Eliot’s Unique Bike Hive

Image of Breadwinner Cycles
Breadwinner Cycles

While many neighborhoods in Portland have a local bike shop, few neighborhoods have what could be considered to be a “Bike Hive”. Eliot is home to a vibrant community of businesses and nonprofits passionate about supporting people who ride bikes at any level of expertise. The intersection of North Page Street and North Williams Avenue is home to several local businesses dedicated to cyclists: Metropolis Cycles, Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks, Ahearne Cycles, Breadwinner Cycles and Café, Signal Cycles, and Endurance PDX, with Bike Farm and Cycle Oregon just a few blocks away. I wanted to learn more about these businesses, how they collaborate, their views on what they offer to Eliot, and what they want the neighborhood to know about them.

Another world class bike in progress. Photo courtesy Dylan Vanweelden.

I began by speaking with Christopher Igleheart and Joseph Ahearne (108 North Page Street). Chris Igleheart, Joseph Ahearne and Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan (from Breadwinner) are world famous in the custom bicycle frame building world and to a certain extent the bicycle world. Ahearne first moved to the Page Street location about twelve years ago to grow his frame building business. While he initially moved into the space alone, he was excited to meet Igleheart and have a shop mate, because frame building can be a lonely job. Igleheart was looking for a space to work on his own frame building business. Today, they each operate their own custom bike building business Igleheart Custom Frames and Forks and Ahearne Cycles. Ingleheart has been making frames for about 30 years and Ahearne, Pereira and Ryan for about 15 years. The two spend their days swapping expertise—they each have mastery over different parts of the process—and share both equipment and a good sense of humor. The two collaborate with others too, including a line of custom bikes called Page Street Cycles that features mostly touring–style bikes, and with their neighbor Metropolis Cycles when ordering components. In another collaborative effort, Igleheart welds frames for Breadwinner. Igleheart and Ahearne share in their mission to make people feel happy and comfortable on their bikes, noting that when you are happier on your bike, you are happier in general.

I next crossed the street to check out Breadwinner Cycles and Café. The building houses a workshop that builds direct-to-consumer custom steel bicycles geared mostly towards people who are interested in racing but more so to the discerning rider who has a highly developed taste for bicycles. They buy a Breadwinner because they’ve owned many bikes and they want something purpose built that fits their body perfectly.

The building also has a café, which offers coffee, a variety of baked goods from local vendors like Fleur de Lys, Bowery Bagels, Ex Novo Brewery, Ft. George Brewery, Columbia Gorge Organic Juices, Free Public Wine, Water Ave Coffee. They also offer several breakfast menu items, in addition to beer and wine in the evening. The founders of Breadwinner Cycles, Tony Pereira and Ira Ryan, were driven to open the café because they have felt so supported by the bike community in Portland, and wanted to create a space to further facilitate the growth of that community. Breadwinner Café was developed to support the social aspect of cycling, with the goal of providing a gathering place for people who love cycling to come together and build in relationship. The café also aims to serve as a hub for group rides. Even as the café is filled with evidence of bike culture, people less acquainted with biking will feel comfortable too. Of particular interest in the café is a large window that looks into the workshop, where you can sip on your coffee and enjoy a scone while observing the owners and their apprentice building bicycle frames. Outdoor seating will come to the space in the next several weeks, and the café will begin hosting regular happy hours in the evening with monthly frame building demonstrations. The café opened this past December and is looking forward to welcoming people in the neighborhood, making new friends, and in getting to know some “regulars”, whether people arrive on foot or on bike.

The café is a real draw for the other businesses in the area, and I learned that the employees at Metropolis Cycles make a regular habit of stopping by for coffee refills. Metropolis, located at 2249 North Williams, is dedicated to being a commuter-friendly neighborhood bike shop. Metropolis does bike repairs and also sells new bikes for more casual and recreational bikers. Metropolis prides itself on being welcoming to all levels of cyclists. The service department is located at the front of the shop, so when you walk in you can immediately talk with someone focused on repairing the bike and can gain insights about what goes into bike maintenance. Metropolis has a large following of neighborhood regulars, and is grateful for the loyalty and support Eliot has shown to them. Metropolis also works to support Bike Farm, a bike non-profit just down the street, through the donation of used components.

Bike Farm (1810 NE 1st Avenue) is a non-profit, volunteer-run community bike shop with a focus on education and empowerment. Volunteers at Bike Farm teach you how to fix your own bike. Bike Farm sells some rebuilt bikes to help defray operation costs, but the majority of their budget comes from donations. Bike Farm strives to be accessible to all bikers, from new riders who want to learn more about their bikes, to low-income individuals without the ability to pay for services at a more mainstream repair shop. Bike Farm also aims to be a particularly welcoming space for those conventionally under-represented in the bike world, and hosts a women and trans night twice a month. Because Bike Farm is completely volunteer-run its hours can sometimes vary, so it is best to drop by to check out their services or to visit their Facebook page for the most updated hours.

Supporting all of the cyclists who may frequent these workshops and spaces is Endurance PDX (2323 North Williams Avenue), a physical therapy clinic that works to help people feel comfortable and pain-free in their activities. Notably, practitioners at Endurance have special expertise around the needs of cyclists. They help cyclists get back on their bike after an injury, and even do custom bike fits—an evaluation to make adjustments to your bike to make it as comfortable as possible for you, and to alleviate any strain that can cause injury. Jen Craft, a physical therapist in the practice, has a sub specialty addressing the needs of people with female anatomy, who can experience specific types of pelvic floor discomfort while in the saddle. The people at Endurance find that they are constantly referring cyclist clients to their neighbors– Metropolis, Ahearne and Igleheart, or Breadwinner–depending upon the adaptations and level of customization necessary to their ride. Craft laughed as she noted, “Some of our clients are fitted at Endurance, and then get a Breadwinner bike welded by Iglehart, and with components from Metropolis. And everyone is going to get coffee at the café”. Having recently relocated from Sellwood, Craft says that she and other members of Endurance are excited about their new home in Eliot. She loves seeing people walking around the neighborhood, and feels that Endurance can give back to the neighborhood by helping to keep people moving.

Throughout my conversations with these businesses, I learned of peoples’ passion for biking, and moreover, their desire to share that passion with members of the Eliot community. If you are thinking about getting on a bike this summer, check out the intersection of North Page and Williams (and the Bike Farm) to begin your explorations. Whether you get around the neighborhood on two feet or two wheels, summer is a-comin’, and it’s a great time to connect with neighbors, both new and old.