Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mini Bike Winter 2007 (or, portland kicked (my) ass)

We're back. Roadrashed, weary, and pumped. These ambassadorial weekends up and down the West Coast, to Victoria, Seattle, and Portland always leave me this way - burnt to a crisp, in one sense, but burning with inspiration in another. There really is nothing like immersing yourself in the bike culture of another place to recharge your batteries. On one hand, you see all of the things they do differently, the innovations and the ideas. On the other, you witness that there is indeed a very strong link between what they are doing and what you are doing. They're living evidence that we are not alone, and that we must be doing something right. Its revitalizing. And its a hell of a party.

So, the Minibike Winter Olympics. What the hell am I talking about? Well, a little background is in order here I suppose. Portland is considered to be the (or one of the) most bike friendly cities in the US. In adition to A-list bike infrastructure, they have also developped an incredibly vibrant bike culture: chopper gangs like Chunk 666 and the Dropouts; the first (and highly influential) bike dance troupe, the Sprockettes; a longstanding bike polo tradition; and - of key importance here, the Zoobomb.

The Zoobomb is a weekly event in portland where local bikelovinglunatics gather downtown, take the Max Train (portland's equivalent to the skytrain, only about 200 times better) into the center of a small mountain (think burnaby mtn) that borders the downtown core, and then use the industrial sized elevators (built for serving the local zoo - convinently located on top of said hill) to ride up, ski-lift style to the top. Once atop the hill, the bombers meet up, socialize, drink, and, when good and ready, get onto tiny little bikes (kids bikes, usually - 16" wheelsize is considered normal) and rocket down the hill at incredibly high speeds. This has been going on for over four years, and despite early skirmishes with the police, the freak/fun/fool identity of Zoobomb has won itself a place in the heart of Portlanders everywhere - as a cultural symbol of Portland, they have won themselves a sort of autonomy and immunity.

Minibike Winter is a celebration of biking put on by the zoobombers - an event to get down and dirty, compete for glory, and to generally give themselves props for riding year 'round. Those of you who ride Midnight Mass in the winter know what its like to keep coming out when the weather sucks, and you know its worth it. MBW is a party to celebrate that, zoobomb style.

Now nothing is done, bikestyle, down in portland without taking it to the extreme, so MBW was packed full of crazy events and parties. This is the story of the brave BC contingent who went down to participate.

DAY ONE: Trials of Blood and Fire.

Our van got rolling early, loading up rather efficiantly (for Vancouver bikers, that is)... but it wasn't long before we had our first Trial of the trip - a flat tire before we even left Vancouver. It was probably a good thing that it happened in town, not on the I5, but still - a bummer. After a frustrating back and forth between the rental company (who told us to push the **creepy** 'ONstar button', and the ONstar people (talking to us from Atlanta or somewhere, out of the car speakers, and through some kind of hidden microphone in the car and tracking us with GPS... agatin, **creepy**) who put us on hold, while they called our rental people, Cara got bored of being given the runaround and called a tow truck and found us a nearby tire shop. With Fish in control of the situation, we were on the road in no time again, and picked up our Solo Victorian, Triane from the ferry and made for the border. Light traffic on the highway had us in portland before 6, well in time to attend the LightBar, put on by Mykle of Portland:

Housed in a large white tent in Mykles huge back yard, and featuring drinks by donation (!!) and some bangin punk/synth/? live music, the LightBar was a perfect meet and greet where team BC met up with ourselves, as well as old and new friends from the portland bike crowd. Nametags, torches, and mini LEDs were built to prepare for the mass Lit ride which was to follow.
We mounted our two wheeled steeds and poured out front of Mykle's, where we took to the streets in a rowdy, fire and firework spewing, light flashing mass. Midnight Mass on firey steroids.

Of course, there being a bunch of Vancouver bikers there, it wasn't long before this degenerated into a naked lit ride...

The ride took us downtown, where after a few foot-down derbies we proceeded to the Pile (the Zoobombers maintain a pile of extra minis downtown for anyone who wants to bomb, but doesnt have a bike) where we met up for the Badass Challenge - a ride UP the zoobomb hill. Ifny, Nick B, Lyle, Jeff and I all competed from Canada. Ifny took first Foreigner, I came in 10th, and Lyle and Nick got a bit lost but made it to the top. Jeff was not seen until the next morning. Seriously. We then prepared for the first Bomb of the weekend.

This, unfortunately, was also the bloodiest bomb of the weekend. I got cut off and knocked into morgan (who stayed up), but in crashing took down 4 or more people behind me, including lyledriver on his minichopper. Earned myself a little limp and ROUND THREE of roadrash on my face.

Actually, I'll give a prize to whoever can think of another decent nickname for me based on my propensity to do this to my face.
I wasn't the only one to go down - I heard tell of several other accidents, including this one where Nagasawa mike got cut off and went down on his brakeless track bike (ok, so maybe riding a brakeless track bike at high speeds down the zoobomb was a bit sketchy too.) Mike's all right, thankfully, and joined the Zoobomb injury elite by leaving some skin on the hill.

