Winter Wonderland “Bike the Lights” is now in its 10th Year

Back in 2009 Portland International Raceway (PIR) decided to create a special night when only bicycle riders would be allowed to circle the 2-mile track to take in the extensive Winter Wonderland display. This event is called Bike the Lights, and it has been held every year since. I’ve been to all nine of the previous occurrences and thought a recap would be nice for this 10th anniversary coming up on November 27 from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.

For me, the most memorable year happens to be the first, when the temperature was 25 degrees with a 15 mph wind blowing. But even under those conditions a huge crowd showed up. Portland bike ride leaders Carye Bye and Ester Harlow had a group ride up to PIR for the well-publicized event. And Pedal Bike Tours also had a group ride to the event that same year, thus starting another new holiday tradition. Every year since there has been at least one group bike ride to Bike the Lights where Portlanders are greeted by a parade of holiday decorated bikes and sound systems on their way to the lights. It’s like a Pedalpalooza ride, just six months later.

One remarkable occurrence (at least for Portland) is that it has not rained during the event over the past nine years. But there were times when it rained earlier in the day, so the track was still wet. And one year it started drizzling just after the event was over. In 2013 Portland had a good snow the Friday before, but it was gone by the Monday evening of Bike the Lights. And there was another year (2015) where it would have been raining, but it had been raining so hard that the racetrack was flooded. PIR thus canceled the early December date and rescheduled Bike the Lights for December 28 of 2015. That made for a pretty light attendance, perhaps because fewer people were interested in taking in holiday lights after December 25. We’ll have to see if the rain-free weather holds out for another year! For reference, here are the weather conditions on each of the previous nine years. Thanks to Jonathan’s extensive archives, you can click on the year link for information pertinent to that particular year.

Year Date Weather – Temp, Wind, Conditions
Mon, Dec 7 25 F, 15 mph, Clear
Mon, Dec 6 44 F, 10 mph, Overcast
Mon, Dec 5 32 F, 5 mph, Overcast
Mon, Dec 3 50 F, 10 mph, Overcast
Mon, Dec 9 28 F, 5 mph, Overcast
Mon, Dec 8 47 F, 15 mph, Overcast
Mon, Dec 28 39 F, Calm, Mostly Cloudy
Tue, Nov 29 47 F, 10 mph, Overcast
Tue, Nov 28 46 F, 1 mph, Mostly Cloudy

A substantial change in Bike the Lights took place in 2016 when the event was moved backward in time to be in late November rather than in December. This meant that it was over with before a lot of people even had it on their radar. And this happened the year after it had been rescheduled to December 28. So that pent-up demand over two years’ time caused a lot of people to come to Bike the Light in 2017. It was the biggest crowd I remember seeing since 2009.

This year Puddlecycle is leading a group ride to Winter Wonderland that will follow a flat/downhill 4-mile route to PIR using quiet streets and the Columbia Slough Trail. Meet us in Dawson Park at 6 pm if you’d like to ride along!

Tom Howe (Contributor)

Tom Howe (Contributor)

Tom Howe is a veteran ride leader who loves to share his passion for Portland history, infrastructure and geography. Contact him via

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Sam Churchill
5 years ago

I biked through the Portland Raceway’s Holiday Lights last month. Much fun for everyone!