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!
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.”
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.