Take your bike on the train

Fender Up!

The time has come to choose your winter riding weapon – and choose carefully. The first (and best) defense for your face, booty, bike and the guy or gal riding behind you is a good set of fenders.

Here’s a guide to deciding which are the right fit for you and your bike.

Clip-On Fenders

Clip-on fenders strap around the seat post, arc behind the rear wheel and protect your backside. Some come with a front option, but many don’t.


  • Easy installation for even the least mechanically inclined.
  • Easily removed if you want a lighter, cleaner bike on dry days.
  • Transferable from one bike to another.
  • Inexpensive.


  • Many don’t come with a front fender option.
  • Are easily removed (so easily stolen).
  • Have the least amount of coverage.

Best for:

  • Infrequent/fair weather riders who might get caught in a storm.
  • Full suspension mountain bikes.

Clamp-On Fenders

Clamp-on fenders cover more of the circumference of your front and rear wheels, leaving you slightly more protected from the wet and grime.


  • Fairly to install or remove (Most strap onto your bike frame with a heavy-duty rubber band enclosure.)
  • Better coverage.
  • Lightweight.


  • Are easily removed (so easily stolen).
  • Finicky and shift easily needing regular micro-adjustments to not rub against your wheel.
  • Can leave scratches on your lovely paint job if you don’t use a protective tape where it attaches to the frame.

Best for:

  • Riders with newer road bikes that won’t fit full fenders.
  • Fair weather riders who want better coverage than a clip-on.

Full Fenders

Full Fenders are the ultimate option for protecting yourself from soggy underwear and street grit in your eye. They bolt into your bike, making them sturdy and semi-permanent. Available in both plastic (more economic) or metal (classier, but heavier and more expensive).


  • The best coverage of any option, will keep you the most clean and dry.
  • Once properly installed, don’t need much adjusting.
  • Are not easily removed, so theft is not a problem.


  • Depending on your bike, can be extremely fussy and time consuming to install, so many folks find it’s worth the money to have a professional mechanic handle the job.
  • More expensive than other options.
  • Most modern road bikes do not have enough room to fit full fenders without having to create custom mounting brackets and cutting the fenders to fit, greatly adding to the cost and shortening the life of the fenders.

Best for:

  • Hybrid/commuter/city bikes or road bikes with cantilever, V, or disc brakes.
  • Riders who are regularly riding in the rain.

Lookin’ Good

Take your time to choose wisely. Within each of these categories, there is a wide selection of styles and brands. Maybe bright yellow plastic fenders are right for you, but if that’s not your style you definitely have plenty of other options.

Winter can be a dreary time. If you’re looking to step up your style, you can spend more money for metal, hammered metal, gorgeous wood fenders or some other stylized option. Most of them are handmade, beautiful, long lasting and oh-so-Portland. In a rainy world of gray and grit, these can brighten your day while keeping you dry.

Tori Bortman is a bike mechanic, educator, consultant and the owner of Gracie’s Wrench.


You Need to Lube

Winter just started, and that means more rain. Sigh. It also means your chain and gearing are going to need to be lubed more often. How can you tell? You can hear it. If you can hear it, so can others. That squeaky, grinding, you-are-working-too-hard sound is the finger nails on the chalkboard of bike riding. Chain lube costs $5 and thanks to the Northwest’s extended winter rainy season, you just might earn two bottles.

How to Lube Your Chain – Quickly

    1. Wipe your chain down with a rag. Just turn the pedals with one hand and hold the rag in the other. Do this for several rotations and use light finger pressure (over the rag) on each side of the chain. Watch your fingers and don’t let the rag get caught.
    2. Apply the lube. You don’t need a lot, but make sure you slowly apply drops at a time as you rotate. Run the chain through several rotations while shifting through your gears. You want the chain to look a little wet. Again, you do not need a lot, but you do want thorough coverage.
    3. Hold your rag lightly over the chain and cycle through 1-2 rotations. This light wiping removes excess lube, which attracts dirt and grime that will slow you down and cause chain wear over time.

Proper chain maintenance will extend the life of your chain. It is also good for your drivetrain. But perhaps most importantly, you will not be that person clearly struggling to pedal while you “eeek-eeek-eeeek” down the road.


What Was Portland Critical Mass?

A recent article on Bike Portland and the re-release of a Critical Mass video featuring Portland mayoral candidate Charlie Hales has Critical Mass on my mind a lot lately. The mere words Critical Mass can cause a lot of excitement in people, often rather angry-negative, though at times excitement with a positive fervor – a desire to get together and ride bikes.

Either way, Critical Mass had a very positive influence on Portland, just not necessarily in the ways the founders and riders anticipated.

And that is okay.

I don’t love how Critical Mass ended in Portland

(many people stopped going for fear of being ticketed), but I do feel it served us well and faded out at a time when it was no longer necessary. We’re beyond Critical Mass. We would not be where we are today without it. Critical Mass gave Portland bikers a place to gather and meet and brainstorm, plan, revolutionize.

And then other projects started happening and Critical Mass lost its effectiveness.

