Friends remember John Joy, the heart of Portland Bicycling Club

John Joy riding on Highway 30. December 14, 2018.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

There’s a big hole in Portland’s oldest cycling club as friends and riding buddies remember John Joy.

“He was larger than life and has helped countless people meet their cycling goals.”
— Kathleen Hellem, Portland Bicycling Club

John was involved in a crash while bicycling on January 25th and died in the hospital two days later. According to his daughter Kristal Langner, the details of what happened are still unknown. He was found unconscious and his bike had nothing wrong with it other than a flat front tire.

John was 77 years old, but was as strong and healthy as someone three decades younger.

As word of John’s death spread through Portland Bicycling Club (founded in 1971), many people have shared the impact he had on their riding and their lives.

John was the epitome of a “local legend” and would often be called “Old Goat”, a moniker he proudly embraced on a license plate that hung from his rear saddle (he also had a license plate that said “Old Fart”). He biked everywhere, on all types of bikes, in all types of conditions.

I met John several times over the years. More than once we randomly crossed paths while riding on Highway 30 north of the St. Johns Bridge. A retired truck driver, he probably logged more miles riding and driving back-and-forth on Highway 30 throughout his life than anyone else. He was easy for me to recognize because of his white beard — which isn’t something I’d usually see attached to a rider flying down the highway at 20 mph. The one time I snapped photos of him during one of our pedaling chats (lead photo) he was pounding away on a Trek MTB commuter bike with slick tires, a big aligator horn, and a large plastic tool box attached to the rear rack.

John was not your average 77-year old. He not only stayed in amazing shape, he still put in quite a few off-road miles. A Scappoose resident, he loved the unpaved roads of Columbia County (maybe that’s why I felt a connection to him). One of his favorite places to ride was the Crown Zellerbach Trail in Scappoose where he’d often lead weekend PBC adventure rides. On most weekends, he’d bike from his home in Scappoose (about 20 miles north of Portland) all the way into Portland to do the club ride, and then bike back home!

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“The Old Goat” license plate. (Photo: Portland Bicycling Club)
(Photo: Portland Bicycling Club)

According to Portland Bicycling Club newsletter editor Lynn Thompson Blanchard, John rode 6,970 miles in 2021, more than anyone on the club’s 470-member roster. It comes as no surprise to me (or anyone else I’m sure) that he biked all the way up until his last days. He was at the PBC group ride just this past Sunday that rode a loop around Portland and over the Tilikum Bridge.

“He was larger than life and has helped countless people meet their cycling goals,” recalled long-time PBC member Kathleen Hellem in the club’s recent monthly newsletter. “The impact John made on the cycling community was nothing short of excellent! If you were fortunate enough to know John and ride bicycles with him, then you already know that.”

Another thing John’s friends knew was the he loved to ride interesting bikes. One of his riding buddies, Bob Daugherty, talked to John a lot at coffee stops on rides over the years. “John was very unique,” he recalled. “He talked about his house, especially the spare bedroom, being filled with his many bikes. He owned a pink single speed, a Y-frame Trek suspension mountain bike, an electric tandem that he rode solo on, and others. At one point he told me he owned about 30 bikes.”

John and City of Portland Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller at a PBC meeting.
(Photo: PBC)

Another ride John liked to lead was the “Bike and a Burger” ride that trekked from from Sauvie Island, up and over NW McNamee Road to Helvetia Tavern. 3,500 feet of climbing in 35 miles, but John would make sure it was as accessible as possible. “We will leave no one behind that is willing to use their gears,” he’d share on the ride description.

Leaving no one behind was one of John’s trademarks. Reading memories of him on Facebook, I was struck by how many people mentioned he was the first person who talked to them at a ride, or how he would ride “sweep” to keep everyone safe, and how he was always willing to stop and help someone with a flat.

Here are a few of those memories:

“John was a faithful friend and riding buddy. I always felt safer whenever he was there. He watched out for other riders, fixed many flat tires that were not his own, stayed with slower riders to make sure they didn’t get lost, and shared tips both about riding and bike mechanics. He leaves a big hole in our club, and I will miss him!”

“He was the first PBC member I met. He greeted me with a warm smile, humor & conversation. I enjoyed being on rides with him.”

“I had the honor of meeting John on my first PBC ride. I got a flat in the last few miles and he was one of a group of people that came back to help me and lent me his full size pump LOL. Unfortunately that was the only time I got to ride with him but it was enough to make an impression.”

