MCN, May 8, 2013
Is This the Greatest Biking City on Earth?
It rains a lot and it’s cold in winter, but, says Gary Inman, Portland in Oregon might just be the finest place on the planet to be a motorcyclist.
Portland Alley Sweeper Urban Enduro
Nestled behind the garages, chicken coops and backyard organic gardens of Portland, Oregon are 128 miles of unimproved (and largely forgotten) alleys. Every spring the Sang-Froid Riding Club takes to these neglected byways, ranging from gravel to nearly-impassable single-track mudbogs, to host the “Alley Sweeper Urban Enduro” ride. Not your traditional enduro, this is rather a ‘critical mass’ of sorts—with over 250 bikes squeezing, buzzing, smoking, splashing, and whop-whop waaah-ing up and down the alleys making friends and occasional enemies. The ride has become a phenomenon, attracting riders from up to 300 miles away.
Read the whole story here – with video!
Dave Roper’s Blog, August 2012
We gassed up and headed to Ukiah, got gas again in Granite and stopped for lunch at the Elkhorn Saloon in Sumpter. The 919 was a bit of a revelation. A ‘Naked bike’, it handled very well, had great brakes, an excellent seat and gobs of torque. Forget about shifting. Through just about the tightest hairpin, I left it in 6th and just rolled on. This was a type of riding I’d never done before: fast.
Read about the inimitable Dave Roper’s visit to Portland, including a race at PIR and a long ride out to Eastern Oregon – on his awesome blog, here.
Building Speed: Motorcycle Racing & Mechanical Triumphs of the 1950s – ’60s, Graeter Art Gallery, summer 2012
Writeup on The Comune blog:
Hundreds of people showed up and packed the gallery floor. Motorcycle enthusiasts of all scenes showed up and checked out the bikes, artwork, and of course enjoyed some Raniers! Some good ol’ Oregon dirt bike burn-outs went down, as well as some burn outs with the classic race bikes (which sounded like a jet engine in the gallery). Everyone had a blast. Thanks to John Graeter and everyone involved for making it such a great event!
Review in The Oregonian
Review in Willamette Week
Cycle World, April 2010 – embedded journalist Becky Ohlsen covers the infamous “555” ride:
In myths and old movies, biker gangs were scary. If they came to your town, women and children would scatter and men would get nervous. This was not the experience of the 555 ride. Our ragged herd was too weird to inspire fear in strangers. When we rolled into a town or a gas station, right away people wanted to help us.
Read it as a PDF here: 555-CW.
SFRC member Courtney Olive recaps a glorious summer road trip.
The formula was pure and simple: 500cc or smaller, 1975 or older, and $500 to cover all purchase and prep costs. That was the recipe for travelling cross country on the “555” ride.
Find out more at citybike.com.
KATU, June 29, 2009
Epic ‘555′ motorcycle journey tests hardy riders on shaky vintage machines
This past weekend, it was time once again for a long ride I look forward to each year: the annual SFRC Gold Rush Ride from Portland to tiny Sumpter, Oregon. The journey is loosely organized by the Sang-Froid Riding Club, a small Portland-based motorcycle club consisting of about a dozen friends or more dedicated to rolling up miles than sewing patches on their jackets. However, this year the ride was a little bit different. The long, winding road out to Sumpter was the first leg in what can only be called an epic undertaking for a small group of local riders, which included some SFRC members. Their larger mission? Reaching Knoxville, Tennessee, by motorcycle. It’s called the 555 Ride. – Bill Roberson
Portland Mercury, Thursday, Feb 2, 2006
Hey motorbike lovers! The Portland premiere of The World’s Fastest Indian is also a fundraiser for local motorheads, the Sang-Froid Riding Club, who are attempting to break a land speed record on the Salt Flats of Utah. This is a one-time showing (before the national debut) of this critically acclaimed film starring Anthony Hopkins, so get yer tickets early! This one is gonna be a sellout! – W. STEVEN HUMPRHEY
Willamette Week, Wednesday, Feb 1, 2006
World’s Fastest Indian
The coolest thing about this movie—the story of Burt Munro, an ancient New Zealander who set the 1967 land-speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats on an even-more-ancient Indian motorcycle—is a shelf in Burt’s garage full of offerings to the Gods of Speed (mainly broken pistons he made himself). The second-coolest thing is Anthony Hopkins as Munro—a guy who was a mechanical genius and busted his tail to prove it on the flats. But he was an odd duck, too, living alone in his shop, peeing in the yard and driving the neighbors mad with crack-of-dawn engine noises. Most of the film is a leisurely road movie in which Munro bumbles his kiwi way through encounters with various quirky characters. It gets sappy in parts, and those who live for things that go fast will probably get a little fidgety, but the payoff comes when Burt finally makes it to Bonneville. He’s allowed to run his bike despite its failing every safety check. The race is shown in real time, complete with speed wobbles. Good luck not rooting for the old guy. The Feb. 2 screening is sponsored by the Sang-Froid Riding Club, a Portland crew in the process of building its own land-speed racer to take to Bonneville this summer. – BECKY OHLSEN
Portland Tribune, Tuesday, Dec 13, 2005
‘Two Wheels, No Limits – On the Road of Life’
Think one biker gang is a lot like another? Think again.
