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The Case for Riding Defensively

Let’s face it, all the signage and training in the world will never prevent accidents from happening. How many times have you dropped, forgotten, knocked over or done something stupid in your daily life and thought “what just happened? I don’t usually do that.” Mistakes happen.

There are jerks out there from all types of road users, to be sure, but we can’t place all the blame on them for accidents and near misses.

No one can hold your hand through the process of navigating the road on your bike. You can’t pad yourself in a protective coating, you just can’t. So what can you do?

Ride Defensively

  • Take responsibility for your own safety. Don’t rely on signage or other people to keep you safe.
  • Stay alert to your surroundings. Know what other road users are doing.
  • Think ahead and anticipate the maneuvers of other road users.
  • Drop the attitude. It’s excellent that you’re riding your bike, but you’re no better than anyone else when your attitude gets you crushed. Don’t try to prove anything out there – you can’t win against the magnitude of a car.
  • Give yourself ample room to stop, move, get out of the way, stay safe.
  • Choose your route wisely. Know where you’re headed and what the terrain is like. If you’re confused, pull over and figure it out.
  • Be visible. Have lights. It’s ridiculous to surprise car drivers and pedestrians then be upset they didn’t see you. No ninjas!
  • Ride predictably. Signal your turns (confident and clear: a straight arm right or left, depending on which way you’re turning) and avoid unexpected moves like jutting out into traffic.

Have fun and be safe out there. We want to see you smiling, riding your bike and practicing #FriendlyCycling, a movement that encourages cyclists to set the tone by being extra respectful and friendly on the road. Take the higher ground, and protect yourself when riding your bike.


Winter on a bike… made EASIER

Summer in so glorious in the lightweight clothes we wear, the feeling of sweet summer air on our skin and the carefree rides late into the night.

Winter’s a different story. And instead of complaining about the weather, we may as well just gear up and go for the ride.

Here are some tricks for making winter gear much easier.

Invest in Quality Gear

Try what you currently have, but when it’s time to buy new gear, invest in well made gear that will last over time. You’ll save money in the long run, and you’ll have a much more pleasant ride. With a wealth of local manufacturers in Oregon, you’ll also know you’re supporting quality businesses that care about their employees and are keeping jobs in Oregon.

Care For Your Gear

Most gear doesn’t need to be washed with regularity, and in come cases over-washing can damage the fabric. Read the label carefully and follow the instructions.

Letting your gear fully air out and dry out prevents some of that funky winter stink from forming and will your gear last longer.

Avoid using the dryer for your gear as much as you can. In some cases it will outright damage the fabric, and in all cases it will slowly degrade the performance fabric. Plus, a dryer uses about 40% of the energy in a typical home, so reducing your use can increase your electricity bill savings rather easily.

Give it a Home

When you come home, where does your gear go? How about somewhere where it can dry out nicely. And hey! What if that’s also an easy spot for getting geared up in the morning? Make gear grabbing easy and you’re much more likely to ride. We suggest a drying rack with a towel under it, or, if you’re fortunate, a spot in your garage right next to your bike.

Boot Dryers

If you’re a regular commuter, your gloves and shoes very well may not try out over night. Boot dryers with enough space for both shoes and gloves are a great way to gently dry out your gear over night. Bonus: Configure your gear set up so the rest of your gear hangs well above the boot dryer and benefits from the residual heat that wafts upwards.


Win a MiiR Bike + City Style!

We’ve teamed up with some of our favorite Pacific Northwest brands to help you stay cozy and stylish on your bike all winter long.

Class up your ride this winter with this impressive package that’s perfect for asphalt adventurers who yearn to explore the alleys, bike lanes and brew pubs surrounded by the din of the frenetic urban landscape.


One lucky winner will receive all of this





Come the Rains, Dry the Gear

Once upon a time you had your rain bags and your normal bags, but those days are long past. These days there is a wealth of bag options that perform as well in the rain as they do on a dry day of running errands.

North St. Bags is well know as having awesome bags that stand the test of torrential downpours and have innovative features, like two models of backpacks that convert to a pannier. They’re 100% waterproof and the company is constantly revising and improving their line. They now also offer smaller handlebar bags and fanny packs.

