Wednesday, October 29, 2014

City of Fenders

I’ve never seen so many fenders. Or, for that matter, so many Subarus, or Priuses, or beards, nudie bars, doggy daycares, or really fine craft beers I’ve never heard of. But it’s the fenders that warm my heart. Rain is reality in Portland, so if you’re going to ride a bike here—and an impressive number of Portlandians do—then it only makes sense to fender up.
I was in the city for five days during which time I rode a rented, and then a borrowed, bike, neither of which had fenders. I felt like a douche—literally. To ride fenderless in Drip City, you have to be either a hardcore hipster or a total noob. Even the homeless guys had fenders on their bikes.
On the rented road bike, I attached my new Viscacha bag, which functioned surprisingly well as an up-the-back splatter guard. (The drivetrain is another story.) On the borrowed Townie, I wore serious rain pants, which is less than ideal, I discovered. Let’s just say I had numerous hot-legs situations.

The northwest accent item to Portland’s fenders, it turns out, is the plastic bag on the saddle. This is almost as common as fenders here. Every bike corral, outside every café, bar, and record store, features a handful of bags-on-seats, looking like so many ghostly jellyfish.

You’d think Portland’s cyclists would just resign themselves to having perpetually wet asses. But, to their credit, I think, the fender mentality has crept higher, and folks figure why go to all that trouble to keep mud off the back of your head, if you’re just going to let rain soak your buttocks?
I saw several different kinds of seat covers for sale in bike shops, but the only bags I saw on parked bikes were repurposed grocery store ones, hobo specials. They seem to work.

I admire the practical DIY-spirit of Portland’s cycling aesthetic. Next visit, I will bag up and fender on, and maybe not look like so out of place.

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