Highlights and heroics of the Constructor’s Challenge

This story is part of our ongoing Oregon Manifest 2009 coverage.

manifest constructors race

High fives exchanged among racers
who didn’t complete the “epic” course.
(Photo © BikePortland/Elly Blue)

The Oregon Manifest Constructors Challenge bicycles have been built, raced, judged, and celebrated. The top 15 bikes (12 chosen for their design and the three that were raced the fastest) are on display at Manifest headquarters at NW 10th and Hoyt. Observers are weighing in with glowing reports and criticism.

The major stories have been told — of Tony Pereira’s blue stunner that won the design challenge, Joseph Ahearne’s gorgeous 9-speed mixte, and the jeans skirt and sweater worn by its rider (who changed into a cocktail dress for the final lap).

manifest constructors race

Steve Rex, with sling and smile.
(Photo © BikePortland/Elly Blue)

Other well-covered highlights included first-time racer Dan Boxer’s surprise (and bloody) third place finish on his own bike, and the 77 mile course itself, described by all as beautiful and brutal, with major climbs on gravel all around Portland’s West Hills.

But the weekend was full of less well documented but no less appealing bikes, personalities, and stories. Here are some of our favorites.

Chris Igleheart (Igleheart Custom Frames, Wenham, MA — we published an interview with him last month) rolling across the finish line with a shirt that said “Get Excited and Make Things” and a somewhat shell-shocked smile.

manifest constructors race

Igleheart, minutes after the race.
(Photo © BikePortland/Elly Blue

Perhaps the oldest racer on the course, Igleheart rode his own creation — a three speed fixed gear. His easiest gear broke during the race and he ground out the rest of the punishing climbs, in respectable time, with only the other two. The other surprise was finding that his bike folds up — the only one of two folders entered into the competition (along with the entry of Frances Cycles, Santa Cruz, CA).

Josh Simmonds (who raced for Curt Goodrich Bicycles, Minneapolis, MN) took the requirement to finish the final block of the race in a party suit to a whole new level, showing up dressed as the Jolly Green Giant, with an enormous grin that never stopped. His costume was only rivaled by Scott Nowicki’s appropriately whimsical post-apocalyptic polo knight get-up for racing the Quixote bike.

manifest constructors race

Rob Tsunehiro didn’t lose his grin
for the rest of the evening.
(Photo © BikePortland/Elly Blue)

The Metrofiets (Portland, OR) bike — the only entry with cargo capacity integrated into its design — was escorted by a spirited team wearing matching, vintage-style t-shirts that featured a winged mammoth and the exhortation “Cargo Away!”

Speaking of Metrofiets, their most famous creation, the Hopworks party bike, never stops being a crowd pleaser. Its two taps were running full throttle for two nights in a row at the Manifest headquarters. And its proud owner, Christian Ettinger, raced the entry for Ti Cycles (Portland, OR).

manifest constructors race

Scott Nowicki (aka #1 Badass) raced
the Quixote bike that was made for him.
(Photo © Elly Blue)

The atmosphere among the builders and racers seemed friendly and supportive. Many builders raced their own bikes, even folks who don’t race much, and many racers were in it for the style points as much as the speed (the riders for Rebolledo of Glen Ellen, CA and SyCip of Santa Rosa, CA took up the rear in a leisurely way, stopping to play for a while on the zipline at Chris King’s barn). I’ve never seen so many happy smiles coming off a sag wagon (including the gleeful grin of Donna Wilson, who raced the Ahrens (San Jose, CA) bike straight out of her two week long honeymoon).

For some builders — Quixote (Portland, OR), Sizemore (Tacoma, WA), Magnolia (Memphis, TN), Framebones (Mill Creek, OR), and Boxer (Seattle, WA) — this was the first time they’d entered a bike into a show.

Riders enjoying the fancy repast at
Chris King’s lunch/party checkpoint.
(Photo © BikePortland/Mark Reber

Spectators were in good humor all along the course. A festive apprehension prevailed at the finish line, as spouses and family members waited nervously and people who happened to be walking by stopped in for a beer. A man rode by on a tiger bike that caught the crowd’s attention; Joel Metz came to pick up the hay bales from the u-lock toss and handily hopped his front-loader onto the curb. The gallery of handmade bikes parked outside rivaled the show inside.

Looking back, another highlight, and part of the broader thesis of the Manifest series, is seeing that the Portland framebuilding scene doesn’t exist in a bubble. As with the rest of our bike culture and infrastructure, we have as much to learn and be inspired by as we do to export.

