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Rolling with the Thursday Night Ride

Posted by on October 23rd, 2015 at 10:52 am

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The spirit of a weekly mass bike ride is alive and well in Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland has spawned a new weekly bike ride that has all the trappings of Critical Mass without the baggage of politics, activism, or controversy.

The Thursday Night Ride is all about camaraderie, freedom, and fun — all the things an urban bike ride should be. Last night I joined about 100 people who showed up at Salmon Street Fountain. I was happy to realize that I didn’t recognize anyone. There’s a whole new crop of Portlanders for whom this ride serves as a welcome mat into the city.

“It was my first mass bike ride,” said Mike I., who stood out from the crowd with his white blazer. Mike runs a bike-powered marketing firm and also organizes the Rush Hour Alleycat series. He first discovered this ride back in June during Pedalpalooza. “It’s a great way to meet friends as an adult,” he added. “You can go up to someone and be like, ‘Hey stranger, want to go get tacos?’ and it doesn’t seem weird.”

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Mike I.

As I circled through the crowd looking to meet new friends myself, it was easy to strike up conversations. There were hugs as new people rolled up and I could tell by the first-name basis most people were on that this ride has already created its own community — but thankfully it’s a community that is open and welcoming to whoever rolls up. Even some random older dude with a notebook and a camera hanging around his neck.

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The pre-ride gathering at Salmon Street Fountain.
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Nathan Jones, left, started the ride back in March drawing inspiration from similar rides in Guadalajara that have thousands of riders each week. His friend Cyrus Lynch (right) helped lead last night’s ride.
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Mariana Mo manages the ride’s Facebook page.
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James Folsom
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Josh Lucy
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Chris Kibodeaux moved to Portland from Los Angeles seven months ago.

One important function of open, weekly rides like this is that they are perfect for people who are new in town and want to connect with other people who love riding bikes.

Josh Anderson moved to Portland from Bend a year-and-a-half ago. He told me he loves this ride because it’s “super diverse,” both in terms of people and bikes.

Josh Lucy moved here in April and he’s only been on a couple rides so far. He knew Portland was a place he could survive without a car, so he donated his to NPR before he moved here. “I love riding,” he said, as he showed me the interesting half-link chain on his Leader fixed-gear. “I’m just starting to get out and be social, so it’s cool to meet other people who love biking as well.”


After hanging out at Salmon Street Fountain for a while, we rolled out. The ride had a leader and sweep rider to keep everyone together (there had been some talk on the ride’s Facebook page during the week that people were going too fast at the front and it was leaving others behind).

We rode through downtown as a group with volunteers stepping up to “cork” intersections so that we could all stay together regardless of the signals. With 100 or so people, we easily took over any lane we wanted. We looped through downtown and then headed east on West Burnside, crossed the Willamette, then wound our way through the central eastside before heading down to southeast Portland before returning to the river via a thrilling ride down Hawthorne Boulevard to the Tilikum Bridge.

There was a guy on a unicycle dressed like a shepherd, a few longboarders who rode the entire way, two Dropout Bike Club members on freak bikes, and enough mobile sound systems to keep the music within earshot of everyone.

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Headed west on SW Oak.
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This is Royal, the bombastic protector of the ride who kept people safe by calling out oncoming cars and making sure everyone stayed in one lane.
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Skateboarders love these rides for the same reasons we do.
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East Burnside.
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Music is essential.
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Rolling down Hawthorne with style.
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Cool freak bike courtesy of Dropout Bike Club.
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Refueling stop.
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Rolling onto Tilikum.
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Always a nice way to end a bike ride.

Next week’s ride will have a Halloween theme. Check out the Facebook event page for more info.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • m October 23, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    No light? check.
    Dressed in Black? check.
    No helmet. check.

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    • Chris I October 23, 2015 at 12:18 pm

      I’m not sure those things matter at all when you are riding with 100 other people.

      I am curious, though. Did everyone stop at the red lights on the Tillicum Crossing?

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    • eddie October 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      safety in numbers? check.

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      • m October 23, 2015 at 1:24 pm

        So I guess they all live in the same house and rode there and back together. Nice.

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    • Lester Luallin October 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      There are group rides with strict helmet and light requirements if you prefer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with clothing color requirements, however.

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    • soren October 23, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      I see invisible ninjas all the time. Drives me to distraction!

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      • longgone October 23, 2015 at 2:17 pm

        … then perhaps just watch where you are going, so you don’t crash policing others in your head. simple really.

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        • soren October 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

          ever wonder how i and others manage to see the invisible ninjas?

          (ninjas help us all by freaking out those who would normally drive at daylight speeds at night.)

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          • Eric H October 23, 2015 at 5:34 pm

            Worst. Invisible. Ninjas. Ever!

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            • soren October 23, 2015 at 9:58 pm

              my attempts at sarcasm evidently suck. 🙁

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    • mark October 23, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      What…drives actually need to drive at a speed where they can spot hazards? Say it ain’t so!