Some people call CM a protest against cars, which I’ve always found to be ridiculously negative approach.

I prefer to celebrate bikes and liked to think of CM that way. But I don’t think we successfully motivated drivers to get out of their cars and onto bikes. Blocking them during rush hour, eh, not an effective way to inspire someone.

But all the events we have these days, perhaps most notably Pedalpalooza, are fantastic ways to get people excited about riding bikes. Accessible, fun, welcoming, positive. That’s a perfect way to incite change, to inspire. Fun on bikes! Who doesn’t love fun?

Critical Mass gave us a chance to meet each other, rally around our cause, and grow to where we are today.

It was absolutely essential to Portland’s bike growth and is a useful “new bike culture” tool other places can still take advantage of, but we have outgrown its usefulness.

Did CM (directly) achieve the goal of promoting the use of bikes? Maybe a little. Does that matter? Not really. The resulting projects of Shift, BikeSummer, mimbikesummer, pedalpalooza, KBOO Bike Show, Portland Bike Club, more supported rides, etc etc etc (!) are what I view as the positive results of CM.

And now we need to move on to finding more and better ways to encourage people to be on bikes with us.

Seeing throngs of bikers vying for front position during evening rush how on Williams is admittedly annoying but certainly inspiring. Having so many people of all ages and body types on myriad styles of bikes is surely an effective way to motivate more people out of their cars.

Thank you to everyone who helped get us to where we are today.

Those of you who met with the mayor and the police to try to ease relations, who got ticketed, who introduced yourselves to each other and helped us form the projects we have today.

Let’s keep going; there’s way more fun to be had.

Background: I was a Critical Mass rider and advocate for many years, even going so far as to help get Critical Mass rides started in Champaign, Illinois.


Spooktacular Bike Ride

Friends of Gateway Green is hosting a family-friendly, fun and festive Halloween-themed bike ride on Saturday, October 27 from 12-2pm. Come dressed in your scariest, funniest, weirdest costume, with your bike dressed as well. Riders will haunt the streets of east Portland for an easy-paced bike ride escorted by bike committee members. Bring your friends and family for an afternoon of Halloween fun on two wheels.

Friends of Gateway Green is a nonprofit corporation created to help turn an unused swath of land between two freeways in into a recreational area for off-road bicycle riding, hiking and more – and to do it in a sustainable way.

Meeting place: Gateway MAX Station

Directions from NE Halsey and 102nd:
NE Halsey St., right onto NE 102nd Ave., right onto NE Pacific St.


7 Essential Bike Buying Tips

So, you’re finally going to buy a new bike. Exciting, but where do you start? Buying a bike can be an overwhelming and intimidating adventure, unless you’re armed with these very basic tips.

1) Know how you want to use the bike.

Do you want to go fast and zip around town? Carry everything? Bike tour? Mountain bike? Race cross? Sit upright? You’re not going to find a bike that has it all, so think through what is most important to you. Also, what are the shortcomings of your current bike? Think about your dream improvements – they’re out there – and be ready to clearly convey this to the shop staff right away so they can steer you in the correct direction.

2) Go during off-peak hours.

All bike shops want to sell you a bike, they truly do. But how much time they have to devote to little-ole-you depends on how busy the shop is, so go during off-peak hours. Generally this tends to be early to mid afternoon on weekdays.

3) Bring your list.

Write down what you want and what your questions are so you’re prepared. It’s easy to get flustered when surrounded by all the pretty bikes – and lose track of your goals. Do not leave the shop until all your questions are answered and you’ve conveyed everything you want to say. Do not be afraid to ask questions. You should have lots of questions. See #7.

4) Don’t buy the bike today.

Your bike should be a wise investment that lasts you for many years to come. Three years from now you should be miles into your ride thinking “Dang I love this bike!” Don’t rush into the process. First visit shops to test ride, take your time and explore. Visit many shops, try bikes on a whim. Ask around, conduct online research and get second and third opinions. It is perfectly acceptable to test ride a bike more than once.

5) Make sure the bike fits you correctly.

I wish this one didn’t make the list, but unfortunately it does. The majority of bike shops are doing a fantastic job of providing friendly service to get people on the right bikes, but I’ve heard too many stories of mis-sizing to let this one slide. Have the shop adjust your seat before you hit the road on a test ride. If it’s not comfortable, it’s not right for you. Adjust the seat some more and try a different size. If they don’t have your size, ask if they can get it. Do not buy the wrong size just because you want that bike. It’s not unheard of (nor common) for a shop to try to push someone onto the wrong size because it’s a bike they need to get rid of. To be fair, it is also not unheard of (and probably too common) for buyers to fail to analyze their own comfort before buying a bike.

6) Factor in accessories.

If you are new to owning a bike, it’s important to take into consideration your essential accessories. Your budget should include a high quality lock ($45), a helmet you’ll enjoy wearing (min. $35), front and rear lights (min. $30), a quality rain jacket that truly does the job ($100) and a home-use bike pump ($35). This could easily add up to $250-400 but these are long-lasting items you simply cannot do without.