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Quentin
Quentin
13 years ago

I really want to see these bikes. I went to 10th & Hoyt today but the place was locked. When is it open?

um
um
13 years ago

the ahearne bike isn’t a mixte…

Questioning
Questioning
13 years ago

Not to take anything away from the craftspeople, who are under no obligation to serve the needs of the masses, but what exactly is the point of a Constructor’s Challenge when every entry is financially accessible to maybe 2% of the cycling population? This is a question directed at Oregon Manifest organizers. Thanks.

KWW
KWW
13 years ago

Questioning, the race was sponsored by Rapha, that should tell you that the challenge is all about exclusivity. The intent was that some of the creators actually rode their own bikes they built.

Oldreed
Oldreed
13 years ago

@Questioning

I’m not with OM. My response in not intended to be rude, mean etc.

I do find it interesting that when I got rid of my car a few years ago I was able to afford a bike from one of the well known builders featured in the race.

The total price for the bike was less than what I paid for my car ($2,800) a years worth of gas ($2,340) and insurance ($1,200). With the gas and insurance savings. I have been able to pay for a car sharing company membership, enjoy a super rad bike (best thing I have ever ridden) and have $$ in my pocket ($2100 a year after the car share $$ and bike maintenance $$).

Something to think about when considering who can and can not afford a custom bike from a local builder.

Oh, and @KWW Rapha has $$$$. Oregon Manifest would not have happened without cold hard cash.

Bob_M
Bob_M
13 years ago

The point of the excercise was idea generation. You will have to wait, but some of the neat stuff on display at 10th & Hoyt will be incorporated into Treks and Specialized bikes in the near future.

Phil B
Phil B
13 years ago

of course the bikes are expensive, they’re handmade. you pay for the quality. can’t afford it (i can’t) buy used or from the mass producers. honestly i wouldn’t have cared about this competition if it had been between the treks and specialized of the biking world (the only real way to make the bikes cost less… you certainly can’t ask the people who hand make these bikes to simply charge less and sell them at a loss).

Juliette
13 years ago

The bikes and Dreams on Wheels exhibit are open to the public
Thurs & Fri 2-7
Sat 11-7
Sun 11-5
The last day it is open is Nov 8th

BURR
BURR
13 years ago

can’t you at least draw the curtains so the bikes can be viewed from outside at other times?

DP
DP
13 years ago

“The other surprise was finding that his bike folds up — the only folder entered into the competition.”

Pretty sure Joshua Muir’s Francis also folded up. It featured Ritchey break away fixin’s.

spare_wheel
spare_wheel
13 years ago

I have also been turned off by the coverage o boutique bikes. I certainly cannot afford one — and even if I could its kind of gauche to be spending that kind of money on a commuter.

Brad
Brad
13 years ago

Spare – the boutique bike buyer is more interested in being seen than the economic or performance aspects of the bike. Sort of like the guy who owns a Porsche but still only goes 15 MPH in rush hour traffic. He just looks better than the slob in the Hyundai in the next lane and gets an ego rush when people go, “Oooh-Carrera Turbo! He must make bank.”.

JH
JH
13 years ago

Great bikes, it is nice to see this kind of useful creativity from true craftspeople.

kww
kww
13 years ago

I also think the intent was not that the future Trek’s and Specialized bikes appropriate design trends, but that frame designers not stray into ‘couture’ bikes that have no real world value, and just turn into collector pieces that aren’t ridden.

Case
Case
13 years ago

Spare and Brad, I find your comments interesting, if I were a full time commuter (which I am) I would certainly spend top dollar on my machine. I would want something that fits me like a glove, has high quality parts, and built to survive all of the rigors of the road and its constant abuse. Comparing a commuter on a really nice purpose built bike to a person driving a Porsche in the city is shake-headable.

John C
13 years ago

The design challenge was a marvelous idea! Look at what happened at interbike this year, and how many mass produced bikes have a lot of the functionality and uber coolness of the custom makers machines. Granted, a mass produced bike will not hold a candle to a custom machine, but it does get a really good bike in the hands of most people. These builders are now steering the bike industry in a really positive direction. That will get people out of their cars and on well thought out bikes that can be used year round!

Metrofiets
Metrofiets
13 years ago

@ John C

“These builders are now steering the bike industry in a really positive direction. That will get people out of their cars and on well thought out bikes that can be used year round!”

Exactly!

That’s why we did it. To prove that a “kid hauling” cargo bike could be raced 77 miles and not just finish…but be competitive as well.

Results are here > http://bikeportland.org/2009/10/05/oregon-manifest-constructors-race-complete-results/

Patrick Mc
Patrick Mc
13 years ago

I’m actually surprised at how conventional most of the bikes were, with no long-tails at all.

