Bikes in the Pearl District of Portland
Bikes in the Pearl District of Portland

Being in America’s Bicycle Capital, I decided to venture out and see just what it’s all about.

As we arrived at our hotel, I was fascinated by all the bicycles. They were everywhere! They belong on the roads here. Bikes of every shape and kind, from high-end carbon fibers to vintage bikes that are set up as delivery vehicles.

I went out early one morning in search of a bike rental shop. Arriving at the first one before 10 AM, I found out that they weren’t open yet. Portland is such an interesting city, that I didn’t mind. I just continued walking, enjoying the eclectic mix of buildings and people.

Americas Bicycle Capital mural
Mural outside our hotel window. It was a sign.

The next rental shop that I came to was open so I stepped inside. I explained that I was just visiting but wanted to experience their bike-friendly city. I didn’t reveal my cycling background. I just said that I wanted to experience some place that was so bike-friendly.

Bike rental shop in Portland
Looking for a bike rental shop in Portland

A little while later, I pushed my vintage single speed out the door and headed for the loop along the river. Not being the ‘navigator’ of the two of us I missed a turn, and the bike path.

Bike path along the Willamette River
Bike path along the Willamette River

The next thing I know I’m riding on a narrow, twisty pathway between dwellings and the river. Somehow I missed a turn. One wrong move would have meant an ugly fall to the river.

Lost the bike trail!
Lost the bike trail!

Realizing that this wasn’t a fun place to ride I began my search for the ‘real’ bike path. I had noticed bikes and pedestrians on a big red bridge. I decided to find my way there. Leaving the waterfront I found the Amtrak rails between me and the ramp for the bridge.

Luckily, I spotted a stairway to the bridge. Half way up the steps I was wondering if I was lucky at all. My single speed steel bike weighed a ton! Our aluminum tandem bicycle back home probably would have been lighter.

Bike meet staircase in Portland
Bike, meet staircase. I had to haul it up there.

Once across the bridge, I stayed in the bike lane, searching for some marker or sign to direct me to the loop I had planned on riding. With no luck finding a marked route, I turned around and returned across the bridge.

Bike lane on the bridge
Bike lane on the bridge

I never found my way back to the route I had planned to ride. But I did have a nice ride, and a heck of a workout. The farther I got from the riverfront, the hillier it became.

Riding by the Oregon Historical Society Museum
I rode by the history museum, which we visited later on

After two hours on a single-speed bicycle, I was ready for a break and lunch. Finding my way back to the shop in a very roundabout way, I returned the bike.

After lunch I returned to the first bike shop, the one that wasn’t open yet. They gave me a tour of their rental fleet. All new, and with multiple speeds. Bikes with eight-speed internal gears and one with a variable gear device that would do all the shifting for me. But there just wasn’t enough time for me to head out on another ride before meeting Sandy. Perhaps next visit.

Potland is the most bicycle-friendly place I have ever been. Drivers treated me as an equal, sharing the road and often giving me the right-of-way. One reason it was so easy for me to get lost is that there were bike lanes everywhere. Almost every street that I was on had a marked bike lane. It’s wonderful, but confusing when you’re not used to it.