“Only rode with him once a hosted gravel ride by Scott Diamond . That dude went straight down a shamble gravel face solo on a dual gravel tandem. We mortals walked our bikes down. He had some cuts and scrapes for his adventure but, that appears, what he was all about. Hope he enjoys the next ride, he certainly inspires me.”

“I remember John as the heart of the bike club. He was kind, helpful, and supportive to all of us. He will be missed.”

Stay tuned for details about a memorial service and/or bike ride.

Rest in peace John.

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Stephen Keller
Stephen Keller
8 months ago

John was one of the best people I have ever had the privilege of riding with.

Stph

Hotrodder
Hotrodder
8 months ago

I only rode with John one time, it was the CZ Burger ride, he was on his tandem, and he tried to ride that big old thing down the steep and gnarly hill before the pavement to Vernonia. Yeah, he tipped over, but he got right back up and laughed it off.

RIP, sir. You will be missed.

Matt
Matt
8 months ago

Obviously I don’t know the cause and manner of his death, but I’d like to point out that a flat front tire will reduce your ability to control your bike by about 99% and can cause an instantaneous crash if it occurs suddenly rather than as a slow leak.

Barry Emmerling
Barry Emmerling
8 months ago

Marci & I joined PWTC (now PBC) in 2013 and had the honor of riding with John Joy many times, including as recently as a “Meet PBC” ride on Jan 23. John was always very welcoming to new riders, and willing to help others with flats or mechanical issues, and to serve as the “sweep” on club rides. He truly loved cycling and some years he logged over 12,000 miles just on PBC rides alone. He was undoubtedly a pillar of the club as well as the local cycling community. RIP John.

Jordan Norris
Jordan Norris
8 months ago

I am so sad to hear that John Joy passed. Although it is fitting that he died on his bike. In addition to his work at the PBC, he also should get a ton of credit for the off-road and mountain bike community. He was one of the first trail builders and riders in Scappoose at the area that would become the Rocky Point Trails. He lead rides and built trails and was a very strong rider. He was also involved with PUMP and later NWTA. He will be missed. Go for a bike ride in his memory.

jered l bogli
jered l bogli
8 months ago
Reply to  Jordan Norris

Yep, as one of the stewards at RP, if you ride at Rocky Point you owe John Joy a debt of gratitude as he is among the OG builders at Rocky Point. Ride a bike in John’s memory and also advocate and volunteer at a few dig days in his memory!

Geir Eide
Geir Eide
8 months ago

Unbelievably sad. I first met John almost 20 years ago, back when Wednesday night PUMP rides followed by a beer or three at Crackerjacks was a thing. Believe he rode an old yellow Trek Y bike at the time. Remember him giving me an many others guided tours of “his” trail network in Scappoose, at the time some of the nicest trails near Portland. Since then, I often ran in to him at a variety of bike rides/events in and around Portland. I will remember him as one of the nicest, most welcoming, and also most interesting people I have ever met.

Andrew Kreps
Andrew Kreps
7 months ago
Reply to  Geir Eide

This was exactly my experiences with John. We may have shared a pint at Crackerjacks.

Brian Combs
Brian Combs
8 months ago

Oh No ! – I knew John for so many years, as a long – time menber of P.U.M.P. (R.I.P.), he and I shared many , many fun times on bikes. He was always a bright spot on any ride – a positive force in a sometimes dark world…Ride on my friend, ride on…

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
8 months ago

Also, let’s remember Bud Clark, owner of Goose Hollow Inn, Portland mayor, and one of Portland’s original bicycle advocates. Whoop-whoop!

Brian
Brian
8 months ago

John was a great man. My condolences to his family and friends.

Rich Fein
Rich Fein
8 months ago

I had the privilege of having John as a customer of our bike shop. He was one of our favorite and most interesting customers. The crew certainly appreciated the beers. Here’s to you John – all heart, 100% genuine.

Rog Banrode
Rog Banrode
8 months ago

America in a nutshell. Live your life peacefully or without vitriol, get cut down by some weapon of distraction with the infrastructure said to protect you completely meaningless, and the budget that should protect you go to meaningless police.

Charley
Charley
7 months ago

I rode with him one time. In those days, I was racing, in pretty good shape, and riding a lightweight, fast bike. But here was John, a gracious, cheerful older gentleman riding a hybrid with a rack and funny gizmos, outriding my 30-year-old, cocky 4$$.

R.I.P, John Joy. When I grow up, I want to be cool like you.

Eric
Eric
7 months ago

I am glad to have known, built trail, and ridden with John. He was a neat and unique guy. Love this article