(Photos © J. Maus)
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.
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.
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)…