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Learn more about Portland’s new bi-weekly ‘Rush Hour Alleycat’

Learn more about Portland’s new bi-weekly ‘Rush Hour Alleycat’


The bike scene in Portland is a wonderfully dynamic thing. It never stops evolving and there are always new people, ideas, and events coming into it. As they do, they keep the scene healthy by forcing it to re-invent itself and absorb new perspectives.

Part of my job is to monitor this ecosystem and understand the role that each piece has on the greater whole. One such piece that I’ve recently heard about is the Rush Hour Alleycat.

Like many new things that appear on the Portland bike scene horizon, it starts with some tweets or maybe at text and email or two from the organizer. Then it might gain a Facebook page or website. The event might fizzle out. Or, if enough people link into it, it might sustain itself and build into something special.

(Side note: Have you noticed how big the weekly Thursday Night Ride has gotten? Organizer Nathan Jones (proprietor of Ride Yr Bike bike shop) started it as a way to keep the Pedalpalooza spirit strong. Now it attracts well over 100 people every week. It meets at 7:30 tonight at Salmon Street Fountain if you’re curious.)

Now, back to this Rush Hour Alleycat…

I was curious about it, so I contacted the organizer. His name is Michael and he’s lived in Portland for four years. He moved here from “betw­een the suburbs” surrounding New York and Boston. Michael is currently looking for a job (in food service or sales) so he started creating and printing flyers to occupy himself and earn some extra income. That turned into Gorilla PDX, a business he calls a, “Bicycle powered, street level advertising firm.”

So, why did he start the Rush Hour Alleycat? I’ll let him explain:

– Advertisement –

“When I got to Portland, I resumed bic­ycling for the first time as an adult an­d found riding in the city center to be ­much less intimidating than I would have­ expected. I was still shy about riding­ around rush hour, but when forced to co­nfront it, that too was easier than anti­cipated. I strangely felt more confiden­t than at other hours.The cars which p­reviously were passing me too close at 3­0+, were now stacked into neat little ro­ws.

The bicycle is the most free a huma­n being can be in the congestion of a ci­ty center. After learning about Lucas Brunelle on YouTube, I discovered Alleyca­t Races, and it clicked. Here was a way­ for me to celebrate my new found freedo­m, and find other people like me. With t­he same dumpster dive sourced printer, a­nd my amateurish graphic arts skills, I ­set to work ripping off Disney cartoons ­and creating flyers.”

Michael told me his goal with the Alleycat is to find other people who like to ride confidently in rush-hour traffic — like we’ve all seen in those crazy Lucas Brunelle videos. It’s a riding style Michael says is “often maligned.”

While his Alleycats are a race, Michael wants everyone to know that it’s more about participation than competition and that all skill levels are welcome. He even gives out a “really awesome prize” for last place.

So far it appears he’s onto something. Tonight will be the third Rush Hour Alleycat. Just three people showed up for the first one and 12 showed up to the second one. Who knows how big it will be tonight.

Oh, and did I mention that after the Alleycat everyone rides together to the Thursday Night Ride?

— Learn more about alleycats here and get all the details about the Rush Hour event at or on Twitter at @gorillapdx.

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Portlanders raise $1,500 for charity with Cranksgiving bike ride

Portlanders raise $1,500 for charity with Cranksgiving bike ride

Organizers Tom McTighe and Laura Recker with the afternoon’s haul.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In an event organizers said might be the first of a new tradition of charity-oriented bike fun in Portland, 96 cheerful people pedaled across the city Saturday to gather an assigned list of goods from the city’s grocery stores and co-ops.

The alleycat-inspired game, which was part of a 14-year-old American tradition called Cranksgiving, brought in $1,573 worth of dry goods for Outside In, a local nonprofit that helps homeless young people and other marginalized Portlanders.

“This isn’t a race,” one organizer said at the start. “But because this is America, there’s going to be a prize for the first team back. And because this is Portland, there’s going to be a prize for the team with the best costumes.”

The leaders of the event, Laura Recker and Tom McTighe, are both relative newcomers to the Portland bike scene and were assisted by a few local veterans of it. They worked with Outside In to develop a list of much-needed items, including cream of mushroom soup, dried beans, adult underwear and olive oil. Teams of two to five each received a list of items to gather and a list of local businesses to get them from — one from each location. The destinations ranged from Western Bikeworks on Northwest 17th to New Seasons on Southeast Hawthorne, with plenty of points in between.

