Video: Speed and summer vibes at weekly street sprints on N Williams Ave

They’re sort of like bicycle drag races. (Photos/video: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

It’s summer, the nights are beautiful, and you live in a house full of messengers with a porch and yard that looks out onto a main street with a 10-foot wide bike lane. What do you do?

You throw a weekly cash sprint series and invite as many people as you can.

That’s what denizens of a large house on North Williams Avenue started back in June. They’ve been hosting weekly sprints on the block of Williams between N Beech and Failing every Wednesday night at 7:00 pm for a few months now. I rolled over last night to check it out.

A few dozen folks were chilling on the big porch of the house as the first sprints got underway. Jeremy Gomez was on the megaphone calling out the matches. I saw a familiar face, local up-and-coming racer Mateen Richey, and asked him about his bike. “It’s a pretty big gear,” he said, looking at his svelte and aero Felt carbon fiber machine. It was a 49-15 — huge for a singlespeed. What’s your strategy? I asked. “Try to get onto that gear as fast as I can,” he said with his typical wry smile. “The first five seconds will be really important.”

Cash sprints are a competition where participants pay into the pot and the winner takes all. The Williams variety are very informal and the vibe is definitely more about fun and hanging out than racing bikes. Someone scrawled the names of all entrants onto a of cardboard and the sprinting ensued.

The steps of the house (which is up on a small hill) were a perfect perch to watch the action. And since they striped the finish line right out in front, we got to see the final meters. It was awesome!

A few of the sprints were so fast the riders ended up catching up and passing unsuspecting Williams Avenue commuters. It took the “cat six commuter” thing Williams is infamous for to an entirely new level.

The final came down to Mateen and a guy named Ron. Apparently these two are often the fastest of the bunch and this was a rematch from a previous week. On one of the sprints, the two where rubbing shoulders right to the final inches and everyone at the house watched with mouths and eyes wide open and shouted hoots of appreciation as they flew by with a “whoosh!”.

Don’t miss the video for a closer look at the scene and to hear from finalists Mateen and Ron (and see Jeremy Gomez do some sick jumps on his new bike!). Who took home the cash this week? You’ll have to watch the video!

And stop by next Wednesday around 7:00 pm to test your strength and skill — or just spectate from sidewalk. More photos in the gallery below…

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Bryan Morris
Bryan Morris
14 days ago

Sounds like a good time!

Brian
Brian
10 days ago

I work 12 hour shifts on Wednesdays. Sorry to miss out, sounds great! Glad people are doing this kind of thing