On any Thursday evening the scene at the Sandy Hut bar is a snapshot of hipsterdom in all its complexity. Twenty- and thirtysomethings pull up on 1970s through 1990s Japanese motorcycles and Italian scooters and enter the smoky confines of this classic Portland dive bar on Northeast Sandy Boulevard to drink from a can and talk about motorbikes. The hipsters coalesce around the Sang-Froid Riding Club (pronounced “sang-fwah”), a seven-member motorcycle club that welcomes most riders. Membership is severely restricted — you have to be mechanically curious, a willing organizer and a bit of a speed demon. But casual riders often come back on the weekend for group rides from one to four days in length.
As founding member Zach Hull explains, motorcycle clubs traditionally get a bad rap because of their outlaw origins. Clubs were secretive, exclusive and occasionally criminal. “It was men coming back from the wars, still belligerent, attracted to the nomadic lifestyle,” he says. “There’s always been a benefit to a motorcycle club to be secretive and cohesive. If you rode together you were less likely to be messed with by the cops.” That image, according to Hull, is outdated and irrelevant to a lot of Portlanders. “You get people like us, in a medium-size city, with a certain amount of education, tolerance and disposable income, and we want to ride together.” The main problem is that Portland offers few group rides that suit them.
Hull notes that the literal sense of sang-froid is “cold-blooded,” but effectively it means “cool under pressure.” The latter applies to him and his friends. And “cool” is up for reinterpretation. Posing by a 1960s cafe racer remains the height of cool, half a century after the bikes appeared. But it’s also cool to ride at 120 mph implicitly trusting those around you. Cool is being able to speed-read the rushing asphalt and savor smells and temperature gradients that car drivers in their metal boxes miss. All bikers know this, but what makes the Sang-Froid Riding Club different is its odd mix of casual inclusiveness and sober efficiency. In the summer the club runs long rides. This year 32 riders thrashed across Eastern Oregon to Wallace, Idaho, and back. Along the way they arrived in Sumpter to a welcome of cold beer and barbecue and slept barracks-style in an old stockade. The cost to anyone whose bike could make it: $25 for all you could eat and drink, plus gas. They fixed a broken engine case with JB Weld, and repaired the oil filter on a BMW R75 with a bicycle patch. All riders are welcome, although member Zac Christensen points out that a bike has to be roadworthy. “Our informal motto is ‘Run what you brung.’ Having said that,” he adds, “if you’re riding marginal equipment, (stuff) is gonna break. We’re proud of the fact that we can fix it.”
“I like that when you go on a ride, you don’t feel like you’re auditioning,” says Becky Ohlsen, a freelance writer for Willamette Week and the Lonely Planet guidebooks. She started riding her Suzuki GS 450 with the club a year ago. For city slickers and scooter fans the club runs an annual two-stroke ride, named for these smaller, more primitive engines. “People are often attracted to the image, but are not actually interested in riding,” Hull says. “We deliberately called ourselves a riding club, not a motorcycle club.” They don’t do poker runs, which consist largely of stopping at bars. The Harley-Davidson crowd of middle-aged couples on gleaming Hogs leaves them cold. “They ride two abreast, real slow,” one member sniffs. “It’s like a parade.”
