Portland: Fixie Fixation

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I’ve headed over to Portland, Oregon, to visit the North American Handbuilt Bike Show (NAHBS), a gathering of the finest custom framebuilders in the land. Seeing as the show starts at the weekend, I’ve been hanging out with Trystan, who I toured with in China and Tibet when I was cycling home from Sydney. Portland’s the most progressive bike city in the States, so it’s refreshing to see bike lanes, and plenty of commuters using them. There’s also a plethora of excellent indie bike shops, like Veloshop (stunning Vanilla Bicycles Speedvagen on display), River City Cycles (very nice Ahearne 29er), Veloce (Indy Fab loveliness) and Clever Cycles (butch Big Dummy prototype).

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Judging by people’s rides, fixie mania has swept the place. I can’t believe how many there are. Machines kitted with sawn off flat bars for razoring through the traffic and offset with deep section aero wheels, leather toe straps, gorgeous wooden mudguards or gleaming, curvy chrome Nitto track bars. Way too cool for me.

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The bike parks are filled with Bianchis, Surlys, old converted racers, titinium Sevens, even the odd Kieren bike. A palette of burnt oranges, urban greens, stealth blacks. Spendy Ortlieb panniers protect against the regular downpours. There’s a big messenger scene, though seeing as it’s all about the messenger-look here, it’s hard to tell who’s who. Got your delivery bag (Chrome, Timbukt2, Reload et al) and minimal fixie? Only speed will tell you apart… Still, however you choose to do it (and even if that means jumping on the bike-as-a-fashion-accessory bandwagon), it’s all about fewer cars on the streets. And at less than $700 dollars for a complete build, with really very, glitzy shiny, colour co-ordinated finishing kit, these bikes make a lot of low maintenance sense, given Portland’s inclement weather and easy gradients. Whether you be a messenger or not.

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I’ve been lent a bike for the week. As per Trystan’s style, it isn’t just any set of wheels. A singlespeed cyclocross built by Independent Fabrications, complete with S&S couplings for ease of tranport between cities. Not too shabby…

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This place is a bike geek’s haven. I’ve spotted loads of old 10 speed Schwinn-style bikes cruising around, as well as other classics I’d never heard of, including this one from Jupiter cycles. I love the motif set into the top tube. It was parked outside Powell’s Book Shop, one of the biggest independent book shop in the world, with a whole bunch of other quirky and characterful machines. Clearly, these people love their bikes. I like that (-:

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I’m not sure what this was about though. Maybe it’s something to do with Zoobomb, who hurtle down steep streets on kids bikes… at night.

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Apparently, beer also plays a pivotal role in Portland cyclical life…

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24 Responses to “Portland: Fixie Fixation”


  1. 1 lemolobags February 7, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Glad your enjoying our fair city! If you want to get excited for the show this weekend and don’t have plans tonight you should ride that on over to Veloce Bicycles on Hawthorne/32nd for the IF pre-show party. Starts at 7pm.

    -Elias

  2. 2 otbiking February 8, 2008 at 10:18 am

    thanks, didn’t make it over tonight but came by the shop earlier today.

    great place, and I look forward to seeing the Indy Fab stand. Nice bags too!

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