The bike tourists return

As those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, you know my day job for eleven years and counting is working the desk at a hostel. (Which hostel? Look at my photostreams and you can figure it out.) Now working a hostel has its ups (getting comped bookings elsewhere) and downs (it’s customer service/hospitality, and guests don’t always do the right thing). But being a hostel in Portland means we see a decent share of bicycle tourists. And of course I like that!

Now bike tourists at a hostel in Portland is pretty much a given: Hostels have a long history with bike touring. My employer, Hostelling International-USA (when it was known as American Youth Hostels or AYH) was the preeminent bike touring organization in the US before Bikecentennial-Adventure Cycling Association stole its thunder, so to speak.* And Portland is a popular touring destination, since we are on or near four big ACA routes, and there’s oodles of touring opportunities all around. And oh yeah, we’re a pretty cheap place to stay, all things considered.

So over the years, I have seen lots of cyclotourists pass through, primarily in the summer months but a trickle still through the off-season.  The past year, however, we haven’t been as popular a spot. I don’t think there’s been any dip in cyclists coming through, it’s probably due to things like Air BnB getting more popular, and the fact that people book up our place so far in advance, cyclists can’t squeeze in (though we do work to accommodate them!) And I haven’t seen anyone in months, either. It’s no surprise as we’ve had quite the intense winter.

But on Thursday April 13, I saw my first cyclotourists of the year! And yes, plural. No, they weren’t together, it just was happenstance that I got two different tourists on the same day. The first was an older gent with a sweet mid-80’s Schwinn Sierra MTB and a BOB trailer. He was heading east through the Gorge. The other was a younger Brit with a thoroughly modern bikepacking setup on a Niner. He was heading out to Astoria to ride the TransAm.** Unfortunately, they showed up in the afternoon so I only got a few minutes to talk to both, and neither stayed Friday night. (The Brit originally booked two nights but departed early. I think he got anxious and wanted to get moving.)

But they are the first of hopefully many. Now if the weather ever improves…

*All of the four founders of ACA got involved in bike touring through AYH.

**And yeah, it’s a bit early for that, especially this year with all the cold, wet, and snow…

Touringish plans for late spring and early summer

Hello friends, even though it’s still oh-so-damp outside, better weather is just around the corner. And now it’s time for me to start thinking about all those bike tours and camping trips I want to do.  I haven’t done much this year so far, just the camping trip in January to Battle Ground Lake and the February cabin trip at Stubb Stewart. (Well, I guess compared to those in colder climes who don’t camp in the snow, I guess I’ve done a bit. 😉  )

I managed to snag a three-day weekend on the first weekend of May. Providing that the weather isn’t complete crap, I’d like to get out to the coast! It’s been awhile (a year!) since I saw the Pacific. Wait, no, I did see the Pacific when I was in the Bay Area. No, it’ll be the first time I’ve been to the Oregon Coast in a year. I may just go out to Cape Lookout, as it’s fairly easy, and beautiful. And man, my time in the Bay Area reminded me of my big Pacific Coast tour in 2006. I need to explore more of that soon…
And as consolation prize for not going to Pepin in May, I snagged a full week off in early June. Where to? Well, I’ve been hankering to go back to Eastern Oregon again, the vast expanse of the state east of the Cascades.* It’s been awhile since I biked out that way, and things like my December work retreat to Smith Rock has wetted my appetite for the dry side, so to speak. But Eastern Oregon is a pretty vast region. Where exactly? Well, my train trip to California made it clear: start in Klamath Falls, since it’s easy to take Amtrak there. From K Falls, I could incorporate sections of the famed Oregon Outback bikepacking route. I’d also like to see some of the big endoheric lakes down that way, and it’s high time to see Newberry Crater too. A lot to tackle in a week. I’ll be refining my plans over the next couple months, and figuring out if I loop back to Klamath Falls, or end elsewhere like Bend or Eugene. Stay tuned.

I also managed to snag an extended weekend off in mid-July. This is reserved for going up north of Seattle again, some of it for doing a bit of the San Juans (most likely just Lopez, my favorite island) and for a special event in the Skagit Valley.

After that, I really hope to do a backpacking adventure this year. Yes, backpacking! While I’ve bike toured a metric crap-ton of times, I’ve never just gone out into the woods with a pack strapped to back. Hopefully, this year will be different.

And besides more camping adventures scattered throughout the summer, I plan to take another week-or-more long tour in September. I just need to figure out where…

*Some may argue that there is two zones east of the Cascades, Central and Eastern Oregon. But to us wet, er, west siders, it’s all Eastern! 😛

Finally, the Three Speed Ride Report for the April 2 ride!

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello folks! I have to say, we had a pretty good first Three Speed Ride for 2017! For one, the weather was pretty decent, a mix of sun and clouds (though at one point we did feel a couple drops) and a high in the mid-to-upper 50’s. (The only complaint there is the temp was “in between” enough that I kept on adding and subtracting a layer throughout the ride.)