The Sang-Froid’s origins say a lot about contemporary Portland. Hull was intrigued by the interest in bikes shown by his Reed College buddy Patrick Leyshock (who has a master’s degree in philosophy) and friend Steve Callan. The three started entering vehicles in the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby at Mount Tabor in 1998. For an independent studies class he took as part of his law degree at the University of Oregon, Hull needed a project to work on. He decided to form a motorcycle club and make it an Oregon nonprofit corporation. So the Sang-Froid Riding Club sprang not from some prison bonding session or hell-raising road trip. It was all about the law. “It’s an Oregon corporation 501(c)7,” Hull says proudly. “An amateur sporting club with a business bank account and all that. I wrote the bylaws.” That bank account has $700 in it. Kelly’s Olympian Bar and Grill downtown gave them $2,000 when they brought in a regular crowd to watch MotoGP on the big screens. For the past two years the club has taken over running the Mount Tabor soapbox derby, carrying $2 million in insurance for the occasion. They also raise money by fixing up the odd bike and selling it on eBay, such as a 1968 Honda Superhawk. Like a lot of the bikes they ride, it’s functional, ugly and ripe for nostalgia.
The right tool for the job
Early on, the members were into riding 1970s Japanese bikes. They liked the old styling and the old technology — drum brakes, poor suspension, heavy metal. Now, among the seven of them, they have 45 motorcycles. “They’re like shoes!” says Chopper, whose real name is Eric Boyd. “You need the right bike for the conditions.” Leyshock and nonmember Paul Gaudio, a regular rider, both work at Norton Motorsports Inc. in Gladstone, where engineers and designers are trying to build a modern retro bike to rival the famous Norton Commando. Both have had so many bikes in their lives that they’ve reached a certain agnosticism. “I like a bike for what it is,” says Gaudio, who used to design sneakers. Industrial designers are usually the worst design snobs, but Gaudio will ride anything from a plastic dirt bike to a cranky BSA Bantam without prejudice. Members pay $20 a month in dues and are expected to help with the organizing. The newest recruit, Andrew Pignatoro, joined in October. A wiry lad sporting black frame glasses, he’s more the hipster clone (* guess what he does for a living — answer at the end) than the burly rocker (Hull) or wild-eyed argonaut (Gaudio). No poseur, he rides a 2002 Suzuki SV 650. On a recent ride to Astoria, they rode at their own pace. For some that’s 120 mph, stopping at catch-up spots. “We leapfrog,” Hull says. “One of use will drop back, then weave our way through the pack till we’re at the front again. “It’s nice not to be in Astoria on your own,” Ohlsen says. Another regular female rider is Kate McLaughlin. She swapped her scooter for a Suzuki GS 500 because she wanted to travel farther afield. Since last February she’s clocked 9,000 miles. “I get panicky when winter comes,” she says. “I don’t want to miss my riding. It’s so meditative.”
No gear, no glory
At 10 on a recent Sunday morning, five members meet to have their photo taken. All rides begin and end at the Sandy Hut. Today there’s nothing planned beyond a greasy breakfast and trading ride stories. Some specialize in racing “160s” — two-stroke bikes that usually have a 160 cc engine — something that’s become increasingly popular in the Northwest. “It was a way to redefine racing, make it cheap and accessible,” Hull says. Sang-Froid member Chopper placed fourth of 50 racers for the season in Portland. “Your (biking) gear is usually worth more than the bike,” he says with a grin. “And they only do 80 mph, but you don’t have to slow down to corner.” Chopper had missed the previous Thursday session because he was attending the birth of his first child. Chopper Jr. was happily ensconced in his mother’s arms as the proud papa arrived at the Sandy Hut to handshakes all around. He currently has three bikes. Asked if he would be soon writing the three saddest words in classified ad history, “Baby forces sale,” he’s adamant: “No way!” He explains how his parents met racing cars and boats and waterskiing in California in the 1960s. Chopper remembers how much racing meant to his father. “There wasn’t a weekend when I was 4 and 5 when we weren’t in the car going off to some car or bike race meet. But then he decided he had to give it all up because he had two kids, and I saw the light go out of his eyes. You can see the difference in the old photos.” When Chopper got into dirt bikes at age 18, his father got his mechanical mojo back. “I’ll never make that mistake,” he says. His wife, Zoe, is a “pretty decent” extreme snowboarder, and they have an agreement, that they will always follow their passion.
