Two years after the inaugural event, the second Oregon Manifest design contest and technical trials were held last weekend. The Oregon Manifest crew put together a great event, even better than the first. I see the Oregon Manifest as an idea lab for the future of the urban bike. Builders, design studios and universities bring all kinds of concepts, and then try them on the road. Riding alongside the participants, we got to see the bikes perform over a varied course.
This year, the course was shorter – 50 miles – and the gravel sections were perhaps a bit too smooth to really test the durability of the bikes. Even so, it was clear that the builders have made improvements since the last event. In 2009, just looking over the bikes, you could predict that racks would fall off, fenders would break… and so they did on the rough gravel of the course. This year, most bikes were much better in design and execution, and failures were rare.
Compared to the past, the entries were much more varied, ranging from lightweight porteur bikes to heavy-duty load haulers that can carry hundreds of pounds. There were whimsical entries like the sidecars to carry dogs and even passengers, a neat little “campus” bike, many varieties of cycletrucks, cargo bikes, a three-wheeler and more. A lot of thought had gone into the design of every single one of them.
I don’t envy the jury who had to pick a winner in the event, because it is almost impossible to decide whether a long-tail cargo bike with electric assist is a better machine than a lightweight porteur bike. It all depends on who rides it and for what purpose.
Rather than picking a “winner,” I am interested in the innovative ideas that many of the builders and designers presented at the Oregon Manifest. The Winter issue of Bicycle Quarterly will have a full report from the event, and showcase some bikes that we thought offered particularly clever solutions for urban riding.
For the Bicycle Quarterly team, the fun continued after the event, as we rode back to Seattle via the lovely Old Columbia Highway and the challenging gravel roads across Babyshoe Pass. It was a true adventure, and a truly rigorous test for our new randonneur bikes. I’ll report on that ride in a future post.