Bikes in Portland

Portland, Oregon has a rich bicycle history.  After a long regression in bicycle usage in the middle of the 20th century, common across all cities in the USA, the city of Portland adopted a bike plan in 1973, laying the groundwork for 190 miles of bicycle infrastructure.  These investments and local advocacy have paid off as about 6.3% of Portlanders commute to work by bike, the largest percentage for a city with more than 300,000 residents.  Portland has a well-earned bicycle-friendly reputation, which Tom Martin is happily a part of.

Tom Martin: Q&A

TallBike at Tomcat Bikes PDX

Photo used with permission: @tomcatbikespdx on Instagram

We reached out to Tom Martin, longtime Monkey Light dealer and industry veteran, to ask a few questions about his relatively new bike shop in Southeast Portland in the Brooklyn neighborhood, called TomCat Bikes.  Tom focuses on somewhat quirky used bikes, commuter bikes, playa bikes for Burning Man, and custom builds.

MonkeyLectric: You’ve been in the bike world for quite some time, what are some interesting things that you’ve witnessed or been a part of?

Tom: I suppose that’s a long long story. The arc of my career has seen the death and rebirth of so many trends. Vintage everything, BMX, lugged steel, mountain bikes, fixed gear, cruisers, all have had ascendance and low points, only to be given attention once again. I am very happy to see the bike industry embrace commuting and every day riding, rather than racing as the only reason to invest in research and development. It’s a fun and functional way to get around.


MonkeyLectric: You took over a shop named WTF bikes, are you doing pretty much the same as what the previous shop did, or have you changed directions a bit?

Tom: In November of 2018, I purchased WTF Bikes and renamed it TomCat Bikes (my name is Tom, and I like cats). It made sense, since the Keep Portland Weird era of PDX has kinda sunset. As a commuter shop, I want to sell to family, friends, as well as the freaks that make Portland, Portland. I continue the amazing work that WTF has done; repair and sales of used bikes with quality new bikes that are under $500. If there is a new direction, it will be embracing bikes that no other shop will work on: freakbikes, older Schwinns, vintage mountain bikes and dads old ten speed from college. I also fully embrace playa bikes, those craptastic conveyances that go to Burning Man for a week at a time. The dust and grease and PB blaster evoke memories of Point 3 at sunrise. Bring em! Bring them to me!

Playa Bike at TomCat Bikes PDX

Playa Bike at TomCat Bikes PDX: Image courtesy of @tomcatbikespdx on Instagram

 


MonkeyLectric: Pedalpalooza, which includes the Portland World Naked Bike Ride, is one of Portland’s signature bike festivals.  For the non-Portlanders out there, can you tell us a bit about it?

Tom: Pedalpalooza is a month long celebration of the bicycle. Community members organize rides with themes, costumes, routes, destinations and more bikefun. They are as unique as the community members who put them on. Some examples: the Bike Shop ride, where Armando went to 15 shops and interviewed the owners; Loud and Lit, the brightest loudest bike party in Portland, that ends at an undisclosed location for a dance party until dawn; World Naked Bike Ride, that ends in a party at an undisclosed location. The annual Pedalpalooza banner is now something Portland Bike Funnists collect each year. More info and a calendar is here: https://www.shift2bikes.org/pages/pedalpalooza/


Monkeylectric: Bike infrastructure is what makes Portland relatively bike friendly.  Many other cities in the States are starting to catch up with the rest of the world. Are you seeing some changes in Portland?

Tom: Portland has been on the leading edge for active transportation infrastructure development for almost 20 years. I see a lot of good incremental changes in Portland with Neighborhood Greenways, the Tillicum bridge transit and bike/ped crossing, protected bike paths with bollards, etc, There is so much more we can do for traffic calming and to prioritize safe passage for people who bike, walk, scoot and use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. There are plans for a Green Loop to go through the heart of downtown Portland. This will feature protected bike lanes and a new crossing over i-84.


Thanks for chatting, Tom!  Tom runs a full-service bike shop and specializes in commuter and freak bikes: used bikes, custom builds, and new Civia bikes.  And of course, TomCat carries Monkey Lights.

