The BikePortland Podcast: The surprising power of bike fun

Benson Bubbler Ride - Pedalpalooza 09-10

Bike fun comes in many shapes and sizes in Portland, and it’s impact is profound. This is a scene from a 2009 ride led by our podcast producer Lily Karabaic where she shared the history of the “Benson Bubbler” fountains.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

With the crazy month of June behind us, our latest edition of the BikePortland Podcast delves into the power of Pedalpalooza and the surprising secrets that make bike fun both a pleasant pastime and a potent pillar of cultural change.

Carl Larson at Bike Fair

Our guest this month, Carl Larson,
shown here at his best at the
recent Bike Fair.

In this episode, Lily Karabaic (our producer) and I are joined by Carl Larson. Carl is an active volunteer with Shift, helps organize many local rides (including the Naked Bike Ride) and he edits Pedalpalooza’s printed calendar.

Whether it means dressing up like David Bowie with 400 other people and rolling around Portland with dozens of blaring boomboxes, getting served free breakfast on the bridges during your commute, or learning about local history on an architecture tour by bike, there’s a lot more to bike fun than meets the eye.

As Carl and Lily (both of whom are bona fide experts on the topic) share in this episode, bike fun does a lot of very important things: It promotes civic literacy; it serves as a gateway drug into everyday bicycling; it’s a force for bike advocacy; it breaks down barriers between “those bicyclists” and the broader community; and much more.

If you doubt the power of bike fun, consider this: Portland just hosted dozens of rides, many of them with hundreds of people, and there were no major complaints or controversies to speak of. No road rage headlines in The Oregonian. No crackdowns from the cops. “We just had 9,000 people on the Naked Bike Ride,” explained Carl on the show, “If we’d called that Critical Mass and had even one-tenth that many people, it’d be a big problem.”


In Lily’s words, it’s the “kitten brigade” effect. “Who can be angry at kittens?”

Also in this episode, we share some tips on how to start a bike fun movement in your town, how to get people to show up to your rides, how to get the most out of your bike fun experience, and more.

It’s just 37 minutes long, perfect for your lunch break.

You can subscribe to our monthly podcast with Stitcher or iTunes, subscribe by RSS, sign up to get an email notification each time we upload a new episode, or just listen to it above using Libsyn.

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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9 years ago

This was the best Pedalpalooza for me ever mainly because I went on more rides than I’ve ever done before (around 11). It was great running into the same people on different rides. I definitely came away with more friends (and some sweet costumes.) I highly recommend people do more than a couple rides next year. Big hug and thanks to the shift folks, ride creators and all the participants.

el timito
9 years ago

Great discussion of bike fun and its positive effect on the city.
And don’t forget, the fun doesn’t stop just because Pedalpalooza is over – just head over to Shift 2 Bikes, that’s Shift2Bikes dot org.

Janet Lafleur
9 years ago

Thank you for doing this podcast. I’m a ride leader who firmly believes in Bike Fun, having hosted everything from an “Art Lovers City Cruise” to a “Ladies Tea Bike Social.” I’ve been feeling too worn out with life to think about hosting another. Now you’ve inspired me to get back on it.