After moving from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Portland in 2007, David Meredith expected that his small mountain bike business would be warmly received here. His enterprise, called 'One Ghost Industries' (after his dog), produces four different models of lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber bicycles with elaborate suspension systems.
Though his bikes are manufactured in Taiwan, the business has been centered in Portland - and, until August, was operated out of Meredith's Woodstock house and garage, where boxes of bicycles and parts were stacked to the ceiling.
But, while recently packing to move to Southern California, Meredith told THE BEE: 'I'm very disappointed in the bicycle scene in Portland.'
To be specific, Meredith expected more support from Portlanders for mountain bikes and trails. In Santa Fe, where Meredith previously ran a bicycle store, the most popular bicycles were mountain bikes, typically displayed in the front of the store, while - unlike what's common in Portland - road bikes were in the back.
It helped that Santa Fe has over 1,000 miles of trails open to mountain biking - all within the city limits, according to Meredith. Not so in the Rose City, he added. 'Only in Portland are mountain bikes in decline, despite the fact that Portland has more city parks and more usable topography than any other city in the nation.'
Under the auspices of the Northwest Trail Alliance, Meredith has lobbied on behalf of mountain biking, but was unsuccessful in convincing the Portland City Council to expand legal mountain bike trails in Forest Park or other forest areas. 'In Portland, bicycling is only supported as a form of transportation, and not as a form of recreation,' he said.
And, he added, he has faced resistance from local bike shops as well. 'As a wholesaler to retailers, I'm turned down in favor of multi-national corporate brands, like Giant and Trek.'
Though he's never ridden one, Sellwood Cycles' Michael Lilienthal acknowledged that One Ghost bikes look nice. But, he said, his shop is not likely to carry another brand of mountain bike, because it's happy with its relationship with Kona Bikes, which the shop primarily features. 'We'd love to have more mountain bike business,' Lillienthal added, 'But we just don't have that clientele.'
Still, as an avid mountain biker, Lilienthal agreed with Meredith: 'Mountain biking in Portland is pretty awful. It has probably less than 10 miles of legal single-track trails.'
In Southeast Portland, mountain biking is not allowed in Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, although it is permitted on a natural surface trail in Powell Butte Park, which can be reached via the paved Springwater Corridor.
Lilienthal said the reason more natural surface trails haven't been opened here is that places like Forest Park are seen as primarily refuges for wildlife. Also, hikers and dog-walkers dislike competing for unpaved trail space with mountain bikers; and there are environmental impacts, including the matter of erosion when natural surface trails are wet, he added.
Rob Sadowsky, Sunnyside resident and Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a bicycle advocacy group, told THE BEE that the city is currently developing a mountain bike trail in Portland's Northeast Gateway District. He added that his organization supports mountain biking, but understands that forests might not be the best places for it.
'We generally love mountain biking, and believe there is an opportunity to discuss trails, as long as there is adequate stewardship,' Sadowsky said.
In a possible concession to the Portland market, Meredith has designed another line of bicycles under the name One Stop Cycles. A model titled The Proletariat has road bike features, including narrower tires. Meredith said his wife loves it. She's also the reason he's moving to Southern California, since she is starting graduate school there.
However, Meredith isn't severing all ties with Portland. One Ghost Industries' warehouse distribution center will remain here, and he anticipates eventually returning to Portland. Portland may not offer much for mountain bikers; but, Meredith exclaimed, 'It's a great place to raise kids.'