Portland’s national reputation for cycling has more to do with commuting than any other type of riding (with naked riding a close second).
But what many people don’t fully appreciate is the local racing scene. With the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) providing a dedicated and competent backbone, Portland is full of race promoters and volunteers who put on a variety of excellent events. Add in a local business community eager to sponsor and support them and you’ve got the makings of a healthy racing scene.
In fact, starting this week, it’s possible to join an organized race event within a few miles of downtown Portland Monday through Friday. And on some nights there’s more than one option!
Scroll down to learn more about all the weeknight racing action available in this city…
Mountain Bike Short Track Racing & The Monday Night PIR Bike Race Series
Last night at Portland International Raceway (just north of Kenton) about 600 (!) mountain bikers and road racers rubbed shared different race courses. While the MTB racer used the motocross course and wooded grassy area on the raceway’s infield, the road circuit race was held on the same track used by all sorts of racing cars.
Last night was the kickoff of the popular MTB Short Track series put on by Portland Racing. The series runs for eight Mondays through the end of July. The event saw a record turnout (for the opening race) of 470 racers that included 50 juniors, 80 first-timers, and lots of families. Short track is a mix of cyclocross and motocross that’s as challenging as it is fun. The laps are relatively short and races last only 30-45 minutes so it’s easy to jump in and give it a try regardless of your fitness level.
While dust was flying on the MTB course, the about 100 or so roadies were spinning around the PIR track. The Monday Night Race Series happens every Monday from April through August 25th. It’s a battle of aerodynamics, aerobic thresholds, and all-out speed as the finish at PIR regularly comes down to a massive bunch sprint. This is also a great way to train and/or experience group road racing. It’s not as technical as a criterium, but you’ll learn cornering and group tactics — not to mention get a great workout.
Tuesday Night PIR – road circuit race
If Mondays don’t work out for you, than there’s also a Tuesday Night PIR series. This series runs from April through August and is very similar to the Monday night races. Isn’t it great to have options?
River City Bicycles Mt. Tabor Series
This road circuit race is steeped in history: 2014 marks the 62nd season racers have tackled the steep hills in Mt. Tabor Park (which happens to be dormant volcano). The 1.3 mile loop is brutal for racers but heavenly for spectators. Crowds line the climbs with picnics while the little ones climb on a nearby playground. More info here.
Thursday Night Track Series at Alpenrose
To keep things interesting, you can even hang up your mountain and road bikes and give track racing a go here in Portland. Every Thursday night from May to August, Omnium Events hosts races out at Alpenrose Velodrome (just a short bike ride or drive from Portland in the southwest hills). If you’re new to the track, show up and take a beginners clinic.
Fast Twitch Fridays
Fast Twitch Fridays are another chance to try track racing at Alpenrose. They run each Friday through the end of August and are hosted by Bike Central. All skill levels are welcome.
Someday I’d like to tackle one of these races each night for the whole week then report back here how it goes. That is, if I live to tell about it.
For more about racing in Portland (and throughout Oregon) check out the full schedule at OBRA.org.