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    • Adam Herstein
      Adam Herstein October 23, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Welcome to Bike Portland, Oregonian commentator.

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  • dudeluna October 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    oh man, it always looks like so much fun! but thursdays are the worst night for me! but next week’s ride is going to be a for sure!

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  • Lester Burnham October 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    I’m sure corking the intersections will bring more good will towards everyone else who cycles in this town.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm

      Lester, it’s probably a wash, given all the people who cheer and honk in support of the ride.

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      • RushHoueAlleycat October 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

        95% friendly honks this time for sure!

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        • Ray Atkinson October 25, 2015 at 10:50 pm

          I didn’t see a “Reply” button on your other comment so wanted to reply here. I have a class project meeting this Thursday evening so can’t attend this week’s Thursday Night Ride. I will try to attend a future Thursday Night Ride. I have rain gear from head to toe so will be riding in any weather condition. I will ask for the leaders next time I am available to attend the Thursday Night Ride so I can introduce myself. Hope to see you on a ride soon!

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    • Skid October 29, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Better than someone getting hit by a car that has found its way into the middle of a group ride.

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  • John Lascurettes October 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    It’s like Critical Mass without the critical massitude. Nice.

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    • longgone October 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm


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  • Joe October 23, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Thanks for the awesome pics Jonathan, love this ride totally needed in Portland. 🙂 everyone is family!

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  • longgone October 23, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Why is it when people have fun, proactive bikeyness, the puritanical prudes poo poo prolifically upon it ? I cant wait to move from this place. It bores me to tears now.

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    • has brakes October 23, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      we cant wait for you to leave either.

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  • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    I have participated in the Thursday Night Ride several times. During my most recent Thursday Night Ride a few weeks ago (I believe October 8), I wasn’t able to keep up on my slow hybrid bike. I usually ride about 8-10 mph. Since I couldn’t keep up, I wasn’t able to make it through an intersection before the intersection corking stopped so I ended up leaving the ride. Even though I can’t find the Facebook discussion from after that ride (hope it wasn’t deleted by a moderator), several people told me that I had to go faster. I asked several times if the Thursday Night Ride is a “no drop ride”, but no one answered this question so is the Thursday Night Ride a “no drop ride”?

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    • Nathan Jones October 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      Hey Ray, the ride isn’t perfect but it improves every week. That said, it’s not a “no drop ride”. If you get a flat or just can’t hang, use the ride tracker to catch back up at the end spot. Free bike ride is still very much free though.

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      • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm

        Thank you for replying and confirming it is not a “no drop ride”. If the Thursday Night Ride does transition to a “no drop ride” someday, I will be more likely to inform my slow biking friends about the ride. Currently, we have limited options for a weekly group bike ride because so many bike rides, especially bike shop rides for training cyclists, in Portland go fast. I understand providing a “no drop ride” could be challenging, especially since so many cyclists in the United States want to go fast. Thank you for reading my feedback and see you at the end spot someday!

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 23, 2015 at 2:49 pm

          I was curious about the speed too before last night… But I was happy that it ended up being quite slow. I’m sure you could have made it just fine. I pedaled in back for a while with a guy on a recumbent freak bike and it was a very social and chill pace. There’s actually someone on their FB page today saying how much slower last night’s was and how thankful she was that they heard her concern and kept it slow.

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          • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm

            I don’t want to let my one bad experience dictate my future participation in the Thursday Night Ride so am open to trying it out again. Thanks for informing me that it was slower this week!

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    • mark October 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      I am stunned that 100 bikes were somehow able to keep a speed average greater than 10mph.

      It must have been like the tour de france.

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      • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Since I am nervous biking downtown because of the streetcar, light rail and train tracks, pot holes, limited lighting, and many other reasons, I don’t go fast in downtown so I was probably going 8 mph. We were riding through Old Town and Pearl District at night so I didn’t feel comfortable biking fast. Due to this, I ended up being in the back the entire time. Thank you for confirming like everyone else that slow bike riders are not welcome in Portland and we should move to Denmark or the Netherlands. Since I want to make Portland a welcoming environment for slow bike riders, I plan to stay in Portland at least until I graduate in June and keep volunteering with Bike PSU to organize slow bike rides. I really hate how almost everyone in Portland keeps telling me that I must go fast to participate in group rides!

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        • Mick O October 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm

          I am quite frankly shocked to find someone slower than me. I am the slowest rider I know, by far. It’s not even close. I am. So. Slow. I can’t hang with many rides out there. I’m a total blob. I am the anti-athlete.

          That said, the couple TNRs I have tried have been no problem. At all. People have been very welcoming and nobody demanded I ride faster. I found it delightful. As a confirmed slow rider, I could not disagree more with your statement “Thank you for confirming like everyone else that slow bike riders are not welcome in Portland.” Yes some rides are fast, many rides are. But these were no fast rides. When my school schedule cooperates I will be back out there. Riding slowly with the friendly people.

