There isn’t a community in the United States working harder to convince the rest of the country that it is the preeminent cycling city than Portland. There are lots of great cycling cities, but Portland wants to be known as more than just a great place to ride. Cyclists there are working hard to foster a cycling culture that permeates the very fabric of life, so that cycling is no more fringe than TV.
As if to prove a point, members of the Portand cycling community have come together to put on an event this coming fall called Oregon Manifest. I like the name if for no other reason than it makes an ironic reference to the concept of Manifest Destiny. Just what would happen to the United States if the culture of cycling-mad Oregon spread south and east?
Oregon Manifest runs from October 2 through November 8, 2009. For six consecutive weekends, cyclists will descend upon Portland for a variety of events. Events include a builder’s challenge, cyclocross races, single speed races, the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show and more.
While the Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show is an obvious draw, one of the most interesting events of the OM will be the Construtor’s Challenge. While I can try to explain it, the explanation is better in their words. From the release:
The Constructor’s Design Challenge will present bicycle frame builders and designers from around the nation with the opportunity to create an innovative, modern transportation bike—a technical challenge combining engineering dexterity with fabrication mettle. The country’s most accomplished makers of hand-built, custom bikes will take up the challenge, including Vanilla from Portland, Igleheart from Wenham, MA., and Independent Fabrication from Somerville, MA. More than 40 builders are expected to field entries.
“The Constructor’s Design Challenge is the centerpiece of this year’s Oregon Manifest,” explained Jocelyn SyCip, Oregon Manifest‘s Director. “If the bicycle is ever to realize its potential to change the urban transportation landscape – and mindset – it’ll take a bike that can multi-task the demands of everyday urban transport. The Constructor’s Design Challenge is a unique way to jump start the conversation about what constitutes a great, modern, all-around transportation bike.”
Pardon a little piece of postmodern commentary on my part. I don’t see Red Kite Prayer as a traditional cycling media outlet. There are plenty of avenues for you to get the facts or find out about events you might like. I’m recommending this because in talking with people involved, I sense a passion larger than can be contained in a simple press release or web site. For the people behind the Oregon Manifest, the future is two-wheeled and green. Their vision might be so strange as to seem sci-fi, but their world has no room for the dystopia of Philip K. Dick and Robert Heinlein. They’ve overcome the entropy of society and are bringing cycling-friendly city planning to a city near you.
The Constructor’s Design Challenge has a second part that will cauterize pixels worldwide—a 77-mile race that all completed creations will be raced over. The Rapha-conceived event will merge epic cycling events with eco-transportation is a way that ought to set back the cause of green cycling 20 years. Who wants to think of “getting there” as a challenge? But then those of us who love bicycles want green transportation that is functional, romantic and at least a touch lively.
One of the more impressive aspects of the Oregon Manifest is the way that the organizers have rallied the local troops. Chris King is a presenting sponsor. Locally based companies such as Swobo, Castelli and the United Bicycle Institute along with less likely entities such as the City of Portland, Travel Portland and the Portland Development Commission. It’s easy to dismiss support from the local government for an event that promotes the local community, but when you consider just how hard it is to try to recruit city leaders to the cycling cause, then you begin to see what a great pitch those behind Oregon Manifest have going.