Respected Portland bike rider Ken Pliska suffers major stroke – UPDATED

Posted by on February 17th, 2016 at 2:10 pm


Ken Pliska leading a ride at Sandy Ridge.
(Photo: Ken Pliska)

Ken Pliska, known to many people for his involvement with cycling in the Portland area since the 1970s, is currently in the hospital recovering from a major stroke.

Pliska, who just celebrated his 50th birthday (at The Lumberyard Bike Park of course) on February 8th, was found unconscious in his home three days later. He was rushed to Oregon Health and Science University where doctors performed considered brain surgery to relieve hemorrhaging but were able to get it under control with non-invasive methods. After several scary days, friends and relatives report that he’s doing much better now although he faces a very long road to recovery.

Pliska is most well-known in the BMX scene where he’s been a competitor for decades and now helps introduce young riders to the sport. He’s a beloved figure among BMX promoters, riders, and the industry — many of whom are flooding the Internet with positive thoughts and prayers for their friend. He has also raced mountain bikes at the Short Track race series at Portland International Raceway, completed century rides on the road, and has also ridden his bike to work. According to The Oregonian he rode in the first Portland New Year’s Day Ride in 1978 when he was 12 years old.


Ken’s brother Michael Pliska posted this update on his condition this morning:

“He is working daily with physical, speech and occupational therapists. He has been able to do more standing and sitting in a chair, and likes to toss things with his left hand (balls, stuffed animals, etc). He still doesn’t have any use of his right hand but is starting to be able to move/wiggle it more. He is starting to get some vision back in his right eye, and his vision with his left eye seems good (able to read fine print on a wall across the room). He reads and understands just fine (but is a little slow to follow spoken words if you go too fast). He has been able to swallow and eat applesauce and chew up and swallow ice chips, and remembered having chocolate pudding a few days ago. He doesn’t watch The Walking Dead so he didn’t get any of the jokes about sitting on a roof with a giant can of pudding. He has been able to count out loud, although skipping a few numbers but otherwise expanding his spoken vocabulary.

Overall he is continuing to show great improvement.”

Pliska’s fiancee Suzanne O’Neil has set up a GoFundMe page where you can donate to help offset medical expenses and see more photos and updates.

NOTE: This story initially reported that Pliska underwent brain surgery. That was incorrect. We regret the error.

UPDATE – July 21, 2016: Pliska’s fiancé wrote in to share that he is back to riding bikes. “Doctors are amazed by his recovery so far,” she writes. He is still doing physical therapy and has been helped by an experimental drug.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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Alison Graves
Alison Graves

Thanks for sharing Ken’s story, Jonathan. Jay and Ken are old friends, having raced BMX back in the day.

Our hearts go out to Ken and his family. He’s a strong guy and is already making great progress. But the more good thoughts that are directed his way the better.


Hoping the best. Anyone who helps kids get excited about bikes is my friend! Speedy recovery Ken.

Lyle F. Padilla
Lyle F. Padilla

I’m Ken’s uncle from New Jersey. Just correcting some info in that while the doctors considered it initially, he did NOT have brain surgery; he’s responded well to medication and is recovering as quickly as can be expected. Regards to all his friends.

Brit Parker
Brit Parker

He did not have surgery, they controlled the bleed with medications.