7) You are in charge: do not be intimidated.

Bike shops can be intimidating for the uninitiated. Knowing what you want, research, your questions list are excellent tools to arm you with confidence. Don’t let shop staff make you feel nervous or uncomfortable. Remember: you’re the buyer, so you’re in charge. You should set the tone for how this transaction will go down. And when you’re relaxed, comfortable and excited, the result will be your dream bike and a bike shop filled with new friends. Or, hopefully something very close to that.

Happy bike shopping, and show us pictures of your new ride!


Maker Profile: Sacro-Bosco

Sacro-Bosco: Portland

Interview with William Cress

Website >>

Why make wooden wheels?
My first experience of wooden rims started when I purchased an old 1890’s track bicycle. The rims were beautiful, over 100 years old and still in fair condition. After reconditioning the hubs, cleaning and re-truing the wheels – My business partner Eric Brockman and I threw on some retro looking tubulars and we were hooked. I decided to try and replicate the wheels that we had on this bicycle. After a lot of research and development, the seed for the Kestral flyer wooden bicycle rim was born.

During my research for building my replica rim I found that there were few companies still making wooden bicycle rims. CB Italia (from Italy), with whom Sacro-Bosco is proud to also carry their full range of products alongside our own customs rims. Ghisallo (also from Italy) represented in the US by Wheel Fanatyk. There are also some small French, Swiss and Japanese operations. Nothing really to speak of made in the USA. I wanted a US made product. This was the start of Sacro-Bosco.

Sacro-Bosco is loosely translated in Italian as “Sacred Wood” named after the garden at the Viila Orsini in Bomarzo Italy. The garden poking fun at the egotistical iconography of the Este and Medici families is very applicable to modern events of today.

Since the dawn of cycling, bicycles have used wooden rims. It was the mainstay for bicycle rims until the 1930’s and remained in use on the track until the 50’s. This was mainly due to woods strength and lightness until the arrival of high strength aluminum alloys.

Wood has some interesting properties that modern composites and metal rims find hard to replicate. One of these properties is its innate ability to flex and retain its shape. In many ways this can lead to a perceptively more comfortable ride on bumpy roads and long distance rides. The other property is braking performance in rain. Heat has a hard time penetrating wood and therefore transfers to the pad making it dry quickly – resulting in increased performance. The other properties are very obvious: wood is unrivaled in its beauty and novelty, as well as being green.

What keeps you interested in the custom building industry?
I like to think that there is an interesting intersection between engineering, art and design. Custom building represents this intersection to a tee, weather it is our own design or those of our customers. Despite the fact that many of today’s builds have their roots in the industrial revolution – it amazes me that so many of the ideas, patents and innovations of the past are being adapted and reinvented for modern design.

Where do you look for inspiration? What’s out there that is inspiring you these days?
For me inspiration comes from industrial stream lined design – ultra high tech and vintage. I find that interesting applications of new cutting edge materials alongside old materials alike, very exciting. There is nothing like a beautiful machine that is also a work of art presented in some new fantastic way.

What type of wood do you use? How have you determined which wood is best?
The test of time has determined what suits wooden rim building best. Over a hundred years of experience combined with modern materials and methods come together to make the modern wood rim. Hardwoods such as white oak, hickory, elm, ash, beech and maple lend them selves for shaping and steaming. Other wood types can be tricky and just not suitable as rim material either due to its strength or steam bending properties.

When Sacro-Bosco first started, we produced the kestral flyer in Portland from locally sourced wood as much as possible. We used 3-5 laminations tapered and staggered so that you could not see the seam. All of it steam bent, shaped and finished by hand. Because it was laminated we could use differing wood combinations in the lamination process to create interesting visual striping when desired. We now have most of our wood sourced by an Amish Ohio shop – for our Amish rim line. Rather than lamination we use a single piece of wood finger jointed together in the way rims have been made for over 100 years. As you can imagine, Amish wheelwrights have generations of experience and are very green in their methodology – all handmade. Here we mainly use white oak and hickory and ash, though, as with all custom work, we can use most hardwoods.

Tell me about one of your favorite projects.
Our newest project is going to be a front and rear springer cruiser with dual bars and bronze plated 29er, but we didn’t quite get it finished in time for the show. We have just started a collaboration with Liam Murray of Woodelo out of Ireland. He produces fantastic wooden performance frames. Also, Penny is our custom copper plated bicycle made for us in collaboration with Bella Donna. Simple Italian inspired frame, combined with our wooden wheels creates a beautiful and simple ride-able city bike. Simplicity is the key and in many ways and very hard to obtain – both in the building process and in the ride itself.

What are you most looking forward to at OR Handmade Bike Show?
The builders from Oregon are the creme de la creme of hand built frame makers and I am excited to see the innovative ideas and designs that they create. The functional art that they produce is always top notch and ahead of the curve when it comes to design.

The Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is October 20-21 in Portland so we’re profiling the many talented makers who will be showcasing their skills in person at the show.

10am to 5pm on Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday | Vigor Industries 5555 N. Channel Ave. in Portland.

[additional show info]


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