We’ve been quiet on the site, but have been busy behind the scenes. True to our mission to promote bicycle travel to a larger audience, one of the projects we’ve been quietly working on has been with Travel Oregon to help photograph, film and promote their new Scenic Bikeway Program. Everyone knows Portland is the hot Mecca of cycling in US right now, but few people know that some of the best riding in Oregon (in our opinion) is across the mountains on the Eastern part of the state. We were sent out in early summer to write, film and photograph our experience there and we’re finally glad to say it’s all live and public! Check out our article for TravelOregon and watch the video we’ve been fine tuning for months below. The Old West Scenic Bikeway completely took us by surprise. In the five days of travel the landscape varied so much you were always wondering what the next corner would bring.
The Making of the Video
For those that are curious about some of the behind the scenes details, I carried 3 cameras in total (2 video, 1 still), a tripod, video slider, a bevy of lenses, laptop and other filming and still photography equipment in addition to our regular touring load. Somehow, it all managed to fit in two rear panniers, a Carradice saddle bag and a handlebar bag. We were originally just going out to write and photograph the bikeway but the idea to film it came at the 11th hour, so that meant some liberal use of Amazon Prime and expedited shipping. Some of the gear, didn’t arrive until the first day of riding and shooting. I had to overnight some gear to Laura’s brother in Bend (the other rider in the video) who then met up with us in John Day. While he unloaded his gear and bike, I ripped open packages and figured out how to use everything in about forty minutes before it was showtime : ). Perhaps the biggest bane but also greatest asset was the video slider. It didn’t come with a bag so I literally trucked it around for 5 days in its original packaging to protect it. This made for slow setup and deployment so I had to be really judicious about using it, since we were riding some tough miles and didn’t want to get us over tired. By the end of the trip, the box that the slider in was more or less destroyed. Duct tape was holding one end closed. About 5 miles from the end of the ride I hit a bump and heard a big kerchunk as the slider managed to fly out of one end of the box and on to the road.
Something else I was experimenting with was neutral density filters to give me narrow depth of field for portraits and details in bright light. Downside is a decent ND filter costs about $40 to $50 and my lenses are all varying diameters. The solution was to buy them in the largest lens size and get a handful of step down filters. This made for a lot of unscrewing and rescrewing step up and step down filters. Not the most elegant solution, but the most cost-effective solution.
And of course, there is all the post processing. I was already fairly adept at FCPX having used it on our previous Kiwi Chronicles series, but relatively new to motion graphics. So this meant hours of watching tutorials and hours of fiddling with After Effects for about 15 seconds of video. The biggest challenge was how to convey the concept of Oregon being bike friendly, and the scenic bikeways spatially while having it all flow together in visually coherent way. It made sense to use the bike silhouette inside the state of Oregon since it also neatly mimicked the actual scenic bikeway signage. What I’m learning is that video production is all problem solving. How to communicate a clear message in a compelling way. With still photography it is relatively easier because you are working solely in a one dimension and your major tools are composition and color. With video, it is infinitely more complex. There is composition and color but also time and audio! It is like the difference between 2D Tetris and 3D Tetris : )
All this to say that although the video was only 2 minutes, there was a lot of time, effort, false starts, re-recording that went behind it all to make it appear seamless and effortless.
Read our itinerary of the trip, watch the video and enjoy. We hope it gets you fired up to explore the Old West Scenic Bikeway (and the other 8 Bikeways Oregon has announced)!
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our new Brompton Touring Book, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
This weekend we shook up our bike touring adventures with something new, bike camping with KidicalMassPDX! Andy, one of the organizers for the bike camping trip invited us along to join in the fun. Though Laura and I don’t have any kids of our own, we are very supportive of family biking and especially bike camping! We met at Woodstock Park in SE Portland which appropriately had a playground at the start. In total there was about a dozen families, 22 bikes and 16 kids in attendance! The bikes ran the gamut from regular bikes with trailers, to a Surly Big Dummy, a Kona Ute, a custom Bilenky longtail, a Bilenky coupled tandem and even a pair of Bromptons specially outfitted with a child’s seat. It was quite the sight to behold! Sometimes its easy to take all this bikey fun for granted living in Portland, but we definitely recognized how special this event was.
