I am still recovering a bit from the first tip to Portland. This was actually my first time north of Sacramento on the west coast. It was far more than I imagined with plenty of the unexpected. After working out all the travel options, the decision was made to drive with my bike in the back of the car. My estimate was for a 14 hour trip if I pushed straight through. I knew there were mountains between me and Portland as I made it through northern California and southern Oregon, but I was not prepared for the beauty of the forest and high desert of the Shasta national forest. I made through the region with just enough daylight and clouds in the tress to really take it in. The lack of snow and or rain was a bit of a bonus. I knew there would be a storm at some point and I was feeling pretty good about making it this far with good weather. Rolling into Oregon the drizzle started, and was really coming down as a made my way north of Medford. But you don’t need chains for rain and I kept on charging ahead. Around midnight, still 20 miles out of Eugene the rain was starting to get a little fluffy. I was pretty wiped out by this point, 13 hours, and hoped it would be back to liquid as the elevation dropped. I could not have been more wrong. There was a glimmer of hope and slush passing through Eugene, and then it really started to come down. After 14 hours, never seeing one plow truck, and more cars than I could count on fingers and toes stuck off the sides of the highway I called it quits, pulled off and managed to find a room. By that point the snow was 8 to 10 inches deep, and coming down hard. The plows had made it through by the morning, and this was the view on the way into town:
The main objective of the trip was a visit to my frame and fork contractor, only a voice on the phone until this trip, and to make sure we are on the right track with the prototypes. The quality of the work exceeded my expectations. The lead fabricator assigned to this project has a good resume with steel bikes and I stoked to have him working on mine. The 50cm model was ready to check, and the others are in progress.
The welds are clean, alignment is better than I expected at this point in fabrication, and the toughest part was looking really good. The chain stays are a challenging area on fat tire road bikes. The tire, stays and chain rings all want to occupy the same real estate. Frosting on the cake was a last-minute substitution on the stays. Production models are slated to have a custom bed and dimple. For the sake of time we found a similar stay that was pre-bent. The web pictures from the supplier were not very descriptive, but we threw the dice and ordered a few sets. They ended up laying on the drawing so close to the proposed custom bend that it is almost embarrassing to admit how much time was spent working out that detail.
The calipers are set at 42mm, and ahead of the wide point for the 700c tire. There is going to be plenty of room for fenders. A 52mm VO fender dropped perfectly into place. There is only a single dimple for the chain rings, with the overall shape of the stay otherwise intact.
The forks are about 75% complete as well. There is still a bit of detailing like the wire guides, brake bosses and sanding. The test fit with both 700c and 650b tires was spot on with just a hair over 1cm between the tire and leading edge of the crown.
The schedule is slipping a bit from the initial projections. We worked out a timeline to keep things accelerated and I still think that production models will be possible before the end of spring. There will only be some minor adjustments between these samples and the initial production run.
The overall trip was scheduled for two days. I had originally planned for one other meeting. Then there was a surprise meeting with another designer that led to a “you should meet this guy”, etc, etc and things booked up quickly. As you have likely heard, Portland is a very cycling friendly town. In many ways it reminded me of Ventura, just 100 times bigger. There is also an amazing amount of industry, people actually making things, and hungry to take on new projects. I ended up having meetings with a sewing contractor for bags, my powder coater, an excellent meeting and tour of a knitting mill and sewing factory, a guy getting ready to make bike tires in the US, and hang out and chat with a couple of cargo bike shop owners. I will be able to spotlight a few of these in the coming week, but need to step away from the keyboard, this may be my longest typed post ever. I still need to process the directions these meetings are going to lead.
I liked Portland, the weather was great, best they have had in a while actually and the people are incredible. Everything I needed was within walking distance for the most part. Ironically though I never ended up riding my bike on this trip. The next time I am up there I will need to plan more time, the pace of this trip was too fast to really take things in.