Riding a bike in the suburbs around Portland is much easier than most people expect. The trickiest part of cycling for transportation in this area is getting from some of the southerly and westerly suburbs into downtown Portland. Because of topographical limitations, there are only a few options and most of those are clogged with freeways.
One of the best options is to get on one of TriMet’s MAX lines and ride in. The trains run frequently and take you right to the heart of downtown. There’s even bike parking inside the train cars!
Most of the trains (including the newest trains) have four hanging bike spaces per car. Often this is more than enough, although during commuting hours they do fill up quickly (I’m hoping the Beaverton Bike & Ride will help with that). Assuming that there’s an open space, it’s pretty simple to hang up your bike, take a seat, and enjoy the ride into Portland.
In the first week of owning the Fryslân I rode it to the MAX line and hopped on, expecting this experience. Unfortunately I found out that the bike was a bit longer than the parking space on the MAX. Hanging by the front tire, the rear fender scraped and jammed against the floor and I had to stand the whole time to hold the bike in place.
I quickly realized that hanging it by the rear tire allowed for the front tire to turn to the side, keeping it off the ground. This solved part of the parking problem (at least the bike would hang there on its own), but the solution was far from perfect.
Tipped to the side, the handlebars either get in the way of the train’s doors or in the way of passengers’ legs as they boarded the train. It also just looks sloppy. One of the things I like about the Fryslân is its elegant aesthetic, and having it haphazardly tossed onto the bike rack like this doesn’t pay the bike the respect I feel it deserves.
Even with all these draw backs, this was the only option I was aware of for quite some time. There were dozens of trips with an askew front tire until one day when stepped on the MAX, hung up my bike, and it slid right into place – vertical front tire and everything.
I took a step back a examined the situation in more detail. Drawing on memory and using the top of my head as a measuring tape, I realized that the train I was on had taller bike parking spaces than most others. I later found out that a number of the newer MAX lines have these taller spaces. Was this done on purpose? I’m not sure, but I’d like to thank TriMet for the change, be it intentional or accidental.
Newer train cars don’t run often on the lines I frequently travel, but I’m hoping that as the MAX fleet ages and is slowly replaced we’ll see more and more of these larger spots.
The taller parking space may cause some trouble for shorter riders, but the trains also have folding seats that can be moved to accommodate wheelchairs. The space the seats create (if not in use by a wheelchair) can be used for a bicycle easily enough. That solution isn’t officially sanctioned by TriMet, but I can’t imagine them having too much of a problem with your bike being parked there if you physically can’t reach the hanging bike space. You would obviously need to sufficiently secure the bike, and would need to yield the space if someone in a wheelchair comes on board.
After finding out about these taller spots, I was starting to feel a bit disappointed whenever one of the older trains would pull up in front of me. Contorting the Fryslân into a smaller space was even more frustrating when I knew there was better parking out there somewhere. That all changed when I boarded one older train and, once again, I hung up my bike and – ta-da! – it slid right into place.
This really confused me because I could see that the hook for the bike was in the lower position, much closer to the top of my head than on the newer cars.
It turns out I had accidentally stumbled on a better solution than an askew tire: turn the front tire around a full 180 degrees! The frame geometry of the Fryslân causes the front tire to sit much closer to the frame when it’s turned completely around.
The switch is a bit tough to see in the picture on the left, since the handlebars are not visible, but compare it to the photos above and you’ll see what I mean.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t think of this sooner and only found it worked by accident. But the end result is still the same and now I can fit the Fryslân on the MAX with no trouble. I even think that, with the front tire flipped around, I could fit the Fryslân on the bike spaces on the front of TriMet’s buses! If I ever need to give that a try, I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.