By Margaux Mennesson
In September, 28 of the best craftsmen, designers and custom bicycle builders in the country came to Portland to take part in the annual bicycle building challenge known as Oregon Manifest. Each year, constructors must design and build a bike that meets rigorous design criteria for that year’s challenge. After unveiling their work to the public, entrants compete in the Oregon Manifest field test. The field test assesses the real-world function of every bike in the challenge in diverse environments including hills, byways, and off-road sections.
The challenge this year: build the next generation of utility bikes for the modern rider.
There’s a reason this event takes place in Portland, where more people choose to bike to work, to school, to the grocery store, and around the neighborhood. From 2001 to 2009, the number of people who commute by bike has increased 222 percent. In Portland, 40 percent of kids walk and bike to school, compared to the national average of 11 percent. The demand for a bike that serves as a tool in daily life has been growing as fast as the number of riders.
A utility bike on display at Oregon Manifest. Photo by pdxcross.com
Portland is the best place to push the limits of American bicycle construction. Oregon Manifest has stepped up the competition in the past few years, evolving the design criteria to demand higher functionality for modern urban riders. This year, constructors designed bikes with features such as integrated lights and locks, saddle and handlebar height that can be adjusted without special tools, custom racks, cargo carrying capacity, electric assist and more.
Bike shops in Portland are helping make utility bikes more available and affordable than ever. After all, just because you want to bike to work or the grocery store, doesn’t mean you need a Dutch-style cargo bike. For many people, the perfect utilitarian bicycle is one that’s comfortable to ride and has a basket or a rack that fits a bag of groceries. Continue reading