          I wonder if there is possibly a description that would be not a “no drop ride” as you characterize it but also to say that it is slow enough for serious slowbies to keep up. Something like “Almost a no-drop ride”

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          • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 3:50 pm

            My point is it shouldn’t matter what speed I am going. I was never criticized in Denmark and the Netherlands for biking slow. I biked so slow on my heavy upright bike in Denmark and the Netherlands that I could take good quality photos while biking and talking. I’d love to be able to do this safely and comfortably in Portland someday.

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            • John Liu
              John Liu October 23, 2015 at 4:51 pm

              I don’t think you can always demand that 99 other people match your individual speed.

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              • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm

                In my opinion, this is about bike culture and getting the “interested but concerned” cyclists to try biking. I am suggesting (not demanding) that more weekly slow bike rides should exist in Portland outside of Pedalpalooza. Training cyclists have dozens of weekly fast bike rides to choose from. This is the huge bike culture issue I see in Portland. Since training bike rides are different from social bike rides, I would never demand or even suggest a training bike ride to go as slow as my pace. Hopefully this clears up any confusion about my point.

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              • RushHoueAlleycat October 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm

                If you’ll do us the honor of joining us again, come up to the front of the pack and introduce yourself. Our leader is doing a wheelie, with Christ on a unicycle close behind, I ride up there with no hands, sometimes corking then rallying people at the back and returning to the front on the sidewalk or to the left of the pack in the oncoming lane.

                I’m an intermediate rider in terms of athletics, above average for city street confidence. I would be happy to ride with you sometime and show you my little tricks one on one or in a smaller pack. Also please know that the organizers of this ride are trying to make this better each week, we hear your concerns and will work on them.

                You missed our first attempt to ride slower, you inspired a new rule “Chill riders at the front”. You seem chill so I look forward to seeing you up there!

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              • lop October 25, 2015 at 4:47 am

                Don’t speed on the sidewalk…

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          • Gerald Fittipaldi October 23, 2015 at 4:39 pm

            There has been some variation on how fast the TNR rides are. Ray was on the ride a week or two ago. That one happened to be faster than normal. Last night’s ride was much slower.

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        • mark October 23, 2015 at 3:20 pm

          If you were on the tail end, of the tail end..and the lights were working against you…I could see the problem.

          Start in the front next time. Don’t be a martyr.

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          • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 3:50 pm

            My point is it shouldn’t matter what speed I am going. I was never criticized in Denmark and the Netherlands for biking slow. I biked so slow on my heavy upright bike in Denmark and the Netherlands that I could take good quality photos while biking and talking. I’d love to be able to do this safely and comfortably in Portland someday.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) October 23, 2015 at 3:27 pm

          Ray, Going slow is awesome. I would love to do a ride with you. How about we organize a slow ride?

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          • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 3:35 pm

            Thanks for the offer! I’ll send you an email.

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            • Tom October 23, 2015 at 7:38 pm

              Ray, you may want to check out the PuddleCycle weekly ride starting next week through February. These are generally slow and make stops to look at stuff. First ride is Halloween evening starting at the Doll Asylum:


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              • Ray Atkinson October 23, 2015 at 10:14 pm

                Thanks for sharing! I believe we are friends on Facebook and you invited me to the Trick or Treat Ride. I should be there. I wasn’t aware that PuddleCycle is starting weekly rides through February. This is awesome!

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          • Joshman! October 26, 2015 at 9:14 am

            I see a certain Foghat song as the theme!

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        • B. Carfree October 25, 2015 at 5:09 pm

          “Thank you for confirming like everyone else that slow bike riders are not welcome in Portland”

          I see a lot of hate directed at anyone who doesn’t ride slowly, at least on BP. If it wasn’t so sad that the cycling community insists on eating its young, I would find your impression that you are unwelcome for being slow humorous.

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  • Justin October 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    Are you required to have a light, helmet and colorful clothing when riding a bike in Portland? Or is it more just a suggested safety precaution? Genuinely curious?

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    • mark October 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      You need lights technically.

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      • soren October 23, 2015 at 3:36 pm

        only a front light.

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      • John Lascurettes October 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm

        Helmet: no requirement for adults in Oregon
        Clothing: no requirement
        After dusk:
        – Front white light required
        – Rear red reflector or light required

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  • Joe October 23, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    we all light up the ride, we are the ride.. 🙂

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  • Gerald Fittipaldi October 23, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who brought sound systems on the ride last night. It kind of felt like pedalpalooza.

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  • gutterbunnybikes October 23, 2015 at 5:58 pm

    I had noticed over the last few months there seemed to be an many more bicycle riders down around the waterfront than normal on Thursday nights than other nights of the week. Never realized it was an open social ride. Cool – see ya all soon.

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  • 9watts October 25, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    No light? check. Dressed in Black? check. No helmet. check.Recommended 8

    Hilarious takeaway, m:
    Everyone seems to be having fun.
    If there had been injuries or deaths we surely would have heard about it.

    So… what is not to like about it?

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