“It’s fun and it involves us in the community,” says Hull, who also advocates for motorcycle training and education, noting the low fatality rates in Oregon. “It doesn’t feel like work.” At the Sang-Froid Riding Club, you can drive more than 100 mph to the coast and still make the word “community” the bedrock of your vocabulary. And yet, looking around the city, it’s not so strange. Zoo Bombers always buy MAX tickets; wacky performance artists form 501(c)3 nonprofits; fire spinners carry extinguishers; Burning Man-goers carpool. The Sang-Froid Riding Club is another example of the ascendency of broad-minded specialists, big-picture thinkers with a keen focus. The responsible, civic-minded anarchist is a Portland mainstay. (* Pignatoro works as a barista at Stumptown on Southeast Division Street.) See www.sang-froidridingclub.com for a calendar of public events. – JOSEPH GALLIVAN
Portland Mercury, Vol 6 No. 28, Dec 8 – Dec 14, 2005
The Portland Mercury Online Charity Gift Auction!
At the end of every summer, the Sang-Froid Riding Club sponsors the insanely popular Portland Soapbox Derby. Thirty six—and only 36!—daring teams craft sturdy downhill racers, and brave a winding course down Mt. Tabor, vying for glory, fame, and prizes. But first, those teams must be tough enough to enter the derby; People line up in the wee hours of the morning to slap down their hard-earned cash and nab a coveted slot in the race. But you, dear auction winner, can skip that rigmarole and tow your soapbox straight to the starting line—because YOU will have a free and automatic entry.
The O! Section of the Oregonian, Sunday, December 4, 2005
Claudia Brown prepares to embark on the Sang-Froid Riding Club’s 2-Stroke Street Ride in October. The club only has six official members but attracted more than 50 riders to its annual “urban assault” through west Portland and Washington County.
Portland Mercury, Vol 5 No. 45, Apr 7 – Apr 13, 2005
‘Two-Wheeled Togetherness: Public Motorcycle/Scooter Forum’ – Sponsored by SFRC
Filled with more leather than Judas Priest’s tour bus, North Portland’s Amnesia Brewing was home to a Mercury-sponsored open forum on March 24th to discuss the problems facing motorcycle and scooter riders in the city. However, the packed symposium–which was equal parts bitchfest and call to civic action–proved the community will have to overcome (or ignore) some significant fractures before it can present unified policy demands to City Hall.
Read the full article HERE.
Portland Mercury, Vol 5 No. 28, Dec 9 – Dec 15, 2004
The Portland Mercury Online Charity Gift Auction!
Ever dream of joining a motorcycle gang, but didn’t have the right stuff? Now’s your chance! Win a day with the Sang-Froid Riding Club (like the Hell’s Angels, except super-nice, highly evolved, clean-cut, upstanding citizens). The riders will pick you (and a friend) up, plop you on the back of their bikes, whirl you around town, and finally take you–hold on to your horses–to Portland International Raceway for a few 100-plus mph laps. They also will provide you with basic motorcycle driving lessons given by the Portland Motorcycle Company! Afterwards, join your new biker buddies for a kegger! You’re welcome to invite your friends to this after-party and brag about how frigging tough you are.
Metro Section of the Oregonian, Wednesday, May 19, 2004
‘Those Registered Need to Fulfill Duty to Vote’
So Busse, who began his [mayoral] campaign almost half-heartedly…preached the gospel of how democracy works and, surprisingly, got a number of converts. It paid off in volunteers to his campaign, in donations and in endorsements. Sang-Froid Riding Club, a motorcycle racing group, formed a political action committee just so it could endorse Busse. Exotic, a magazine advertising nude-dancing businesses and private escort services, endorsed him “because we had reached out to them,” Busse says. – S. RENEE MITCHELL
The Oregonian, Urban Recreation Picks, Friday, April 23, 2004
Portland Adult Soapbox Derby
Summer time in Portland is when adults put their bodies and reputations on the line, racing hazardous contraptions down the cruel slopes of Mount Tabor. Get the skinny on how you can join in the fray in July at this informational meeting. 4 p.m. Saturday; Beulahland, 118 N.E. 28th Ave.; Sang-Froid Riding Club, 493-9465; email@example.com.
