Portland is an interesting town for many reasons, including the fact there are nearly as many bike shops as breweries.
But as I toured bike and brew merchants over the past weekend, the useful words of the late President Ronald Wilson Reagan echoed through my head:
"Just say no, Chris."
Not to the beer. Of course.
(An aside: One Portland brewery I've had my heart set on is Tugboat Brewing Company on SW Ankeny Street. I peeked through its dirty windows last weekend and saw rows of old, moldy books along the walls and several enticing taps. I hear the place smells like a decrepit used-book store inside. I must drink the beer made in this place. However, it's always closed when I visit, and I have not had the opportunity to inhale decaying print as I down a pint. If anyone has been there, drop me a line and give me the lowdown.)
My goal was to see what "America's Best Bicycling City" has to offer in terms of things that, as a new biker, I will need going forward. What I saw was both hopeful and draining.
A few columns back, I wrote about an epiphany I had about spending money on gasoline. I realized that if I had to continue to do so, I would end up either dead or in a mental institution. The problem is that I love mechanical engineering, including cars.
Unlike the smug bike snob you meet at the Co-op, I love cars and trucks. The bigger and faster the better. I can't lie. Trust me, if the Trib suddenly slid me a $140,000 per year raise, the first thing I'd buy is a 2014 Acura RLX and ride those 310 horses to the sunset.
Bicycles allow me to indulge my slick-engineering fetish, but without the gasoline drawback.
I've enjoyed riding the streets of Medford for the past few months, but I've decided that I need to add a few accessories to my Trek to make my commutes easier. For instance, it would be nice to add either panniers (or saddle bags) or a rack and trunk bag so I don't have to haul my books and lock in my backpack wherever I go. After the past two weeks' heat wave, I grew tired of arriving at a coffee shop with my back covered in horrible man sweat.
I made the trip to Portland to scope out the bike-shop scene, which I thought would provide me with ample choices to accessorize my ride.
There certainly were choices. Millions of them. All more expensive and seemingly unnecessary than the other.
Everywhere I went, there were handsome and smiling and tattooed Portland salespeople ready to outfit my ride with the latest and slickest rain and road gear. The tags on this stuff assured me that I would need these items if I were to realize the full potential of my riding experience.
Do I want the Ortlieb panniers ($180) or the Timbuk2 messenger bag ($180) or the Pearl Izumi cycling gloves ($75)?
I will admit that I visited a few shops after brewery visits, so my judgment might not have been in top form. However, there's no amount of Base Camp Brewing Ripstop Rye Pilsner (a great pils, by the way) that would allow me to drop this kind of cake on gear.
Biking is great because it's a relatively affordable way to get around town without burning price-gouged fossil fuel.
In his levelheaded and crisply funny book, "Just Ride: A Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike," author Grant Petersen says accessories should become "companions on your ride" and not fashion statements.
He's right. Most bikes that real people ride are mostly affordable on the front end, but can become almost car-like in terms of unnecessary add-ons.
In a brief moment of weakness, seeing all this sparkling gear caused me to second-guess myself. Maybe I'm not doing this right, I thought. Could it be that I'm not taking full advantage of my bike's awesomeness by not throwing down $450 at this store?
A clearer, though slightly beer-buzzy, head prevailed.
Why buy the $89 Nutcase helmet, when you can drop $28 on the gray Bell helmet and your brain will be equally safe? I guess if such things appeal to you, then knock yourself out.
Meanwhile, I'll save the money on gear so I can buy more beer. My frugal heart tells me this is the thing to do.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.