Pedalpalooza: Much more than bike fun

Hammercise Ride-12

(Photos © J. Maus)

The 17 days of Pedalpalooza officially came to an end at yesterday’s Multnomah County Bike Fair. With nearly 300 free events in just over two weeks and tens of thousands of people taking part, Pedalpalooza — which is in its ninth year of existence, depending on how you count — is well on its way to becoming a proud Portland tradition right up there with the Rose Festival.

Before I share a few more thoughts about it, the first order of business is to give a big THANK YOU to all the amazing and dedicated volunteers who put this whole thing together. Shift is a loosely organized group with no real budget to work with and no paid staff. Yet, out of sheer love of community and a dedication to free bike fun, a core group of volunteers do most of the heavy lifting to make the ride calendar, the big events, and everything else run smoothly. I won’t list names, but you all know who you are. Thank you!

This was the seventh year I’ve participated in Pedalpalooza and it’s become increasingly apparent that it’s about much more than bike fun. I think most people hear about the costumed (and naked) rides and think it’s all about partying and raising havoc on the streets. It is, but the way I see it, there’s a lot more going on than the “nude and zombie rides” that get most of the headlines.

Here’s why I think there’s much more to Pedalpalooza than meets the eye…

Boost to local economy

Hot Sock Ride-25

Caroline Smith and her
newly purchased socks.

How about the economic impact? How many thousands of dollars were spent during these rides? I’m talking about much more than simply beer sales (which don’t get me wrong were significant). The economic impact really hit me this year when I went on the Hott Sock Ride. Hosted by local sock retailer, Sock Dreams, the ride featured a stop at their Sellwood store. After we played a fun game in Sock Dreams’ backyard, people lined up to buy pairs of socks. The cash register was smoking!

And how about all the food that was purchased? The Taco Ride, the Epic Pizza Ride, and all the rides that began and/or ended at food joints brought lots of revenue in for local eateries.

There were many rides on the calendar that were either hosted and/or led by businesses and business owners. It was great to see the huge overlap of businesses that wanted to take part in the bike fun economy. I joked around this year that people should keep their receipts. I think next year we’ll add a “Total spent” field to the Ride Report form.

Bike fun and fitness!

Hammercise Ride-31

Hammercising at the Lloyd Center
MAX stop.

I think it struck me during the Hammercise Ride — Pedalpalooza makes Portland a much healthier place. What other city festival includes so much activity? 17 days, 300 events, millions of calories burned! One of the most exciting things about Pedalpalooza is that it gets people moving.

You might be having so much fun you don’t realize it, but all that bike fun is a great way to stay in shape (of course it’s easily negated by all the tacos, donuts, pizza, and beer!).

Activists unite! Pedalpalooza is the new Critical Mass

I know that term Critical Mass has a lot of baggage, but the sometimes controversial event was highly successful in bringing bike activists together. Like Critical Mass used to be, Pedalpalooza is a place where people who care about biking can meet others with similar values. People new to Portland’s bike scene can do a few rides, learn about the city from a bike point-of-view, make personal connections — just like they used to do when Critical Mass was still going strong.

People as public space

Get Lost Ride -11

Crossing Naito on the Get Lost Ride.

In the last 17 days, Portland’s streets were transformed by humans on bicycles. Numerous daily bike parades moved through traffic as one large entity (thanks corkers!) and large groups of people congregated on roads and other public spaces throughout the city. It was like temporary human architecture that gave Portlanders a different perspective on our streets. The many smiling cycling faces were far from the “impersonal machine operators” that usually dominate our roads.

On the Get Lost Ride, we stopped and rode where ever the dice told us to: On the tiny curb adjacent to a major arterial, through a tunnel, and even across the intimidating Ross Island Bridge — which wasn’t so intimidating with 30 or so friends on bikes.

We posted 70 ride reports this year and many people said they plan to make their rides a monthly event. Who says the bike fun — and everything it brings to our city — has to ever stop?

Thanks everyone for following our 2010 Pedalpalooza coverage. Feel free to share your own thoughts and memories below…

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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13 years ago

Another great aspect of Pedalpalooza is that it’s like a year’s worth of FREE cultural and educational events crammed into 2.5 weeks. Much like Reed College’s Paideia, Burning Man, and other festivals around the country, people can learn about horticulture, architecture, religion, art, wildlife, geography, geology, travel, history (Granton!), social justice, political movements, mechanics (bike), and numerous other topics without the constraints of a traditional ‘classroom’ environment.

Marcus Griffith
Marcus Griffith
13 years ago

Pedalplooza is the new Critical Mass! Critical mass served a purpose when cyclists did not have a seat at the transportation table, but things have changed. Now cyclists are recognized as stake holders in the system and as such quasi-disruptive protests like Critical Mass are needed less and distract more.

Extra kudos to everyone who hosted or volunteered at an event.

Jonathan "J.R" Reed
13 years ago

Looking forward to when UPI categorizes stories like this, not under “odd news”, but any of the other headings: Business, Entertainment, Health, Sport, etc.
I’d love to hear in these comments from folks at businesses positively impacted by Pedalpalooza events.

Anne Hawley
13 years ago

The coverage of Pedalpalooza here has been extraordinary! Thank you, BikePortland. I was only able to participate by accident (kept running into rides on my way places), but I felt like I was close to the action through reading this blog.

13 years ago

Just wanted to say what a great critical massesque ride we had sunday from Nopo to the bike fair. I estimate about 300 bikes spontaneously came together and rode! Young, old, and in between. it was a sight to see. Little kids on the side of the road waved, people came out of their houses to watch. The bike community took over for fifteen minutes of biking bliss. It was sublime!

Michael M.
13 years ago

In addition to the economic benefits for some businesses, there are also fund- and awareness-raising rides for some of Portland’s excellent non-profits, like the SMYRC ride and the Sisters of the Road ride. Riding (and walking, and running) for causes is a well-established tradition, but when it comes to bike rides they tend to be challenging and require fitness levels and time commitments beyond casual cyclists. Pedalpalooza provides a nice framework for relaxed, fun, informative rides in which anyone can participate and, if possible, donate a little cash.

Paul Tay
Paul Tay
13 years ago

I’m still amazed…almost 300 hundred rides this year, just as many last year, and the year before…and, still NOT one Santa Rampage Ride. And, where are the hordes of velomobiles? Ya think dem Aussies gonna best Portland? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah. Cain’t possibly be true.