Our end destination was Dodge Park (GPS route), formerly a day use only site along the confluence of the Sandy and Bull Run river that has been recently re-opened to camping. The distance from the meeting point to the campground was about 22 miles, far longer than the usual KidicalMass rides. About half the ride was on off-road paths a significant portion would be on small country roads. This sort of riding is usually beyond the ken of Kidical Mass, but the route was well chosen and generally managed to avoid busy roads and steep hills. Another great feature about the route was that it was essentially a door-to-door route without the need to take any transit. This has been a big deterrence for many would-be family bike campers with cargo bikes who can’t easily take light rail past the suburbs of Portland. As enlightened as Portland can be with some things transit oriented, the MAX rail system isn’t really all that great with bikes. If you have a regular bike you have to lift it up and put it on a hook and there is a general ban on trailers, tandems and cargo bikes. This route, however, cut all that needless worry and hassle of negotiating with grumpy passengers and Trimet operators.
A large part of the first 10 miles was on the Springwater Trail which made for relaxed riding and getting to meet some of the families. Filtering back and forth and taking photos, I learned that for quite a few of the families it was their first ever bike camping trip with kids. What made it appealing to newbie families was being part of a great supportive group of other families and of course, new playmates. The ride pace was family friendly with plenty of restroom breaks and even a berry picking break along the Springwater.
Once we left the Springwater, there were some small roads with light to moderate traffic to negotiate but it was largely just a pleasant ride through the Oregon countryside. After a gradual climb you descend down to river level beneath a canopy of trees and essentially coast to the campground. The campground itself was nice with lots of trees providing shade. There was a new-ish looking covered pavilion building with bathrooms, showers and a small outdoor amphitheater. A short walk from where we pitched our tents were the Sandy and Bull Run rivers with quite a few beach areas for swimming.
At this point, Laura and I snuck away momentarily from the group so I could get a little fishing in. On the first cast I hooked an aggressive small trout that eventually got off. I managed to hook and land another small one about twenty minutes later. No record breakers, but it was good fun to feel the tug of a fish on the line.
By the time we got back to camp, a fire was built and dinner was in full tilt. We enjoyed chatting and meeting some new people and slowly the kids pealed away and went to bed. Some “grownups” stayed up a wee bit later and talked until it got dark. The next morning, we all prepared breakfast and lingered a bit. There was a scheduled break for the kids to head down to the river before pedaling off. After everyone was packed up and on their bikes I took a group photo and we pushed off to tackle “the hill.” The nice long descent at the end of the day yesterday was to be the first climb this morning. It was a little slow going, but with some patience and sweat everyone made it up to the regrouping spot at the top of the hill.
It was there that we peeled off and said our goodbyes to the rest of the group. It was a fun weekend and it was great to share the experience with some families new to bike camping. After the success of this trip, I have a feeling it won’t be the last trip KidicalMassPDX will organize!
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing, or buying your gear through our Amazon store.)
For our first Bike Trekker episode, we’ve decided to film our experience at the Cycle Oregon Weekend ride. Cycle Oregon is an epic week long ride that showcases the great rural communities around Oregon. Aside from creating a well organized and wonderful riding experience, they do a lot of philanthropy for the small communities they go through. The Weekend Ride, just like it sounds, is a mini-version of the week long ride. This year, it took place in Corvallis, Laura’s home town and within a long day’s bike ride from Portland. We thought, “what better way to start a biking event than to bike there!”
It was a LONG ride, coming in over 80 miles. We took the MAX out to Hillsboro and began our ride there. For the most part we meandered all day through small country roads right in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. Our favorite part of the trip was stumbling upon some quiet gravel roads with nary a car in sight.
We arrived in Corvallis tired and famished from the ride. Thankfully, we had a rest day before the madness of the Cycle Oregon Weekend began. On Friday, we rode to the OSU campus, registered and then set up our tent on campus. We got there fairly early so we were able to find a spot by some trees. In a few hours, people trickled in and the field became a tent city!
That night, we walked around the grounds and chatted with some fellow cyclists. We ran into quite a few readers which is always a treat. The folks camped next to us followed our trip to New Zealand and were planning their own NZ tour in January. We gave them a few tips of where to go and what to avoid. Later in the evening we had a few drinks at the beer garden and listened to some music on the main stage. This was our first ever “event” style ride and after years of fully supported touring this felt pretty luxurious even though we were still in a tent. We crashed out fairly early, still tired from our ride from Portland and rested for the next day.
The next morning we got up bright and early (with about 2200 other cyclists!) had a quick breakfast with bleh coffee (sorry, Portland coffee has spoiled us) and hit the road. We opted to do the medium length rides on both days since we knew were going to be stopping a lot to take photos and video.
