My trips to Portland have always been active and outdoorsy: I’ve actively hunted down the city’s brilliant microbreweries and I’ve greedily eaten outdoors at many lip-smacking street food stands. But through my calorific haze, even I’ve noticed that steely-calved Stumptowners spend a lot of time in the saddle.
Oregon’s biggest city is a cyclists’ haven. With more than 500 kilometres of trails, Bicycling magazine frequently names it one of America’s pedal-friendly capitals. I touched base with local Jonathan Maus – founder of popular blog Bike Portland – to get the inside track.
First off: where to rent. There are many places to hire wheels, but Maus suggests one that quickly connects you with the locals. “Cycle Portland Bike Tours in Old Town. Owner Evan Ross is a true gem in the community and he’s got a range of bikes that help you blend in with the locals. The prices are hard to beat, too.” See their website portlandbicycletours.com.
Now that you’re ready to roll, where should you go?
Maus recommends starting with Waterfront Park and the Eastbank Esplande. “The views of the river and the city skyline are fantastic. And if people-watching is your thing, you’ll have plenty of that, too.” He suggests heading south from Waterfront Park – stopping at Salmon Street Fountain to soak in the scene – before zipping up onto the Hawthorne Bridge. Then, return along the Willamette River and head back to Waterfront Park.
And if you fancy a nature fix, he suggests the Springwater Corridor. “The path is beautiful and it’s common to see eagles, geese, deer, ospreys and more at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. You could also stop in at Oaks Amusement Park for old-fashioned rides or a picnic,” he says.
Alternatively, he suggests North Williams Avenue and the Going Neighborhood Greenway for idyllic urban exploring. “Williams is full of shops and spots to eat and drink, and there’s a bike lane the entire way: You’ll be sharing the space with lots of other riders. Then, head east on Going Street. Two blocks north of Going is the Alberta Street district, which also has lots of great shopping.”
But great routes are just one part of a successful bike-themed vacation. Connecting with Portland’s pedalling community can also be a trip highlight. “Some places are especially popular if you want to hang out with the locals. Try HUB Bike Bar, Apex Brewery, Courier Coffee and Velo Cult Bike Shop & Tavern,” says Maus, who adds that River City Bicycles is also a great gear shop.
You’ll run into even more of those friendly, whippet-fit Portlanders at local bike gatherings. There are regular events here – the huge Pedalpalooza festival is running until June 29 – and Maus says visitors should check shift2bikes.org and orbike.com to see what’s coming up. Since you’re online, also peruse the maps and resources at the City of Portland’s bike website.
If you’re tempted to extend your stay, Maus has a final, long-weekend trip from the city to suggest.
“Take your bike on MAX [light rail transit] to Hillsboro and then ride 20 or so miles – mostly on bike-only paths – to Vernonia. Stop in at the ranger station at Stub Stewart State Park to learn more about the area, then continue on to Vernonia for its small-town charm and places to eat and drink. You can also camp along the river at Anderson Park – it’s walking distance from the town.”