Showers Pass, experts in waterproof outerwear, offers a small line of smart waterproof bag options. Customers who have truly put these to the test (such as dunking the duffle in a pond) swear by them.

Other solid options include SealLine, Ortlieb and Timbuktu, all of whom have stood the test of time and offer a quality bag at a fair price for its durability and waterproofness.

If you’re satisfied with the bag you currently have but it’s not waterproof enough, you can always purchase a bag cover to give it the extra protection it needs to survive a downpour (many options abound). Then put your favorite waterproof bag on your wish list, be a good little boy or girl, and hope Santa is very generous this year.

PICTURED: The Morrison from North St. Bags, a lightweight backpack that converts to a pannier and is 100% waterproof. Made in Portland.


Disc Brake Lowdown, Part 2

what kinds of disc brakes are best

This is the second article in our series about disc brakes. You can read Part 1 here.

As the weather turns and the conditions in the Pacific Northwest become downright nasty, disc brakes, with their low maintenance avoid-the-muck style, are starting to sound better and better. Last month we covered the power and reliability of disc brakes in all weather conditions.

This month we’re breaking (braking?) down the various kinds of disc brakes.

Mechanical Disc Brakes

This is basically a fancy way of saying that the brake is pulled by a cable – a similar mechanism to traditional brakes. That’s why they are also referred to as “cable actuated” brakes.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes

Hydraulic disc brakes work just like the ones in your car. There is brake fluid in a closed system with a reservoir of fluid at the brake lever. When you pull the lever, the fluid is pushed to the pads forcing them together.

Which is right for you?

In general, the biggest difference is that hydraulic brakes are more powerful, consistent and easy to use. But they cost almost twice as much as the mechanical variety.

Though mechanical brakes aren’t as impressive as hydraulic, they’re still worlds above standard rim brakes.

Benefits of Mechanical Brakes

With mechanical brakes cables stretch and housing flexes, adding potential friction and a mushy feeling when braking. Much like traditional rim brakes they need regular maintenance and adjustments. As the pads wear down and cable stretches mechanical disc brake pads and cables will need to be adjusted to bring the pads closer to the rotor. Depending on how much braking you’re doing and how much weight you’re carrying this could be more often than you’d think. It’s easy to do, but if you’re someone that prefers a maintenance-free ride, you might consider hydraulics instead.

Benefits of Hydraulic Brakes

Hydraulic brake pads are completely self-adjusting as they wear down, and because the brake fluid is sealed, grit and grime don’t effect the moving parts nearly as much – no muss, no fuss. However, occasionally the fluid will need to be changed out or “bled” of air bubbles that can enter the system over time and make the brake feel mushy. This takes a more specialized set of skills and tools to fix that add a dimension of difficulty for the home mechanic, though it’s a repair that any bike shop can easily handle.

The real magic of hydraulic brakes is that they magnify the effort you put into pulling the brake lever. When pulling the lever lightly with just one or two fingers you can ease your brakes slowly or stop on a dime. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to feel real power at your fingertips, hydraulic disc brakes can bring that to life. When my students feel them for the first time after working on any kind of mechanical brake, there’s a look of wonder and surprise in their eyes at just how really, really great it feels. Yes, there is such a thing as brake envy, and hydraulic brakes can inspire it.

A Limited Market

Which style you end up with may not only be dictated by budget, but by what’s available on the market. Because road bikes have only recently been offered with a hydraulic system, most drop-bar bikes with disc brakes will come with cable-actuated brakes, including touring, commuter and cyclocross style bikes. Mountain and upright-bar commuter bikes offer both as options, though most modern, mid to high–end mountain bikes will always come with hydraulic brakes.

If you have a choice between both, hydraulic brakes have unsurpassed performance, but will especially make a difference if you’re a heavier rider, carrying loads, or having periods of extended braking like riding down a mountain. However, if you plan to take the bike adventuring to a remote area with limited service options, you might not be able to find the parts you hydraulic brakes should anything go wrong out there.

Mechanical Brake Pros

Special tools or as much knowledge not needed.
Come stock on classic, drop-bar road bikes (touring, cyclocross, commuting).

