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That one time, when they raced cyclocross on Biketown bikes

Posted by on October 5th, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Last night at the Portland Trophy Cup cyclocross race we had an unexpected visitor: Dozens of bright orange bikes with a Nike swoosh on the side of them. Yes I’m talking about Biketown bike share bikes.

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When I first saw the booth and a few bikes I figured they were simply on hand to do some marketing, pass out stickers and swag, and maybe answer a few questions. I was impressed that they came out to a cyclocross race. After all, I’m all about cross-pollinating the cycling crowds.

But then more bikes rolled out of the truck. And more still. Suddenly the entire tent was packed. Something had to be up; but what could it be? Surely they wouldn’t be planning to race those things?! After all, not only are they 60-pound beasts ill-suited for off-road speed, the muddy conditions would muck them all up. Nike wouldn’t be amused.

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Turns out I am not a good judge of the lengths the folks who run our bike share system will go to have a good time (and do a bit of guerrilla marketing), because suddenly a bunch of people showed up, threw a leg over the orange bikes, and assembled at the start line. They raced those things in the dark and slippery mud, carried them over the barriers, wiped out repeatedly, and did their best to pedal them through the twisty course.

I’m still not sure who had more fun; the riders or the spectators.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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29 Comments
  • Avatar
    Matt S. October 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Nice, for $2.50, everyone can be on equal footing—as far as bikes go that is…

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    Glenn October 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    ahh sweet…i think they need to have a race class for this…

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    Matti October 5, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    Hmm. Call me a buzzkill, but is this a wise use of this resource? Seems likely to create maintenance havoc.

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      TJ October 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      BUZZKILL.

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      Ted Timmons (Contributor) October 5, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      They’re durable, have an enclosed drivetrain, designed to sit outside in the rain .. eh.

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      Matt S. October 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      That’s the problem with Cross, the maintenance upkeep. Now I can race and displace the costs onto someone else!

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. October 5, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      Nope, you’re thinking of cars.

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    Vinny October 5, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    Now they can use the slogan “BIKETOWN: Race Proven Design”

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    KristenT October 5, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    In car racing, we’d call this a “spec class”, and you only need three identically prepared vehicles for it to be a thing.

    I really dig this idea and the video cracked me up!

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    Mike October 5, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    I don’t think these bikes were meant to be used for cyclecross. I give Biketown maybe another summer before it’s cancelled because of excessive maintenance due to misuse. Then watch ’em howl! Stay tuned!

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      KRhea October 6, 2016 at 12:01 pm

      Dude, really, you “don’t think these bikes were meant to be used for cyclocross”? Seriously. Thanks for that…you’re right! Of course they weren’t. That’s the joke. It was all about a little 3-letter word which some of you may not have in your vocabulary or perhaps you have it, but don’t understand the meaning…
      F U N. Biketown is allowed to be FUN. Just because they all look the same, weigh 60lbs and are low maintenance doesn’t mean they’re not fun and what better or more absurd way to show that Biketown is FUN then a crazy idea like using them for ‘cross!!! Brilliant. Well done Biketown and most of all…FUN! Nobody was running with scissors. Nobody got their eyes poked out and probably…”no bikes were harmed in the making of that video”. It was just a bunch of fun loving crazies absurdly “racing” cross through mud and guck and rain and fields and over barriers with 60lb “tanks” wearing big smiles with the crowd going crazy and everyone involved having FUN.

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    Dwaine Dibbly October 5, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    Like one-design sailboat racing! Brilliant!

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    Jayson October 5, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    60 pounds?!

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    GlowBOy October 6, 2016 at 7:30 am

    Maintenance, shmaintenance. As Ted pointed out, these bikes don’t have derailers, rim brakes or even chains. Getting a little mud on them won’t do jack squat to hurt them. The only thing about them really unsuited to ‘cross is the slick-ish tires, but that’s nothing technique can’t take care of: sure you’ll be a little slower than on a dedicated ‘cross bike, but the point of cyclocross is not to win, but to have fun.

    I think it was a brilliant move. Personally I’ve found them more than nimble enough for everyday use (and I kind of doubt that they actually weigh 60 pounds). No better way to stick it to the weight weenies than to show how much fun these bikes can actually be.

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      Ted Timmons (Contributor) October 6, 2016 at 8:46 am

      They truly weigh 60 pounds. Biketown officially says 59lbs, I’ve weighed them at 60, and that’s a number that is being quoted elsewhere.

      A “luggage scale” is about $8 and comes in really handy for weighing bikes.

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      BB October 6, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      You’d be surprised how easy 60 lbs is.. YES you can ride a lighter bike and it will be easier but my commuter/tourer with a regular day’s worth of gear gets to about 60 and I keep pace with everyone out there, pass some passed by others. 80+ is where you’ll actually start getting bogged down – When I’m in haul mode with 50-60 lbs worth of bike, 50 lbs trailer plus a week of groceries in the tub, that is when my range is limited and I have to really gear down.

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    Patrick October 6, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Dollars to doughnuts using Biketown bikes in this manner is against the contract that we sign to participate in the program. Le me put it this way: what if someone borrowed a new bike of YOURS and took it cyclecrossing? (Be honest.)

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      pengo October 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

      It’s not.

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      jered October 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

      As long as they wash it before they return it a friend can borrow my bike to race. I think that goes without saying – bikes are meant to be rallyed. Rally all BIKES.

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      Pete S. October 6, 2016 at 11:53 am

      Did you read the article?

      This was a sanctioned marketing activity.

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    Vince October 6, 2016 at 9:15 am

    How ’bout a Biketown class at all events? Love to see how they do at Alpenrose.

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      Kate October 6, 2016 at 10:30 am

      Ha, Alpenrose has those pesky run-up stairs that PIR doesn’t. I can’t imagine trying to shoulder a bike town bike. For everyone griping, this was the final night in the series so its not like it’s going to be a regular occurrence.

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        Vince October 7, 2016 at 8:26 am

        I’m not talking about cyclocross. i mean real racing, on the track.

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    Lester Burnham October 6, 2016 at 9:25 am

    As long as they are not jumping the things it’s probably okay?

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    Michelle Poyourow October 6, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    Reminds me of my favorite media about NYC’s (then) new Citibikes, this video of a BMX champ putting one through its paces:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAHT8rs2AZ0

    Who says you can’t jump things on a bike share bike??

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    Dolan Halbrook October 6, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    So awesome. Very close to my imagined “Adult Kiddie Cross” race, where everyone has to ride 40+lb single speeds and vault 3 foot barriers.

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    Todd Boulanger October 6, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I am sad I missed it…I always thought there should be a “fender” class for cyclocross bikes that you could really commute on… now that PDXcross is so well attended there should be more categories…and its so much cleaner for the participants too. Just like your grandmother ‘usta sez’: ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’…even for crossers.

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    Dwaine Dibbly October 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    If Biketown didn’t want people to have fun with these, then why did they put a station right by the ZooBomb Pyle? Explain that, smart guy! 🙂

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