We had a good turnout too, around 15 (we picked up a couple more at the end of the ride.) And the ride itself was just the right mix of ease and challenge, with an overall length of 18 miles. Some folks remarked that this was as far as they pushed their three speeds, which was a good sign. But you can push them even further than this ride!

Oh yeah, we managed to hit up four of the five…

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Three Speed Adventure April is happening NOW. And some clarifications on those rules.

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello all! We are officially in the midst of the Three Speed Adventure April challenge, which will be going on until the very end of the month (which is Sunday, April 30.) We’ve got a few people who have said “yes” so far. So if you are on board, give me a heads up at

I just wanted to clarify a few of the guidelines of the challenge, since there’s been some confusion, and I screwed up a couple details as well. So…

  • Please remember that the bike doesn’t have to be a three speed! As with the previous challenge, I accept four or five speed internally geared hubs, basically, what you could have gotten from Sturmey-Archer in the 1970’s.
  • As for that pesky derailleur on Bromptons, you’ll need to disable the derailleur to participate in the challenge. Note: I just said “disable”. You don’t have to remove…

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REMINDER: Three Speed Ride THIS SUNDAY, April 2!

Society Of Three Speeds

image1Hello folks! It’s just two short days until the first Portland Three Speed Ride of 2017! As of now, the weather looks okay, partly cloudy with a high in the mid-50s. So cross your fingers, but still be prepared for sprinkles. Also, like pretty much ALL Three Speed Rides, there is a little bit of dirt/off-road action. These areas are a bit muddy, but doable. I’d advise wearing shoes with a bit of traction, if possible.

The basic details of the ride remain the same:

  • This ride will happen on Sunday April 2. Meet up at 10:30 am, leave at 11.
  • We will be meeting at Khunamokwst Park at the corner of NE 52nd Ave and Alberta St in the Cully neighborhood. This park is brand-spanking-new, so you ain’t going to find it on an old map. Khunamokwst has a small picnic shelter (yay!), water, and a bathroom that may/may…

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Bay Area trip: Postcard reports

Hey all! I’m currently on Amtrak train 14, the Coast Starlight, heading home. The high desert country of Eastern Oregon is the scenery right now, soon we will be crossing the Cascades. Overall an okay trip, and I’ll have a full update when I get back to a real computer. You can check out loads of photos here:

In the meantime, here’s the postcard reports from the trip. Enjoy!

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Bay Area trip: Sacramento dispatch

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight left just a little after 2:30 PM PDT yesterday, Sunday March 19. This was the first time in three years​that I used this train. So I got to use the new roll on bike service. Bike hooks! No more boxing of bikes!

This was also the first time using the new Business Class on the Coast Starlight. What does that mean? For about $40 more, I had a pretty empty coach car. Compare this to the usual packed to the gills coach cars on this train! I also got a $6 voucher which I used for the wine tasting in the Pacific Parlour car. Yes, the swanky old Santa Fe lounge car (built in the mid 1950’s) generally reserved for the Sleeping Car passengers! Style and class. I also ate dinner in the Dining Car. While this is an added fee for Business Class, (it’s included for the Sleeping Car passengers), I just felt like being swanky. And I got to have an interesting conversation with an “on vacation” Amtrak Conductor and her very railfan husband.

Night fell as we crossed Willamette Pass and I fell asleep after the train crossed into California. I awoke around 5:30 AM in Sacramento. I retrieved my bike from the baggage car and noticed a bulge from the tire sidewall. Damn. The bike must have done a bit of rubbing on the hook. Now I have to figure this out before I go further.

But no bike shop is open at 6 AM. So I killed time with breakfast and coffee, and also contacted Compass to get a replacement RTP tire sent to me in SF. I found a bike shop open at 10, but they seemed… Disinterested in helping me out. So I crossed the river into West Sacramento and found Edible Pedal, who was enthusiastic about helping me out! (It’s always a good sign when one is greeted with “Cool bike!”) He booted the tire with Gorilla Tape, and also adjusted my front brake too!

So the bike is back in shape, so time to ride…

Announcing: Three Speed Adventure April challenge!

Society Of Three Speeds

Hello friends. You know I love bike challenges. First, it was my THREE SPEED OCTOBER challenge. Now, just six months later, I am introducing THREE SPEED ADVENTURE APRIL!

What exactly is this challenge, and how is it different than the October challenge? Well, this challenge is about doing things with/on a three speed bicycle that some people would unfairly consider “beyond its abilities”. These bikes are more able than even some seasoned three-speeders think!

The overall challenge consists of five different sub-challenges:

  1. Ride your three speed at least fifteen miles (25 km) in one ride.
  2. A climb of 5% or more grade, with a cumulative elevation gain of at least 150 feet (45 m).
  3. A bit of unpaved/dirt action, of at least a cumulative one half mile (1 km).
  4. Coffee outside via three speed.
  5. A bike overnight or bike camping trip by three speed.

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here…

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