Visit TomCat Bikes in SE Portland:

TomCat Bikes
3117 SE Milwaukie Ave
Portland, OR 97202
503-232-4983
@tomcatbikespdx

 

Other interesting links:

  • What is your city’s bicycle mode share?  The League of American Bicyclists knows.
  • Jonathan Maus from Bike Portland dives deep into Portland’s bicycling history.
  • The Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation has a neat overview of the history of bicycling in Portland

Do you run a shop, have a favorite shop, or a story to tell?  Contact us and we’d be happy to run a feature!

RideTHISbike New Orleans

RideThisbike is the only full-service bike shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  They have been carrying Monkey Lights for a number of years, and after a recent Automatic A15 order, we were inspired to ask Larry some questions about his shop.

(note, all photos are used with permission courtesy of @ridethisbike on Instagram!)


 


MonkeyLectric: You started your bike shop after Katrina hit as a way to provide alternate transportation especially if a disaster hits after working in IT. How hard was it to get started, and did you ever wonder if you were doing the right thing?  Were there moments where you were thinking, "Wow, this is a crazy idea, what am I doing???"

Larry from RideTHISBike: The key to a happy life is doing what you love and doing it with all your heart. I love riding a bicycle. Imagine how blessed and appreciative I feel earning my living by sharing what brings me joy. It's awesome!

Was it hard? Ha. Is the sun bright?
Starting the business at a time when New Orleans was still depopulated, people DID say I was crazy. Bike industry experts were extolling on the demise of the local bike shop. Family and friends begged me to do anything else. Getting a loan to start was out of the question.

What saved me was my IT knowledge combined with a "can-do" attitude and lots of hard work. I went on a limb and opened a tiny, quirky, neighborhood bike shop that people love. I have loyal customers from around the world. Vacations are trips I'm paid to lead to bicycle on the world's best bike trails! My only regret is that it took a hurricane to chase my dream.



MonkeyLectric: As someone who's never been, what's it like biking around New Orleans compared to other places?

Larry from RideTHISBike: New Orleans is a compact city surrounded by water. All the land here formed eons ago through silt deposited by the mighty Mississippi River and by pumping the water out of the former swamps and marsh. As a result, the land is flat and most local ride destinations are within easy riding distance.


https://www.instagram.com/p/B06J9k3lX_H/

 


MonkeyLectric: When customers rent bikes from you, where do you recommend they ride? Or what are some highlights on your tours? 

Larry from RideTHISBike: Each New Orleans neighborhood has unique qualities due to when it was settled and which immigrants settled there. In fact, within the city limits, there are antebellum plantations, multiple parks with bike paths, places that look Spanish, Caribbean, French. In fact, New Orleans has the largest number of Greek Revival style buildings in the US. Still, my favorite rides are on trails along the river or out to City Park. There's something different on the river every day and riding in City Park is so tranquil.


https://www.instagram.com/p/BxlfQNlh4fX/


MonkeyLectric: I've often wondered this: many bike shops are closed 1 day a week, that makes sense, but how do you pick which day to take off? Why'd you pick Tuesday?

This is a common question but it has to do with our location. The French Quarter is a popular destination year 'round, but particularly on the weekends. Since the slowest days of the week in the Quarter are Tuesday and Wednesday, we flipped a coin and picked Tuesday as our day off.



MonkeyLectric: You guys have a lot of pictures with that chopper-style ebike. What's it like riding it around?

Larry from RideTHISBike: Remember Fonzie from Happy Days? Riding the chopper makes me feel like his character. Strangers give you the thumbs up, nod approvingly, smile, wave and shout out things like "Nice Bike!" More importantly, though, it tells me that I'm visible to motorists and pedestrians and that's a big part of bike safety.

 

Thanks for answering our questions, Larry!

If you're in New Orleans, visit RideTHISbike:

231 Dauphine St.
New Orleans, LA. 70112
Open 10am to 5pm (except Tuesdays!)

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1 (504) 324 2492

They offer sales, service, rentals and repair and carry a nice assortment of bikes from Brompton, Brooklyn Bicycles, Montague, Strida, EVO, REID, and 3G.  And of course, Monkey Lights.

And check out many more of their photos on Instagram: @ridethisbike