The first day was the hillier of the two, but didn’t have any major climbs and only a few rollers. It was beautiful riding through several scenic back roads around Corvallis that we had not been on before. Some were so devoid of traffic we didn’t see any cars on them. Another first for us was pulling up to rest stops with food and drinks! We are so use to carrying all our own stuff that through force of habit we still had a pannier filled with almond butter, fruit and tortillas. Riding without carrying all your gear is a strange new world
One thing we did enjoy immensely was pedaling along and seeing we were traveling at a decent clip of around 15-18 mph! Much faster than our turtle like touring pace. It was good to know that beneath the piles of all our panniers, we can be pretty zippy bicyclists. On the evening of the first day, we had some wine in the beer garden and spotted a copy of the new maps of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways, which featured some of our photos form our recent trip out there.
The second day, some clouds rolled in and there was a forecast for strong winds. We got up fairly early and banged out the miles quickly but still stopped at all the rest stops (what a luxury!). We even got a tour of an old water-powered mill.
At the end of the second day, Cycle Oregon rolled out the red carpet for the cyclists at the finish. There was a balloon arch and a small squadron of cheerleaders, as well as a freezer truck full of ice-cream. Cycle Oregon Weekend was our first ever event ride and it was definitely different from what we were use to. Although the camping wasn’t quite as scenic, it felt pretty pampered to have rest stops with local volunteers serving sandwiches and fresh local fruit (if only that would happen on all our tours!). We had a great time and it was nice to have a few days where all you had to do was pedal your bike and everything else would be taken care of. With such a positive experience with the weekend ride, we hope to one day get a chance to do the full week ride and really get the full Cycle Oregon experience.
It has been an amazing, challenging and strange journey these three years. Come here about it! This weekend we are going to be at the first annual Pedaler’s Fair, a bikey fun event in Seattle. We’re really looking forward to checking out the cool handmade bike stuff as well as connecting with readers and making new friends.
We’re going to be giving a presentation with lots of pics, stories and videos this Saturday at 2pm.
I will also be roaming around the show taking portraits of people and their bikes for the princely sum of $5. So dust off your best bike and come on down!
This weekend we did a S24O with CycleWild, a local non-profit group that organizes monthly trips. The trip they had planned was out to Ainsworth State Park in the Columbia River Gorge. It is a scenic ride that runs along the historic Columbia highway which has multiple points of interests and great views. When we heard that there was an actual chance we’d see the sun, we dusted off the Surlys and strapped on our camping gear.
We took the MAX line out to Gresham to the start of the ride. Many Cyclewild trips offer the option of either riding the entire length from the Portland city center or taking transit to the start. Feeling a little lazy in the morning we opt to take the light rail. When we arrived there was already a good group gathered at the Gresham stop. One of the things we enjoy about short bike tours is that you can do it with very little and in a myriad of configurations. Laura was trying out a front-biased load with front panniers and a Carradice, I had an Acorn handlebar bag and two rear panniers. A reader we met was using using a Burley Travoy Trailer, which we had once contemplated pairing with the Brompton.
From Gresham we made our way down to the Sandy River, crossed a bridge and began the slow gradual climb to Women’s Forum, the highest point of the trip. From there you can see the ponderous stone Vista House and the Columbia River Gorge. All the riding is on a small rural roads which alternated between having a small shoulder to none. Although there was a fair amount of traffic (it was Easter weekend and the sun was out!) most of the drivers were fairly well-behaved. This route is one of the more popular road rides in the Portland area so cars tend to be aware of bikes.
After a windy break on Vista House, we descended down a series of switchbacks to the river. Once in the gorge, we passed a series of waterfalls which had viewing platforms. Perhaps the most popular was Multnomah Falls which has a cafe, bathroom and was crowded with tourists. After Multnomah Falls, there is a noticeable drop in traffic since most drivers tend to leave the historic highway for the modern freeway at that point. This meant a few quiet miles into Ainsworth State Park.
Ainsworth is a small campground but has full facilities with drinking water and a bathroom with some really nice showers. The best sites are the walk-in sites just to the left of the entrance of the park. There are 6 sites tucked in the woods that offer a nice forested camping experience. There are train tracks not too far away though, so on occasion the illusion of being out in the woods is broken with the rumbling of a passing freight train.
My favorite part about riding to Ainsworth is the ride back. Starting out early in the morning, there is hardly any traffic and you get a significant tailwind that sometimes feels like its blowing you up the hill. The slow gradual climb from the Sandy to Women’s Forum becomes a glorious coasting descent in the other direction. Of all the close bike camping options from Portland, Ainsworth is one of our favorites. It offers lots of opportunities to stop and take in the scenery as well as a pleasant camp experience. Its only downside is the traffic on the weekends. If you have the time, it makes a great mid-week getaway!