Before we set out on Saturday, teams received their lists:

We all plotted our strategies:

Two of the behind-the-scenes helpers, Zed Bailey (green sweater) and Halley Weaver (pink hair), made sure things were running smoothly:

Then we all headed out:

A couple hours later, everyone returned to the home base, Velo Cult, to turn in their items and receipts and refuel:

Meanwhile, Recker tallied the haul:

Who was that masked man?

The team with the best costumes dressed up as different parts of Thanksgiving dinner:

And all the winners got to draw prize envelopes from a pair of spinning bicycle wheels:

Somehow, despite a challenge from Recker last month, Portland’s slightly more boring friends to the north managed to turn out more Cranksgiving participants this year. Seattle’s fourth annual Cranksgiving brought out 126 players on Saturday. Probably while wearing fancy scarves or something.

We’ll get them next year. After starting in New York City in 1999, Cranksgiving has now spread to in 25 U.S. cities and Budapest, Hungary, organizers said, and they expect to repeat it in Portland in 2014.

McTighe, who is organizing 17 fun bike rides this winter under the name Puddle Cycle, said it’s even inspired him to think about “a charity-based alleycat once a month.”

“I’m hoping to do more community service kind of stuff,” he said. “People love it and it makes a real difference. … I would like to see Christmas, MLK, Valentine’s.”

McTighe credited Bailey, who has been working to encourage a new generation of urban bike fun in Portland, for connecting him and Recker.

Recker, a transplant from Minneapolis, is “bringing back the alleycat scene in Portland, Oregon,” said Maria Schur of Western Bikeworks.

Players Saturday said they enjoyed the event, too. Sean Brady, 24, said he’d decided to finish even though his teammate Anthony Dryer had been called away mid-ride. He returned to Velo Cult with $33.83 in donated goods.

“I didn’t eat today,” Brady added, smiling and sipping from the can in his hand. “So far, just beer.”

Cranksgiving was sponsored by many great local businesses, including BikePortland. Participants contributed $1,073 for grocery purchases and Dave’s Killer Bread contributed 100 loaves of their product. You can check out
“>more photos from Cranksgiving here
, by Mick Orlosky, and watch Bailey’s video of the fun:

‘Cranksgiving’ will mix bike-racing fun with holiday charity

‘Cranksgiving’ will mix bike-racing fun with holiday charity

Click to enlarge.

A recent arrival from the Minneapolis bike-fun scene is bringing a new tradition to Portland: Cranksgiving, a combination “bike rally” and food drive that started in New York City in 1999 and has spread around the country.

Laura Recker, who moved to Portland last December, said she wants to tap into the “philanthropic spirit” and “collective love” of the holiday season while introducing more local bikers to the concept of urban bike races.

“I’ve thrown a few races,” Recker said. “I was surprised because in Minneapolis, a lot of people would turn up to them, and there isn’t as much interest in them around here. … I feel like there are a ton of urban cyclists in Portland that put down a ton of city miles and have this basic knowledge of the city and are able to get from point a to point b quickly — knowledge that we don’t get to tap into as a collective unit.”

That’s why Cranksgiving Portland, organized by Recker and a few friends, will invite teams of two to five to bring $10 per player, a bike and a lock to Velo Cult on Saturday, Nov. 23, a few days before Thanskgiving. They’ve teamed up with Outside In, the local nonprofit that helps homeless youth, to compile lists of nonperishable foods for each team to gather as quickly as possible.

The race will also have “some elements of surprise,” Recker said, though she wouldn’t reveal anything else.

Recker said she’s never participated in a Cranksgiving herself, though some of her collaborators have.

“We’re going to have a friendly competition with Seattle to see who can turn out the most riders. There will be perhaps some sort of gaudy golden turkey that will be exchanged eventually.”
— Laura Recker

“I actually came out a lot because of cycling,” she said. “When I was in Minneapolis, I heard a ton about Portland. We could compare ourselves to Portland a lot. The most creative place to live: Portland and Minneapolis. The best place for a 20-something to live: Portland and Minneapolis.”

Recker laughed.

“When I first got here, I was like, ‘Oh, you know how we compare ourselves with each other?'” she recalled. “They were like, ‘What? Who?'”

With that in mind, Recker and her associates have decided to make a different city the official rival of the Portland Cranksgiving.

“We’re going to have a friendly competition with Seattle to see who can turn out the most riders,” she said. “There will be perhaps some sort of gaudy golden turkey that will be exchanged eventually.”

— The event is at Velo Cult, 1969 NE 42nd Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 23. Day-of registration runs 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm and the race begins at 2 pm. Teams are two to five players. Each player should bring a bike, a lock and $10. BikePortland is a cosponsor of the event.