Shop tip: fun rides in Portland
By Patrick Loftus, Service Manager
For what will be my final shop tip, we’re going to step outside the bike shop and talk about sweet places to ride in Portland. These are just a few of my favorite under two hour rides I like to squeeze in before or after work. They’re all pretty mellow and tend to follow Portland bike routes. We’ll use our bike shop at 1700 NE Alberta as the start/finish line (we’re clearly labeled on the free bike maps from the city), but you can start anywhere.
(Click on bike maps to enlarge.)
NoPo Loop: This is my bicycle infrastructure wonk route, but it’s also a great picnic loop in the spring and summer. This ride sticks almost exclusively to the low traffic “neighborhood greenways” and crosses three unique bike/pedestrian bridges. With no hills and some fun, but tricky bridges to cross, it’s a great family and/or tandem friendly ride. Highlights include the bridges, Peninsula Park with its wonderful rose garden, and to two big intersection paintings.
Directions: This ride is a clockwise loop starting at the shop. It should be pretty clear from the map, but the tricky parts and highlights are as follows:
1) The Failing St. Bridge. It’s a pretty typical bike/ped bridge that’s admittedly kind of boring.
2) Right after you cross the Failing St. Bridge, take a right to head north up the alley. Take your first left onto Shaver and continue west past Interstate Ave to Concord Ave.
3) Just a few blocks off the route—at the weird intersection of Failing, Overlook, Melrose, and Concord—is a sweet intersection painting. Go a little farther south and you find Overlook Park.
4) The Concord St. Bridge over Going St. is my favorite bike/ped bridge in town. The approach on both sides is a tight spiral ramp that’s fun in either direction.
5) The Bryant St. Bridge. This seems to be Portland’s ‘hole in the wall’ bike/ped bridge. Many people are surprised when they first find it. The approach is all at street level with no ramps. You pass through a break in the wall and all of a sudden you’re over the freeway.
6) Peninsula Park. This park has an amazing rose garden. At the right time of year you can smell it from a few blocks away. It’s a great picnic park, with ample shade and even a covered area to picnic on rainy days.
7) Another great intersection painting at NE 8th and Holman. It’s the largest in the city and my favorite.
Tabor Loop: I like this loop in either direction, but find the hills and some street crossings a little easier going clockwise. For a more challenging option, you can add a quick trip up Rocky Butte off Tillamook. Highlights include a peaceful ride along the Alameda ridge, Tabor itself, and a weird, but awesome house on Lincoln St (it’s not like the other houses, find it if you can). This loop should also be pretty clear from the map, but here’s the tricky parts going clockwise:
1) Alameda St follows a ridge line through NE Portland. It’s pretty easy to take a wrong turn and end up somewhere down the hill. To stay on course look at the street signs to stay on Alameda and avoid going down any substantial hill until you get to the golf course.
2) 72nd Dr. cuts right through Rose City Park and Golf Course. Watch the speed bumps and take a left at the bottom of the hill.
3) Take a left on Burnside. It’s a little blind, so be careful. Turn right on 76th.
4) At Stark, take a right, followed by a quick left at the light. It’s hard to navigate this intersection heading north, as Stark is one way. When heading north I cross on the sidewalk at the light. Proceed with caution.
5) Mount Tabor! You made it, enjoy it. Ride a few loops around the reservoir, enjoy the view, and leave off the south side. The view of downtown is fantastic, especially around sunset.
6) Somewhere in the 40 blocks is that sweet house on the north side of the street.
7) To cut the loop a little shorter, head up 41st and follow the bike route signs. At I-84 you’ll find another bike/ped bridge (7A on the map) with a MAX stop. The south side of the bridge has a long ramp for access. The north side requires you to dismount and walk down the stairs (‘cross training) or try your slow speed balance on the urban switchbacks (the ADA ramp).
8) After crossing I-84, I take a left on Multnomah Ave to get off 21st. I find 19th to be a more enjoyable way north to Tillamook.
9) Once you reach Tillamook you have easy bike access to anywhere in inner Portland. Jog over to 18th and head north to get back to the shop.
Forest Park Stoop Ride: A few summers ago, fellow mechanic, Forrest, and I discovered a stoop way out in Forest Park. It’s an old foundation block, complete with steps, 10 yards off Leif Erickson, just south of Springville Rd. It’s a nice midpoint to stop for a snack and beverage of your choice. That particular summer we had a great time riding our coaster brake “klunkers” to the stoop for a snack. You don’t need a mountain bike for this ride, but I would recommend at least 32c (1-1/4”) tires. Bring a tube on this ride in case you get a pinch flat. To make this ride more challenging, explore Forest Park, but follow the signs and stick to the bike ‘friendly’ routes. Here are the tricky parts:
1) Head south from the shop toward the Broadway Bridge. I prefer quiet neighborhood streets to those with bike lanes, so I take 17th or 18th south to Tillamook. As a bonus, they’re shadier and cooler than Vancouver/Williams.
2) After the bridge, turn right on 9th, then left on Overton. Overton is just enough north to miss most of NW Portland traffic.
3) The Thurman Gate, you are now in Forest Park!
4) Somewhere in there is the stoop (I think it’s around mile marker 9-10, but I can’t remember exactly). Look to your left for a foot path leading to a concrete footing. If you get to Springville, you’ve gone too far. If you don’t want to end up in St Johns, now is your chance to turn around and head back the way you came.
5) Turn right down Springville. It’s steep, can be muddy, can be gravely, and then ends real steep on the pavement. Ride within your comfort level and walk if you have to.
6) Traffic can be heavy and full of big trucks getting on to the St. Johns Bridge. Ride with caution.
7) Take the first right off the bridge and head down the hill. Take a left on Willamette.
8) Once you turn on Bryant St follow the route from the NoPo loop to get back to the shop.
(Editor’s note: Thanks to Timo Forsberg for pointing out that the Thurman St. Bridge is closed until fall, so folks will have to use a detour.)
These are just a few loops I like to do before or after work, but there are many other options. It’s hard to go wrong when wandering Portland by bike. Do you have a favorite? Share it below. For more ride ideas come in our Bike Shop and ask our mechanics where they like to ride.