-inch singlespeed everywhere in Portland.

    Most easy-does-it riders could probably manage a 60 gear-inch bike if they avoided the BIG hills and accepted not going 20 mph on the open flat. Thinks about all the people you see ambling along at 12 mph in a low gear anyway – what do they need 27 ratios for?

    That said, what we really need is an affordable. reasonably light-weight and efficient 3 speed internal hub with a range of around 300 percent.

    I doubt I will ever own a derailler bike again.

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  • […] It may not be the perfect Portland bicycle, but it’s cool that the world’s biggest bike company has named a bike after us. […]

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  • P. Si bley July 8, 2006 at 5:44 pm

    I, too, don’t understand the objection to the Breezers’ look. To me, they follow the great tradition of the Batavus/Gazelle/Biria/Skeppshult/Kettler European-style commuters. I love checking them out, particularly the step-through frames. Just jaw-droppingly beautiful.

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  • Donna July 9, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    I think my red Breezer step-through frame is aesthetically pleasing, but maybe it’s just a matter of different tastes.

    As to the derailler vs. internal hub gear debate, I would not be riding a bike as much as I do if I had to ride a derailler bike. I can’t be the only one out there that feels that way, because I keep seeing more hub gears out there, including the newer Shimano 7 & 8 speeds. I’ve even seen them added to older, “beater” bikes. That speaks for some hub gear technical knowledge floating around in Portland.

    Jonathan, your bike links are a wonderful resource. Any chance you’d be willing to create a section to list bike mechanics who know about the repair/maintenance of internal hub gearing? I think the skill set is out there, it’s just that no one knows where to find it, and the better ones may not even be working in a LBS.

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  • Loren June 25, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    Co-motion seems to have some sweet disc brake tourers that would make any commuter drool. I want one. Or any other road capable steel bike with disc brakes, fat tough tire accepting frame and rack mounts. Now to come up with the dough……

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  • Alan July 16, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I\’ve pasted some links to \’perfect bicycles\’ in this weblog I wrote last year
    http://utilitycyclism.blogspot.com/
    in which I contrast urban utility cycling in Kyoto , Japan with that here in Christchurch , New Zealand.
    I am trying to convince Local Governments in New Zealand that it is essential that they become involved in promoting the cycling technologies and practices that are established in the Netherlands,Denmark, Japan etc .
    7 speed internal hub controlled by grip shift, internal hub dynamo powering halogen front and rear lights, baskets, mudguards, chain-guard.

    None of these are available in New Zealand and the retail industry is 100% stuck on mountain bikes and road racers . Consequently cycling languishes at 2% of all urban traffic.

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