Portland Mercury, Vol 4 No. 43, Mar 25 – Mar 31 2004
TOUGH GUY FILM
Get your adrenaline pumping for summer; MotoGP is the wildest and toughest classification of motorcycle racing. Races are hard-won. Speed is all that counts. Faster documents the whirlwind speed and spirit of these races, following riders through 16 races over five continents. Tonight’s one-night-only screening is sponsored by the Sang Froid Riding Club. PB Laurelhurst Theater, 2735 E Burnside, 7 pm & 9:30 pm, $6
Portland Mercury, Vol 4 No. 23, Nov 6 – Nov 12 2003
Bikes Bands and Bacchanalia
Liminal presents an odd, but fun-sounding season-ending benefit party with the Sang-Froid Riding Club, the local nonprofit devoted to motorcycle riding. There will be a lecture on motorcycle engines, motorcycle rides around downtown, a performance from Sang-Froid, music from Bronwyn and the Minor Thirds, and plenty of booze. Liminal Space, 403 NW 5th, 890-2993, Thurs 8:30 pm, $5
Liminal Peformance Group
Recent Projects, November 6, 2003
‘Bikes Bands and Bacchanalia – An Evening with the Sang-Froid Riding Club’
This was one hell of a fun event. The motorcycles were gleaming around the space and everyone was very impressed with those talented musicians from Bronwyn and the Minor Thirds. We heart Sang-Froid.
Portland Mercury, Vol 3 No. 44, Apr 3 – Apr 9, 2003
‘Riding High on the Hog’
They say that dogs and owners eventually begin to reflect each others’ personalities. But perhaps motorcycles are a better and more perfect reflection of the owner’s soul. When motorcycles were first manufactured in America–the classic Indians and, of course, Harleys–they mimicked the loose-in-the-saddle, cool demeanor of the American cowboy. More notably, they rejected the common saddle design from European motorcycles that forced riders to sit stock straight, like a stick-up-the-butt equestrian. These new models were the reflection of American cool. Motorcycles have always blended the reigning definition of coolness with machine. After World War II and into the new atomic age, motorcycles evolved into two-wheeled rockets, specifically designed to satiate the new generation of hell-bent GIs and beatniks.
On Saturday, motorcycle season officially kick starts with a breakfast, ride, and classic film. Sponsored by the Sang Froid Riding Club, riders are invited for a greasy, heartburning breakfast at the Sandy Hut, 1430 NE Sandy, 235-7072, 9 am.
Read the full article HERE.
Clinton Street Theatre, April 5, 2003
On Any Sunday – 2003 SFRC Season Opener
Join the good-looking lads of the Sang Froid Riding Club in a giant afternoon ride-in to the Clinton, then kick back and watch Steve McQueen in 1971’s ON ANY SUNDAY, a tender love story between Man and Motorcycle, and one of the most deliriously entertaining 90 minutes ever committed to film.
Oregonian, September 30, 2002
‘Film festival will get your motor running’
This week, the Clinton Street Theater presents a totally cool biker-film festival that’s such a good idea, we hope it continues it, at the very least, annually. Starting off with a Giant Bike-In sponsored by the Sang-Froid Riding Club, the revelry begins at 7 p.m. Friday with Roger Corman’s 1966 cult classic “The Wild Angels,” starring a pre-”Easy Rider” Peter Fonda along with Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd, Michael J. Pollard and the fab Nancy Sinatra. Following at 9 p.m. is “Little Fauss and Big Halsey,” a hard-to-find ’70s treat starring Robert Redford and the always reliable Pollard on Hogs. At 11 p.m. Herschell Gordon Lewis’ “She Devil on Wheels” wraps up the night with a gang of female motorcyclists called “Man – Eaters.”