We got to try out and handle some new gear on this trip. We borrowed a friends Marmot Haven 2 Tent. It is single pole design and is closer to a tarp tent than a dome tent. It requires staking out to hold its structure. It has an open floor design with an optional footprint (which we used since the ground was a little damp). Its biggest asset was its size! It offers 56 square feet of room for about 4lbs of weight. If you were a solo tourist you could literally park your bike inside as you slept. If we had brought the Bromptons we could have parked them folded with plenty of room to spare. The initial setup was fairly easy but required some fine-tuning to get the pitch just right. Because of its open floor design it also has no mesh, so it probably wouldn’t be our first choice for camping in really buggy areas.
Another bit of gear we got to play with was the Leatherman Squirt, a small light-weight multi-tool which stores commonly used tools in a tiny package. Notably, it had a small pair of scissors, pliers, bottle opener, blade and screwdriver. It is even smaller and lighter than the Leatherman Juice that I really love. And speaking of blades, I also tried out a CRKT Ringed Razel which is a beauty of a knife. It has a chisel style blade at its tip which is great for push cuts and scraping. The knife is really well balanced and beautifully constructed and would make the short list for a fixed EDC knife.
And of course, I can’t seem to go on an S24O without nerding out on some coffee geekery. On this trip, I brought along our trusty Hario Slim Mill, insulated Klean Kanteens and a Hario V60. The Hario has been my choice of single cup brewing at home paired with a Bonvita kettle. It worked great in camp though I didn’t have as much pour control with our GSI kettle. Shawn, the ride leader on this trip, showed me his really cool Esbit coffee maker. It packs down into the size of a coffee mug, but contains a Moka pot style brewer, complete with its own Esbit stove and flame extinguisher! It really is a nifty and elegant setup.
As we’re slowly settling back into Portland, we’re working on some projects to keep the website and other bike travel plans going. One of them is selling bicycle themed shirts. I dreampt up tons of ideas as we pedaled through New Zealand but haven’t had the chance to flesh them out on the computer because of the constant movement. If you haven’t checked out our shirt shop lately, there are quite a few new designs. I will be experimenting with hand-drawn and linocut designs on shirts in the near future. Check out our shirt shop today and pick up a great new bikey shirt to wear around town! Also, if you are a bike shop or cafe that would be interested in selling the shirts, email us. I’m trying to gauge if there is enough interest to do wholesale orders instead of print-on-demand.
There was recently a flurry about mirrors on our Facebook Page after I posted an Amazon link to the Take-A-Look mirror. Opinions on mirrors are varied. Some swear by them, others think they are the epitome of Fred-om and a fashion abomination. Say what you will, we think they’re infinitely useful and are an underrated safety tool.
Three years ago, almost to the day, we left our then-home of Long Beach, CA, on what would turn out to be a fateful bike trip to Joshua Tree. By the time we had returned home, we knew that we would soon be selling everything we owned and leaving on an incredible adventure. Never would we have dreamt that such a decision would lead us down this amazing path – or that it would open so many opportunities to show the inherent joys of bicycle travel.
A blast from the past. Having a picnic on one of our early tours.
Our time in New Zealand disappeared astoundingly fast, and now we are back in Southern California, figuring out our plans for the rest of this year. While we are still wrapping our heads around everything that happened and all that we learned (particularly in terms of bike economics), we are more convinced than ever of the benefits of bicycle travel.
In another couple weeks, we’ll be heading up to Portland, Oregon, which will be our home base this summer. It may sound counter-intuitive, but we’ve decided to step back from the continuous movement of the past year(s), so that we can promote bicycle travel in new ways and to more people. As we’ve been traveling, we’ve been making hundreds of mental notes about projects we want to work on that would help inspire other people to travel by bike and support bike travel. The time to act on these ideas, we’ve realized, is now.
While we won’t be actively traveling, we’ll still be here on this site, sharing many of the stories that haven’t yet made it online. We’ll also be taking our enthusiasm for bicycle travel off the website and to various events around the US. A lot of the details are still in the works, but you can expect a number of opportunities to meet up and hear us speak.
After 4,000 loaded touring miles on our Bromptons, we also want to share all that we’ve learned about adventure travel on these sturdy little bikes. We’ve been hinting about this book for some time, but we’re committed to finishing it over the next short while. (If there’s something you want to know, email us!)
And don’t forget the videos! The Kiwi Chronicles will certainly not be the last series of short videos we make about bicycle travel. We had an incredible experience filming and creating each of these videos, and we’re looking forward to taking the camera out on a variety of shorter-length trips to show the accessibility of bicycle travel.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we’ve taken some time to think about why bicycle travel is such an incredible way of exploring a place and why someone should consider it. What is bicycle travel? Watch and see.
