Unlike its more funky offshoot in the Alberta Arts District, First Thursday in the Pearl isn’t known as a hotbed of Portland’s bike culture. But last night, Pearl District residents and visitors got a healthy dose of two-wheel art and entertainment.
It was a night of PBR and IPA, in a setting where wine is usually the drink of choice.
At the offices of social media marketing company StepChange Group, a steady crowd streamed in and out of the Portland Framebuilders Show. The event was pulled together by StepChange employee Michael Jones. Jones invited several of Portland’s lesser known builders to share their craft. Among them were Hufnagel Cycles, Sprout Cycles, Courage Bicycle Manufacturing, Metrofiets, Palmares Cycles, Belladonna Cycles and Cascadia Bicycles.
With free Ninkasi IPA flowing in a back room and plenty of interesting people to engage with, the builders had a busy night. It was great to see a lot of First Thursday regulars who just stumbled in — people who might not usually think of taking a second look at locally made bicycles.
A few blocks away — in the parking lot of Blitz Pearl on NW 10th at Couch — another bike event was attracted a large crowd. At the 42 Below Goldsprints, an interesting mix of messengers and other fixed gear masters rubbed shoulders with guys in suits and ladies in heels.
The attraction was to watch people go head-to-head to see who could sprint the fastest. In goldsprints, also known as roller races, the bikes are secured via the front fork and the rear wheel is on two rollers. Computers and a custom software system (supplied by vodka brand 42 Below — they gave all the equipment to Team Beer in exchange for running the events) track the speed and distance of the racers to determine the winner.
The contests are short (about 13-15 seconds) but the effort is all-out. A puke bucket sits between the riders just in case (it wasn’t used while I was there, but I left early and can speak from experience that it’s there for a reason).
The chants of “3, 2, 1, sprint!” and a clanging cowbell drew a lot of attention to the already-busy street.
Across the way, a line of pedicabs had just delivered Mayor Adams and other local celebs to a nearby restaurant.
the Goldsprints crowd in the background.
Unlike Alberta’s Last Thursday, which has thankfully become totally carfree, First Thursday in the Pearl is a magical mess of traffic. People on bikes and on foot swarm the sidewalks and streets, while car traffic builds up everywhere. It’s a dance that somehow ends up O.K., but it still makes me wonder why more of the streets in Northwest can’t be closed to cars — especially during First Thursday.
Maybe if bike-related arts and happenings continue to infiltrate the event, we’ll see some movement in that direction. For now, just knowing that downtown’s cultural elites (and I mean that in the best way) are getting exposed to biking in a big way is enough for me.