By Shad Johnson
I can almost guarantee that while you’re reading this article it is raining up here in Portland. In fact, it will probably be raining for at least another two months. Even with it raining through the winter and the spring seasons, Portland is home to some of the best riding and riders I’ve ever seen.
It almost seems impossible for this city to have a thriving scene. Minus the rain, we have one of the best cities in the world to ride. We have one of the most famous skateparks in the world right downtown (Burnside). You can also make a short trip outside of the city and ride some great parks like St. Helens, Keizer, Salem, Loncoln City, and the Tualatin Recreation Center. (If you wanted to make a day out of it you could drive south on I5 and ride some great cement parks like Ashland, Medford, Talent, and Jacksonville). They are all just a short drive from each other and rival Burnside in endless lines, fast trannies, and big walls.
The first time you pass through Portland you’ll notice a lot of nice stuff to ride street on. With a little bit of exploring up and down the hills you’ll realize that there’s a lot more stuff than you imagined. With about six colleges and tons of public schools, you’re always running across something new. I’ve been coming here since I was 15, and I have lived here for a few years and I’m still finding new spots.
I’m sure you’ve all heard crazy stories about Burnside and what has been done to people down there. For example, how they hate BMXers. The first time I went to the park in ’92 I got chased out of there by four skaters throwing boards at me. Eric Walter and I both got a flesh-eating bacteria from the park. Eric was in the hospital for a little over a week. I was scared to go and just let my leg rot for almost a year before it healed. Stories of people finding dead junkies and other shady happenings are always circulating. You become numb to it after a while.
Through the years, BMXers have been earning their respect down at the park. It’s still not a holiday, though. We still butt heads with a skater here and there. You’ll get into a shouting match or a “who can snake who the most” contest, and it sucks. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to go to the park and be looked at as a person just trying to have fun.
It’s so hard to limit the scene to just Portland. In Oregon it seems like the Salem and the Eugene riders are just as much a part of it as we are. They’re always coming up here to ride the skateparks and we’re always going down there to ride trails.
That’s one thing we’re lacking in Portland, is good trails. We never dig enough so we drive south to ride trials. First stop, the Solame trails in Salem. All downhill, good dirt, doubles as big as thirty feet, and perfectly groomed. I’ll bet any one of these are the best trails on the West Coast. Second stop is Eugene. This town has two sets of trails. The first is at Frank Walter’s house. I never got to ride them last summer, but I heard they were fun. The second set of trails is behind Emerald City BMX track. The Eugene guys just started them. Hopefully this summer they’ll be good. One good thing about the rain here is it gives everyone a long time to dig. It also pushes everyone to ride harder when there is some dry weather.
The level of riding in Oregon is amazing. We have kids who are 13 ripping and doing handrails, to guys who are 30-years-old doing the same. It’ss not just street either. It seems like the average rider up here will session anything. It doesn’t seem to be narrowed down to just street and dirt like some places. We’ll get in on anything. Hoffman Bikes donated the B3 vert ramp to the Tualatin Hills Recreation Center after the ’99 B.S. Finals, so everyone has been riding or trying to learn to ride vert. Big thanks goes out to the crew at Hoffman Bikes¿we appreciate it.
This area definitely has a lot of history. Jeff Tabachi, the man who invented the toboggan grew up here in Portland. Monte Hill, old-school vert legend and ex-GT rider lives in Portland. Rumor has it that Josh White, another ex-GT rider has recently moved from Southern Oregon up to Portland. Jesse Puente grew up in Eugene before moving to California to dominate flat in the early ’90s.
The locals up here all seem to ride with their own personal style. We have got old-school rippers like Marty McPharland, Mark “Toast” Johnson, Eric “ODB” Jensen, Jon Wold, Jamie McPharland, and Cruiser Lee Burns keeping their style alive and passing down their knowledge onto the new-school destroyers like Eric Walter, Jon Bristol, Rich Hirsch, Daniel Randell, Ben McEwen, Jeremy Croft, Bruce Crisman, Shane Youngren, Ben King, Tommy Graven, Jeremy Davis, Ben Ward, Andy Merrall, and countless others.
The riding scene in Portland and its surrounding areas is growing at an amazing rate, and new parks are springing up all over. Many talented riders are getting ready to pick up where and when we leave things. So the future of our scene is looking pretty bright. Hopefully one day, every scene in America will be as lucky as we are.