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‘Circulus’ mini-drome all set up in Portland: Now what?

Posted by on March 1st, 2011 at 12:17 pm

The ‘Circulus’ mini velodrome is currently set up in the Portland Design Works warehouse just off N. Williams Avenue on Hancock.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Circulus mini-drome -5

Erik Olson gives it a whirl.

Portland is now home to a unique piece of art from California known as Circulus. The 132-foot circumference miniature wooden velodrome was the senior thesis project of Pomona College student Sam Starr. Back in January, we shared the news that locally-based bike company Portland Design Works decided to buy Circulus and bring it back to Portland.

After tracking down the velodrome’s 39 individual pieces (weighing about 70 pounds each) in California and loading them onto a moving truck, PDW co-founder Dan Powell says it took him and a crew of friends about nine hours to assemble it over the weekend. After much fidgeting to make all the pieces fit together just right, and finding a large enough space for it in their warehouse, the Circulus is now fully assembled and rideable.

Circulus mini-drome -7

The plywood riding surface on Circulus is pitched at a constant 45-degree angle. Unlike standard velodromes, it’s a continuous circle, which makes riding on it quite challenging: or at least it seems challenging. I didn’t have the guts to try it myself.

Thankfully, PDW’s Erik Olson gave me a demonstration.

Describing how the forces of nature act on him while pedaling fast circles, Olson said, “As you go faster, it wants to push you out and up… It’s more like a circus ride than a velodrome.” If Olson was scared, his ear-to-ear grin was hiding it pretty well.

“We didn’t expect that sort of interest when we bought it… We just wanted it, because, well, why not?”
— Dan Powell, Portland Design Works

While the Circulus is no doubt a very cool thing, it begs the question, ‘Why?’ PDW is a small, up-and-coming company that recently made a big move from a shared shop in Southeast Portland to their own building. Why would a small company spend the time and money (Powell says it cost him about $3,500 to get Circulus to Portland) on what seems like such a silly extravagance?

It’s actually not that hard to make a business case for Circulus. It’s all about branding.

Circulus mini-drome -4

The PDW crew ponder their new toy.
(L to R):
Dan Powell, Kevin Murphy and Erik Olson

When a video surfaced about the project last year, Powell was intrigued. That video was viewed by 10,000 people in its first week. Powell says they’ve already been contacted by Interbike and the two are in negotiations to set up the Circulus on the show floor this fall. Several magazines have also been in touch wanting to do feature stories. “We didn’t expect that sort of interest when we bought it… We just wanted it, because, well, why not?”

Current plans are to keep it assembled for a short time and then take it down and store it somewhere off-site. A big event is already being planned for this summer: think circus big top, a ringmaster, and all sorts of other shenanigans.

Scroll down to watch a just-released video of the Circulus in Portland (featuring some insane riding on a Surly longtail)…

Circulus Teaser from PDW on Vimeo.

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Steve-O
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Steve-O

Did Erik Olson mention how dizzy the Circulus makes you?

Patrick Croasdaile
Guest

Maybe we can have events like this at Circulus…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kghtRevkUJA&feature=player_embedded

Ed
Guest

Can I come by after work and give it a whirl? I live 2 blocks away!

michael downes
Guest
michael downes

I want to take my stoked bakfeits on it…..can I? Please can I?

CaptainKarma
Guest

now taking donations for many mattresses for the floor and walls surrounding this affair. I’m thinking youtube video montages of riders leaving orbit from the track would be cool. long as no one gets hurt.

Kate
Guest
Kate

Winter training for the track season!

Paul Hanrahan
Guest
Paul Hanrahan

It might be real fun on a very low slung recumbent, less centrifugal force, poosibly.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

does anyone else feel that having 2 steel support beams in the middle of the track is a somewhat bad idea?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Guest

Jeff. They had to put the track somewhere and that’s the only place it would fit. Obviously if this was its permanent home – or if they did a lot more riding on it – they would pad those poles. And yes, they are smart enough to know that those poles pose a hazard.

rider
Guest
rider

The whole thing is a bad idea, which is what makes it so much fun.

joel
Guest

honestly, if you manage to hit those, riding off the inside of a track thats constantly trying to push you to the outside, you have done *something* to anger the gods of physics, and deserve your fate.

jered
Guest
jered

…that is why I always wear a helmet and one of those sumo suits when I’m walking, just in case I fall over and hit something… Add fire and broken glass for even more fun!

I was going to comment that I liked the street course and the bowl that DOS had in there previously, oh well life goes on

jv
Guest
jv

This is pretty cool, and follows a legacy of that space hosting complex wooden structures for recreation. But to be honest, the amazing indoor skatepark that previously occupied the space was more technically interesting, though maybe not as dizziness inducing. I hope that the huge indoor wooden skate bowl there previously is also being appreciated somewhere…

DP
Guest

Jeff,

We tried for just one pole in the center, but the track just wouldn’t fit. In the future, we’re going for no poles at all. However the original installation in LA had 4 poles. Regardless, we’ll be padding the poles in the next few days.

DP
Guest

JV,

The skate bowl is still here, as is the 1/4 pipe. We are currently appreciating it. The street park that was in what is now our warehouse is being rebuilt in another part of town, keep an eye out for that.

Ted Buehler
Guest
Ted Buehler

Cool — unique facility, great location. I’m looking forward to the bakfeit races.

Ted Buehler

Kevin Phomma
Guest
Kevin Phomma

minibike minivelo

3-speeder
Guest
3-speeder

Tall bike jousting, anyone?

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

Wow, this thing is awesome – I appreciated the original article as well.

I’d love to get the chance to ride it some time.

jv
Guest
jv

DP,

Awesome – glad to hear that some of the other pieces of the skatepark are being used, and that you (and bikes) can enjoy it!

mikeinhoodriver
Guest
mikeinhoodriver

..or this one… http://vimeo.com/11043405 Time for some sweet events!!

DP
Guest

JV, and skateboards too.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

Include it in the Oregon Manifest course!

Tallbike jousting, with one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise!

Joe in Wilsonville
Guest
Joe in Wilsonville

NEED TO feed me beers to ride on that. haha

Joe in Wilsonville
Guest
Joe in Wilsonville

Kevin Phomma
minibike minivelo

WIN

dmc
Guest
dmc

“Tallbike jousting, with one going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise!”

Yes. but with FOUR PEOPLE!!! GWAAARRRRRR!!!!

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Now what? Now a bike accessory company gets at least $3500 worth of hype.

beth h
Guest

Considering the legs this story has I’d say it’s more like tens of thousands of dollars worth of PR. From a publicity standpoint it’s brilliant.
Still, I doubt I’d ever give it a go myself.

Atbman
Guest
Atbman
DoRK
Guest
DoRK

100 miles to nowhere!
http://bit.ly/emiemG

boneshaker
Guest
boneshaker

As soon as I saw the original video i thought it’d be fun to ride on my big dummy. Then I see PDW bought it, set it up & the first video is someone riding on a BD! I guess I’m not that original. This is wholly and completely awesome. I hope PDW opens it up to idiots & fans like myself. Is PDW the coolest company in PDX? I think they just may be…

suburban
Guest
suburban

Six-day races! The Hour?

Joe
Guest
Joe

tiny bike worlds 🙂