Mechainical Brake Cons

Harder to pull and less reactive brake lever.
Feel mushy.
Don’t stop as quickly.
Need frequent adjustments and maintenance.

Hydraulic Brake Pros

Best stopping power.
Best control.
Easy to maintain.
Best for bigger riders/loads/extended descents.

Hydraulic Brake Cons

More technical repairs.

Next Up

Just when you thought we had exhausted the conversation about disc brakes, there’s more to discuss, but we’ll save that for the next article when we discuss which pads are best.


Tori Bortman is ORbike’s resident bike mechanic. She is also an educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench. Tori’s new book, The Big Book of Cycling for Beginners, was recently published by Bicycling Magazine.


Head to Toe: How to Stay Dry

Umbrellas for your skin.

Perhaps you’ve seen images of people cycling upright through the rain, umbrella in hand. And sure, that very well may happen somewhere, but it’s just not practical. Having both hands free for navigation is key when riding through the city.

So if you’re not going to use an umbrella to keep try, what can you do? The good news is you have options.

Helmet Covers

Obligatory helmet cover section. We don’t think these are all that important. Most helmets only let in a little rain so unless you’re on a long ride we think breathability outweighs the hassle caused by a few rain drops in your hair.

Head Covers

If your head or ears get cold easily, you’re going to want to wear something thin under your helmet. An ultra light wool beanie, such as this one from Icebreaker, is a fantastic option. For something more minimal, consider a wool headband that you wear over your ears. Some people prefer a headband made out of synthetic materials and often with a very thin fleece lining to make it comfortable, but we find that the wool holds up better and needs less cleaning.

Cape it Up

A rain cape isn’t for everyone – some people feel silly in them – but they are an effective option with a lot of good features like immense breathability, they try out fast and they’re compact. Plus, it’s one article of clothing that can keep both your upper and lower body dry while riding.

Rain Jackets

There are a million rain jackets on the market so we won’t even begin to explain them all. It really comes down to budget, style and personal preference (Hood? Rear flap? High visibility? Breast pocket? Wrist cinches?)

Bike specific rain jackets are really the way to go. Though you might be tempted to all-purpose your standard rain coat, chances are it lacks the breathability of a jacket engineered specifically for cycling.


How much time do you have? We could talk about gloves all day long. For now, let’s simply address waterproofness. Warm and waterproof combined – that’s a deeper discussion.

Choose a glove that fits well. As your hand warms up and sweats, getting your glove on and off can be a major hassle. And you’d be surprised how much you might want to perform this action over the course of a long ride (answer your phone, open up something intricate, free up your dexterity, etc.)

There are a wide variety of brands out there. We like the option of selecting a glove that’s soft on the inside and one that has a soft pad on the outside for wiping your nose.

Rain Pants

They’re kind of a pain in the ass, let’s be honest. Rain pants can be a hassle to put on, stiff to wear, and annoying to remove in mixed company, or just in front of people in general. But if you’ve got a long rainy ride ahead, rain pants are a solid way to stay try.

Hate removing them in front of people? Here’s our trick: Head straight to the bathroom. Take a deep breath, relax, remove your shoes, remove your pants, wipe them down with a cloth, put your shoes on, take a deep breath, drink a glass of water, fix your hair, gather your belongings and walk composed into your meeting/office/date/etc.

No Rain Pants

Don’t like rain pants? That’s cool; you’ve got other options. Some people prefer a lightweight cycling pant or tights. There are also rain knickers that are intended to stay on once you get off the bike. Ladies might prefer to simply wear wool tights that will try out relatively quickly, perhaps with a skirt over the top.

Trick: Wear a wrinkle resistant skirt. Tuck it into your waistline and ride wearing just your tights (they’ll just look like yoga pants anyway). When you arrive at your destination, pull out and smooth down your skirt. Voila! You look great.

Wet Feet Stink

Rubber boots
Waterproof shoes
Waterproof socks
Cycling booties
Wet feet

Those are your options. Choose what’s right for you. We love the waterproof socks from Portland-based Showers Pass.


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