Tired and sore, we rolled home to our respective crash pads (Thankyou, again, Portland for housing us so generously!) where we got some much needed rest.

DAY TWO: Ben Hurt, Chariots

Day two we met up in one of Portland's industrial concrete jungles (these are apparently all over the place in town). We met up for breakfast and preparations for the day's events.

Standing around under the bridge, I had the strong feeling that we were engaged in something tribal - over in one corner were the Dead Babies from seattle, accross the way a cluster of Sprockettes stood, Project B was off trickstering in some big puddles, the Canadians worked on their chariots, and zoobombers were everywhere. Urban tribalism... I likes.

The first event was a Drag Race - dress in drag, drag a partner, all while taking a drag on a cigarette. Multi-level dragness.
The winners? Cara and Nix dragged out as Red and Blue Brake!

Next was the Chariot whiplash:


2-mini driven chariot with chain-linked steering. cool!

We all then rode en-masse then to the post-apocalyptic (really - its a 'Superfund' EPA protected/prohibited site because its so freaking toxic) site of the day's main event, the 'Chariot Deth Match.'

The other highlight at this location was the Toxic Challenge - a modification of the Cupcake Challenge (riding your mini off an ramp into icy water) - in this case, the modification involved jumping into ultra toxic superfund water, yum!

Eventually the cops ('the pepper' as the PDX kids say it) got wise to our antics (apparently someone thought it would be funny to block a train trying to get through?) and came to move us along. A personal highlight for me was these two cops as we rode out:
Felix (Zoobomber): "yeah, its just some events as part of zoobomb's minibike winter"
Cop 1: "Zoobomb?"
Cop to (to cop 1): "You don't know about zoobomb?"

I love that city. Its worth noting that the police were very hands off. They didnt try to grab anyone, weren't flashing lights or using megaphones, or any kind of pressure at all. They just sort of showed up, and people started moving on.

We rode out from here and back towards northeast portland. Morgan got a flat, so I towed him to a gas station to help patch it (it had a thorn in the tire). On the same ride back into town, the drummer from one of the bands that was to play had an accident and hurt himself pretty badly - we're hoping he ended up okay.

That night we went to the Recyclry, a local community bike shop, to party down.
There was an animal themed fashion show:

A performance by the Lovely and talented Sprockettes,

And the kick-ass stylin's of Show Me the Pink to rock the house out.

DAY 3: Olympiad

Day three had us meeting up at the local HI hostel, where Urban Adventure League Shawn (the man behind the portland midnight mystery rides, amongst other excellent urban adventures, fed us a delicious brunch.

Then it was down to the river to meet up for the day's insanity.

(curious bystanders)

Events included minibike sprints and tricycle relay:

12" minibike shotput/discus,

and of course, the Actual Cupcake Challenge:

As events wound down and it got colder, team canada reassembled to plan rides home for that night/ the following day. We hit some dinner, and then reassembled at the pile for the nights final events. Onto the Max and up the hill for the zoobomb competition. The racing was split into several categories. Skate race, freak bike race, open class (any bike welcome), and 16" class. There were a couple more wrecks during this bomb, including my second of the weekend and Haley who was a few meters behind me, and probably went down trying to avoid my sorry ass.

I'm proud to say, Vancouver's own Lyledriver of Project B, winner of the Operation M.E.O.W. Alley Kitten took 2nd place in the 16" category!

From Left to Right (3rd-1st) Mechanic Mark, Lyle, and Gabe (aka Captain Fun/ Warchild)

After the races we met up at a kids playground on the zoobomb hill that the locals call 'Legoland.' Complete with bridges and slides and A GROUND SURFACE MADE OF RUBBER, legoland made a perfect course for mini racing. Indeed, this was how the key to the city was awarded. Throughout the weekend, points had been assigned to competitors for winning/ competing in events. When it came down to the final race to award the final points Gentleman James and Ifny were both in contention for the key. Unforutnately, the local kids new the turf too well and Zoobomber Solid Gold took home the key. Well - there's always next year, kids. We chilled at legoland as long as our tired eyes would let us, watched the locals play beer bungee, and eventually packed it in, some driving home that night, and others heading back to their crashpads to sleep for early departure the next day.

Sore, broken, and elated we travelled home with our dutyfree whiskey and sparks. Until the next wescoast bikejam, this is midnightsimon signing off.

More Photos of the weekend from:
Nagasawa Mike
Haley Hardcore
Denny T's Set #1 and Set #2
Gabe (AKA Captain Fun)


adventure! said...

Ah, Simon, you are giving me too much cred! I'm not the one who started Midnight Mystery Rides in Portland (though the idea came from a sticker I made). That honor goes to Ayleen Crotty. And MMR celebrated its 4th birthday this February!

And Team Vancouver Midnight Mass, thanks for bringing the fun to Portland, and for showing me a fun time when I was above the 49th last month. I'll be back soon...


PDXK.TV said...

I wasn't able to attend all the events so thanks for filling in the gaps, Simon. See you next time.


SysFail said...

Awesome collection of pics and video

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