It seems to me like the racing piece overrode the “spectacular solutions for the everyday rider.”

jonathan
13 years ago

I am in the camp which says that the bike you ride the most ought to be the best fitting, most comfortable, durable & useful. That doesn’t mean it has to be flashy. Some of my favorites at the show were the more subdued ones like the Sizemore with gun blued finish and wooden front porter box w/rain cover. The Frances and Igleheart demountables: very subtle. The Vertigo Rohloff, the Framebones belt-drive…these are not fashion accessory bikes but well-considered, purposeful machines. I think it would be really interesting to read each builder’s rationale for creating what they did. Maybe we will still get to see that since part of the mission was to educate the public about the quality, engineering ingenuity, and functionality of handbuilt bikes and a book is to be published about the event.
A custom bike is made up of lots of little decisions and compromises and an event like Oregon Manifest helps lay those out for all to consider.

A big thanks to the sponsors, organizers, judges, participants and public that made it happen.
See you next year!

spare_wheel
spare_wheel
13 years ago

“I would certainly spend top dollar on my machine”

Not everyone earns “top dollar”.

Case
Case
13 years ago

Spare, ‘top dollar’ is a relative term, it means you spend as much as you can afford. I don’t make ‘top dollar’ or even ‘middle dollar’, I’m more in the ‘lower middle dollar’ area, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a bike that doesn’t meet my needs because it’s cheaper. I know the idea of getting only as much as you can afford is a little foreign here in ‘Merica, but people do it all the time.

Brad
Brad
13 years ago

http://www.bikecommuters.com

I have no affiliation with this site but check out their coverage of Interbike. Lots of good information regarding urban commuter bikes that don’t cost a small fortune or require you to buy a year or more ahead.

This is how you cover the big bike show! Focus on what the majority of readers can afford and report on available solutions that can soon be found at your local bike shop. I think that BikePortland gets too caught up in pimping their friends, wonky stuff, and covering the “scene”. Frankly, this can be a barrier to getting more people on bikes. If being a proper Portland bike commuter means buying an expensive custom ride and wearing a fashionably funky outfit, then a great many would be bike commuters are going to be turned off by the perceived elistism.

Oregon Manifest looks like a great event for the deeply committed but not properly covering Interbike with the same attention leaves out options for those considering a conversion.

Case – I appreciate your affinity for finely built things but many working class individuals can only afford moderately priced bikes and no one offers long term car styled financing for expensive boutique bikes. Besides, 99% of commuters will do just fine with the off-the-rack solution fom the LBS or even Craigslist. I seem to complete my hilly 40 mile round trip with an aluminum racing frame and an Ortleib pack without issues. I doubt something twice the weight and three times the cost will yield any benefits other than making me look cool down at Stumptown.

Rad
Rad
13 years ago

Elly-

You might want to consider Brad’s comments about getting too caught up covering the scene, pimping friends, etc. That was exactly the impression I was left with when I read your piece. It’s interesting that the City of Portland rolls out a draft bike master plan that calls for a 400% mode split increase and this cool but fringe (by design, as a result of price) “commuter” challenge gets more and more thorough coverage. It speaks to priorities.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
13 years ago

Hey Rad and Brad,

Thanks for your feedback. We just happened to have a lot of coverage of this event because I did a story or two, and we had a special reporter who volunteered to do some stories (Mark Reber) and we had Elly.

Also please realize that we have a lot of goals we try to serve… not just getting more people to ride. We also want to showcase important events (like the Design Challenge) that speak to the larger context of what’s going on in Portland.

And, as for priorities… I agree with you that we did a lot (perhaps a bit more than necessary) coverage of the Design Challenge… but don’t forget that we’ve published 38 article on the Bike Master Plan since we started covering it a few years ago. That’s waaay more coverage that you’ll find anywhere else.

Check it all out HERE.

Mike C
Mike C
13 years ago

Without the impetus of custom builders like these, and overwhelming crowd appreciation, there would be no Trek Belleville, Electra Ticino, or any of the other “porteur-influenced” bikes coming out from such manufacturers at prices people can actually afford.

Think of these as concept bikes, styles and ideas from which will be stol… um, appropriated (imitation is the most sincere form of flattery…) by mass marketed companies in the future.

Nothing to stop anyone from finding a decent used bike and creating something approximating these on the cheap. You’re only limited by your imagination… and shows like this can certainly expand one’s knowledge base about what is possible, practical, etc.

Donna
Donna
13 years ago

I may not be able afford to purchase expensive but beautiful art (at this time), but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy looking at it and it doesn’t mean that I don’t hold the artists in high regard.