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Bikes and Beer: Portland's Way of Life

Portland bike culture

Saying that Portland is a bike-friendly town is about as obvious as saying that hostellers like free food. Accordingly, the city has more bicycle shops than you can shake a handlebar at where the droves of two-wheeled commuters get their fixies fixed and their tires trued. And what do Portlanders do when they’re not pedaling up and down the streets? To throw out another cliché, they’re probably drinking Portland’s unofficial official drink, craft beer. So when you come visit the city they call “Beervana,” expect the folks at HI Portland Northwest and the HI Portland Hawthorne hostel to help you get stuck right into the local bikes n’ beer culture.

For a gentle introduction into this world, you can start by taking part in HI Portland Northwest’s Brew Pub tour, led by a knowledgeable local who will take you to spots within walking distance of the hostel. The next level involves renting a bicycle and seeing the City of Roses as the locals do. Rent a bicycle on-site at HI Portland Hawthorne, then make sure to stop into a bar (or two), like Blue Moon or The Rogue Brewery & Ale House (you’ll get discount pints here!), to sample the taps of ales, IPAs and stouts that the town known for. Once that achievement is, you’re ready for the a mash-up of the local loves: the bike n’ beer bar. 

keep Portland weird

Take Velo Cult (a favorite of Portland Hawthorne’s Guest Services Manager, Michele Machado), which opened its doors in 2012 and became an instant institution. “Just popularity wise, we’re one of the most well-known shops in the world,” says Sky Boyer, two-wheel enthusiast and owner of the bike shop/bar. “Locals also bring their friends and family from out of town here, and they do that because it’s the most Portland thing they’ve ever seen.”

The 10,000-square-foot space in the Hollywood neighborhood is adorned with bikes literally from the floor to the ceiling, while the front of the store features a wooden bar with an impressive selection of beers. People come to enjoy a brew as their wheels are being worked on, but they also come just to hang out: to watch local frame builders bend and weld metal into familiar shapes, to meet up with fellow cycling enthusiasts,  and, if it’s after 6:00 p.m., to catch one of the many eclectic events that are hosted in the shop. 

The store is not only a favorite for locals, but for travelers from around the world who have heard about Velo Cult in various magazines and those who just want to get a true sense of the city by interacting with residents. There’s a feeling of community between the people sitting and chatting on the long tables, and even if you’re just passing through, you’ll get to feel like you belong. 

Whether you’re a seasoned biker or just starting to get the whole two-wheeled thing, there are endless opportunities to be a part of Portland’s eco-friendly way of life – be it a simple tour around the city or a bike-in movie hosted in the Hawthorne hostel’s back yard. The best part is that in Portland, after a day of using your leg muscles, you’re guaranteed a great beer as a reward. 

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HI USA tip: Take a look at these awesome cycle-touring routes near Portland, and find out more about the discount for HI Portland Hawthorne guests who are travelling through the city by bike.  

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