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our 2012 2012 calendar or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing.)
Have questions about our New Zealand trip that we haven’t answered in a video or a post? Now’s your chance to ask them! We’re going to do an hour long live webcast this Wednesday at 6pm PST. We’ll share with you our “Top 5 Favorite Things” about touring in NZ as well as our “Top 5 Not So Favorite Things” things about NZ. Also we’ll give you some tips about touring in NZ. In an attempt to keep it from being just a talking head show, I’ll be experimenting with a little live studio streaming program that lets us transition in photos and movies : )
We’re using USTREAM for the event. We’ve been digging around for a better option but haven’t found one yet. Here are the critical details:
When: Wednesday at 6pm PST
Ask Us Questions:
You’ve got a couple options to ask us questions. You can either:
-go to our USTREAM channel at the time of the event and log on (you’ll need to sign up really quickly with an email address)
-email us your questions in advance and you can just sit back and relax and watch the show.
-you can send in your question via Twitter using the hashtag #PLPNZ
Some quick notes about USTREAM. First, you will be subjected to 30 seconds of advertisement. For this we are truly sorry. Feel free to make a cup of tea or grab some cookies when the inane car commercial is playing. Secondly, it’s more fun when you join the conversation. We’ve been looking for video/group chat option that doesn’t require some sort of log in with no success. Of what we’ve tried, USTREAM asks the least amount of information so please don’t be too put off and join in! It will be fun.
When we first set out to do the Kiwi Chronicles it was because I wanted to record our journeys in a different way. We have written and photographed our adventures since 2009 so video seemed like the next logical step. Our years on the road has taught us that good storytelling on the road is harder than it looks. Lots of factors are against you. For starters, you’re riding your bike most of the day and when you pull into camp, firing up the laptop and editing photos, videos and writing copy are usually the last things you want to do. Also, sometimes it can be challenging to find just the right person to tell the right story. Some stories are great but are too large and nuanced for certain media, or they are interesting, but don’t add to the overall narrative arc and you have to cull it, or sometimes the story you thought you wanted to tell changes beneath your feet.
In the end, I’m pretty proud of the video series we put together. It took lots of hard work constantly setting up shots, talking into the camera when you don’t feel like it, searching for people to interview and editing editing editing. Travel videos can easily be too solipsistic and I wanted the video to be more than just about us kvetching about hills and wind and I think we achieved that. It was all on the job training, so to speak. I had literally got a hold of the camera and audio gear about four days before we were to hop the plane. In the middle of the trip I was teaching myself Final Cut Pro (episodes 1 and two were put together in iMovie and the rest in FCPX). I like to think that as the series progresses, the videos get a little bit better each time. There are massive amounts of footage, interviews and vignettes that were cut. I’ll probably put together a few more shorts from it all.
Kiwi Chronicles: The Prologue
This video lays out the basic purpose of our trip – to learn about the new NZ Cycle Trail program and explore bike culture. YouTube
EP1 – To The Edge of the World
In this video, we box up our Bromptons and head for the airport. It’s a LONG plane trip. We also get use to riding on the left side of the road. YouTube
EP2 – Cycling the Super City
In this episode, we explore Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It is a far cry from The Shire! For all its car-centricness we do find bike culture, meet the mayor and partake in the historic Harbor Bridge Ride. YouTube
EP3 – On the Road Again
After being on Waiheke island for more than a week, we finally hit the road and do some riding! We take a ferry to the Coromandel and come up against a big gut busting hill! YouTube
EP4 – The Forgotten World Highway
In this episode, we experience our first Kiwi Christmas. We also ride the Forgotten World Highway, one of NZ’s Great Rides. We have a chat with the team behind the new cycle trail network in New Zealand and Jonathan Kennett, a reknowned bicycle advocate in NZ. YouTube
EP5 – Bicycling in Nelson
In this episode, we discover NZ’s most bike friendly town, Nelson! Not only is it great for biking, it also has great beer (reminds you of a few places like that in the states right?). We talk to an artist turned bike tour operator and a local businessman who built a ferry to serve cyclists and pedestrians. YouTube
EP6 – The New Gold Rush
In this episode we learn the story behind the trail that started it all – the Central Otago Rail Trail. Its success in revitalizing a dying region in NZ, was what inspired the cycle the government push for a cycle trail network. YouTube
(Keep our adventures going and the site growing! If you’ve enjoyed our stories, videos and photos over the years, consider buying our ebook Panniers and Peanut Butter, or our 2012 2012 calendar or some of the fun bike-themed t-shirts we’re designing.)