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…

Track bikes to invade Portland for ‘Bone Machine Criterium’ and bike show

Team Ironclad Street Sprints-8

Get ready for some exciting racing.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re a fan of fixed-gear and track bikes, you’re going to love this news: Next weekend (September 9-11) the Bone Machine Criterium is coming to Portland.

Organizers have put together three days of track bike goodness that begins with an event at the Alpenrose Velodrome on Friday.

Ernesto Gonzalez is the man behind the crit. He says the race, which will take place on Sunday in Swan Island (and industrial zone in north Portland) is the first of its kind in Oregon. Riders must use track bikes with one gear only that is fixed — meaning there is no freewheel and the only way to stop is to push backwards on the cranks. Imagine a huge pack of racers riding inches away from each without any hand-brakes. Gonzalez says they’ll be flying through the course at about 30 miles per hour. There will be races for men and women and a cash purse of $2,000 (there is equal payout for men’s and women’s fields and women are especially encouraged to sign up!).

“I’m expecting a fair amount of people to come, race and have fun,” Gonzalez shared with us via email. “Many racers are flying from out of town.” Criterium racers from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, New York City, Washington D.C., and Mexico are expected to compete.

Prior to the main event on Sunday, there will be a track meet at Alpenrose Velodrome followed by a party at Velo Cult Bike Shop and Tavern. At the party there will be a goldsprints competition ($5 to enter, winner takes all) and the talented group of riders and filmmakers from San Francisco’s Mash SF group will share a free screening of their new film (trailer below)

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Portland needs bicycle drag races

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Our friends at Portland Design Works shared a link to a 2010 YouTube video this morning with a simple exclamation of “YES!”

The video shows bicycle drag races being held in a California shopping mall parking lot in the 1970s. It’s amazing footage from the era of banana seats and ape hanger bars. One racer even has parachutes that deploy at the end of his run, just like a real NHRA funny car. Check it out…

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Street sprints return to Pearl District Saturday

Team Ironclad Street Sprints-9

A shot from last year’s action.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The bicycle drag races known as “street sprints” are coming back to the Pearl District this Saturday. Last year, the inaugural event drew 80 competitors, all vying to see who was fastest over the three block course.

The ‘Speed Never Sleeps’ event is bike racing in its purest form; four riders start from a dead stop and the top two advance to the next round.There’s no drafting and no bumping (you must hold your line).

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‘Street sprints’ hit the Pearl District

Team Ironclad Street Sprints-7

Jeff Harwood (far left) gets the win
and the Street Sprints crown.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Portland’s Pearl District played host to a rare form of bike racing on Saturday evening when local Ironclad Performance Wear Cycling Team held their first annual Street Sprints competition. The format was simple: a three-block, side-by-side (no drafting) sprint between four racers at a time. The top two from each heat moved on and the bottom two moved to the sidelines to watch. There were separate classes for men, women, and fixed gear racers.

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