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Portland’s flourishing cargo bike scene

Portland’s cargo bike scene is exploding with businesses, builders and enthusiasts coming together for networking, collaborations and more. This photo (and more below) was taken at a meet-up of cargo bike fans back in April and there’s another “Cargo Bike Roll Call” happening tomorrow night in Southeast Portland (5-8pm Cascade Barrel House, 939 SE Belmont).
(Photos © J. Maus)

Much has been written about Portland’s impressive crop of custom bike builders; but there’s a new niche in our local scene that is also showing impressive signs of growth and maturation. I’m talking about cargo bikes and the men and women that build them, sell them, make parts for them, and run businesses with them.

Splendid Cycles owner Joel
Grover (L) chats with e-Bike
Store owner Wake Gregg.

What began with the first retail store in America to sell Dutch “bakfiets” cargo bikes (Clever Cycles) back in June 2007 has matured into a multi-layered industry sector where exciting collaborations are taking place and a redefinition of what a cargo bike can be is underway.

Suffice it to say, Portland’s cargo bike scene is exploding.

Back in April many of Portland’s cargo bike enthusiasts and business owners got together for a meet-up at a pub in Southeast Portland. The gathering was organized by Spendid Cycles owner Joel Grover in response to a visit by a reporter from Bicycling Magazine who was coming to Portland to do an article on cargo bikes.

Grover himself is a prime example of how Portland has embraced cargo bikes. After 20 years in the bike industry, many of them as head buyer for Bike Gallery, Grover launched his store in May 2010 to focus solely on cargo bikes. Now integrating electric-assist on many of his builds (check out his latest, a Bullitt with Bionx and a Surly trailer), Grover is carving out a successful niche.

Splendid has joined a healthy ecosystem of cargo-centric shops (which, in addition to Clever and Splendid includes Joe Bike), DIY tinkerers, enthusiasts, professional builders, and business owners. Check out the photos and notes below from the meet-up back in April…

Wakefield Gregg owns The e-Bike Store on N. Alberta and Vancouver. He reminds me a bit of Christopher Lloyd’s “Doc” character in Back to the Future. Wake is way ahead of everyone else and is always tinkering with a new product, modification to an existing one, or some other invention. An expert in e-bike technology, he contracts with Clever Cycles to install e-assist kits and he helped Yuba bicycles develop their new e-assist Mundo cargo bike (the cleverly named “El Mundo”).

This bakfiets-style bike was made by Robert Johnson and Jon Petersen of locally based TerraCycle, a company known for making high-quality recumbent parts…

…Speaking of TerraCycle, they wanted to bring the benefits of cargo to the recumbent world, so they built the Cargo Monster kit. This kits allows recumbent frame owners to add an Xtracycle conversion. Note that the Cargo Monster in this photo is equipped with an EcoSpeed electric assist kit…

This is Tad Beckwith, VP of marketing and sales for EcoSpeed, a Portland-based company that claims to have the “Best Electric Assist on Earth.” Tad’s system is getting rave reviews and can be seen on a growing number of local bikes.

A closer look at an EcoSpeed kit as installed on a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt.

Tom LaBonty has a day job; but he’s gained a large following with his affordable and whimsical DIY cargo bike creations he sells via One of his recent builds, for Hotel Monaco, includes an integrated coffee pot and beer tap on the rear rack and a five gallon keg for the beer system in the cargo bin. Tom’s bikes range from $500 – $1,400.

Another guy who’s familiar with beer bikes is Phillip Ross of Metrofiets. His company (which he runs with builder Jamie Nichols) has built a reputation for their finely crafted cargo bikes that have been used by many different businesses — from a cafe in San Francisco to a local brewer.

Reuben Deumling is carfree and a passionate advocate for utilitarian, load-carrying bicycles. He built this trailer out of a truck’s roof rack with parts from a Bikes at Work trailer.

Adam Kennedy owns Broken Frame Bakery. He uses his custom Metrofiets (dubbed the “Breadnaught“) to make his early morning deliveries.

One of the things that makes Portland’s cargo bike scene tick are the smart and passionate people who dream up better ways to carry things. One of those people is Aaron Tarfman. In this photo (on the left), he’s showing Joe Doebele (owner of Joe Bike) and Tad Beckwith one of his latest concepts.

This is Ken Weatherell, founder and owner of Portland Pedal Power, a company that contracts with dozens of local restaurants to deliver meals and then sells the sides of their delivery bikes as advertising billboards (see one in action here).

Mike Cobb is something of a bicycling renaissance man. A skilled messenger who has competed internationally, he is currently the service manager at Joe Bike, a cargo bike specialty retailer based in Southeast Portland. Cobb is riding a Joe Bike “BoxBike”, which comes with several locally-made parts.

What makes any community powerful are the connections made by the people in it. The cargo bike community is no different. In this photo, Metrofiets builder Jamie Nichols (seated) chats with Cafe Velo owner Rick Wilson (R) and cargo bike messenger Joel Metz.

For more photos of the April cargo bike meet-up, see the gallery.

This post highlights just a small part of Portland cargo bike scene. As the companies, ideas, and relationships continue to grow, I think we’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the months and years to come.

If you love cargo bikes for business, pleasure, or both — or if you’re just curious about them — you should come to the Cargo Bike Roll Call happening tomorrow from 5-8pm at Cascade Brewing Barrel House (939 SE Belmont St.)

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