Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 1st, 2010 at 10:07 am
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(Photos © J. Maus)
Portland’s bike scene is always taking new turns.
Allow me to introduce you to Tommy Lee, Ramon Antonio, and Clay Caldwell. These guys are part of a growing group of Portlanders that like to do tricks on their fixed-gear road bikes. I caught up with them under the Burnside Bridge on Tuesday to get to know more about their favorite pastime and snap some photos of the action.
Ramon, a San Francisco transplant, says the fixed-gear freestyle scene reminds him of the skateboarding scene about 10 years ago. But, as I learned yesterday, what these guys are doing is not to be confused with the traditional “fixie scene,” which centers more around messengers and racing in alleycats and on the track. “It’s sort of like a different bracket of the fixed scene,” says Clay. Tommy says, “This is a splinter off of the fixed gear scene, we took it in a new direction.”
Known as fixed-gear freestyle, 700CMX, trick track, or any number of other names, the idea behind it is simple — just have fun. The sport itself has been popular for many years in San Francisco and Japan, but it’s still just beginning to catch on in Portland. For Tommy, Ramon, and Clay, it’s a great way to blow off some steam (or, as Tommy put it, “It’s somewhere to put my energy”) , get a rush of adrenaline, and challenge themselves with new moves — all on a bike that does double-duty as a commuter.
The bikes are simple and clean: One gear, and no hand brakes or cables. Most of them have flat bars (although Tommy likes the classic look of his drop bars) and wider tires than typical road or track bikes (up to 40c, whereas a typical road bike size is 23c). Many of the parts being made for 700CMX come from BMX companies. One of them, SNAFU, recently launched a line of components for 700c, which is recognition that the sport is taking off. Other companies who were first in the market are Purple Machine Works and Volume.
As for the lack of a hand brake — which is unfortunately still illegal in Oregon — I asked whether or not cops ever hassle them about it. “Oh yeah,” said Ramon, “I’ve got a court date next week.”
The tricks reminded me a bit of the freestyle and flatland BMX I remember doing when I was a kid (GT Pro Performer represent!). There’s a lot of balance involved. Tommy worked on pulling off a one-handed wheelie, Clay did some great bunny-hop bar spins, and Ramon would endo into a wall and then spin out of it on his back tire. Riding in reverse (which is more difficult than it sounds) is another popular trick.
If you want to check out fixed-gear trick riding, there are about 6-8 regulars who show up under the west side of the Morrison Bridge on Thursday nights. They’ve also got a Facebook page where you can watch videos, see photos of bikes, and meet other riders. Another place to check out the fixed scene in Portland is PDXFixed.com.
For more photos of Tommy, Ramon, and Clay in action, watch the slideshow below: