Portland, Oregon, USA
Who do you think you are anyway?
I am a native Pacific Northwesterner. By day I apply my insatiable desire to "always be improving" by analyzing higher education business processes. The rest of my time I fill with family, a bit of video gaming, friends, photography, volunteering, keeping up the yard (when I have to), and bikes. I have explored my home state of Oregon in various modes - hiking, road trips, back-country skiing, and cycling. The common theme for the introvert in me has been the solitude, the peace, and quiet, sharing time and activities with a few, close friends, and being in awe of the magnificence of nature.
I am a fairly strong introvert (if that is any kind of description) but am my most extroverted when I'm on my bike, almost like the two lives of superheroes (note: I am not one), such as Diana and Wonder Woman. Through biking, I have met some super friends and have experienced many epic adventures.
How’d you get into bikes?
I was the late bloomer in my family, not learning how to ride until 8 or so. I wanted to roll with my friends and they were the ones that helped the most. We had some great explorations, neighborhood criteriums, winter snowball fights by bike (learned about balance and equal-but-opposite-reaction), and building ramps and jumping. The inquisitor in me found an outlet other than destroying the family toaster in wondering what made my bike tick. I thought the coaster brake was a pretty impressive mechanical device - yep, took it apart, got yelled at, and managed to put it all back together . . . and it still worked!
Skipping ahead from my childhood riding (shhhh in the 60s) I arrived at a place, as an adult, where I felt a need to move a bit more than sitting at my desk, rolling back and forth in my chair, and creating technical illustrations. The one thing that I could do straight out the door and wasn't "really" exercise was biking. Not sure of my commitment level, I bought a lower-end touring geometry bike. Turns out I enjoyed riding and found routes that seemed far, but weren't really. During this time, I met some new cycling friends who brought even more fun and were most awesomely supportive - no one left behind, encouragement, camaraderie. Those long 12 mile rides turned to 25, 60, centuries, double centuries, and climbing. Remembering these friends and times brings back many fond memories.
Being a mobile society, my work always had me in the 20+ miles one-way commute so very rare was the opportunity to bike commute back then. Then, as life and luck would have it, my employer moved offices from the way-out suburbs to downtown Portland. I committed to bike commuting and it worked out that I could also accompany my son who was starting middle school and wanted to bike to school (4.5 miles one way). Once committed, I also found the need for N+1 and began building up a few different bikes for commuting and town riding. Commuting led to participating in an annual bike commute challenge, eventually going from participant to team captain. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm and how fun bike commuting could be.
The one thing about bike commuting for me is that it can become same ol' same ol'. I got an itch to try dirt riding with a mountain bike, buying a 29er hard-tail. I met some new friends and dirt riding led to an interest in bikepacking. With an opportunity to join a couple of friends on an epic trip riding the White Rim Trail in Utah's Canyonlands National Park, of course, I said, "Yeah!". Everything about that trip was mind-blowing - the landscape, the chillness of riding such remote terrain, the challenge of self-support - the seed was planted, I was hooked. The next epic trip was a multi-day ride exploring parts of southeast Oregon, including some of the Oregon Outback and surrounding areas. Yep, I needed more.
I love combining my joy of riding with volunteering. My favorite summer volunteer duties are with our Portland Sunday Parkways events where every month a different neighborhood has family-oriented activities coordinated along a car-free route to promote active transportation. Seeing our streets filled with people biking, walking, skating, jogging - all things human powered. My favorite late fall and winter volunteer activity is planting trees by bike with our Friends of Trees, an organization that works with the city and neighborhoods to improve urban tree canopy and restore sensitive natural areas. What a fun, get-you-outside way to combine two awesome activities - riding my bike and planting more greenery!
Throughout this bike evolution, another joy I am provided is the art of fine-tuning - mechanical, functional, and aesthetics. Each bike I have owned has gone through iteration after iteration so the bike is not only an extension but also an expression of me. For a select few, I apply this nexus principle when maintaining and servicing their bikes - tune-ups, precision wheel truing and builds, and just making things look good, clean, and polished before giving their bike back.
My current mission is sharing the fat bike love - showing how much fun a fat bike can be for adventure and exploring the unpaved world. It seems to be working as some friends became excited about these awesome fun machines and have purchased fat bikes for themselves - 2 have Surly Pugsleys now. This has opened a whole new world of exploration for them individually and for us as a group.
Tell us about your Surly
One of my most favorite topics! Thanks for asking.
After my experience on the White Rim Trail with the hard-tail sporting 2.2" tires, and watching my friend on a Surly Ice Cream truck I wanted to check these fat bikes out. My goal was to create an adventure bike, one that would take me anywhere. Visiting my favorite shop friends, asking questions, talking about what I wanted, getting feedback, and taking a few test rides - the Surly Wednesday was the winner! This bike would be the foundation for building my ultimate, solid, versatile adventure bike.
My starting base adventure bike is a 2016 Surly Wednesday in the sweet Robin's Egg Blue. My Wednesday has not disappointed. If the tire wear from pavement riding wasn't an issue, this would be THE bike I ride all the time! If I could only have one bike, this is the one. The little Paula inside screams with joy every time I am out on Wednesday (which has proven to be contagious with my friends who recently acquired fat bikes). She has been a pretty amazing urban assault vehicle as well. Rutted, unimproved roads with puddles? No problem - ride right through. Friends think I need a sign that says, "Splash Zone", as I seek out the puddles and give it just a little extra oomph to splash it big.
Fully loaded, the ride is so comfortable, the handling stable and predictable. Unlike many, I opted to use racks to support my bikepacking and have no regrets on that decision. The flexibility the racks provide has been a huge positive over the added weight - on one shake-down trip, I carried the firewood from the camp host a mile from camp on the racks. No one else had the capacity.
Having Wednesday has opened up so many more riding options - from fun group rides (like that time Kate came to Portland and, with Gladys Bikes, put on a Surly bikes ride), to volunteering (what a great ice-breaker to connect with people), to riding the local trails, to some amazing bikepacking trips (Oregon Outback). And snow. Did I mention snow? While everyone around me dreads snow in Portland, I am all like "Bring it!!!"
I love the fact that with the Wednesday I don't worry about what surface conditions I might encounter when exploring unknown routes. The geometry suits me and my riding style. I love the design thought that went into the bike - especially all the braze-on mounting points, which makes refining the build awesome.
Some of the things I have added to create my adventure bike: Surly 24-pack rack, Old Man Mountain rear rack, dropper post, small fabrications, shorter cranks (170mm, the medium came with 175mm), dyno hub and lighting, and (just because) I had a custom headbadge made (Jen Green Headbadges) - yep, the one that started a movement.
Favorite bike-related memory:
- From childhood - snowball fights by bike, where I (we) learned the importance of balance and art of the coaster brake skid/drift.
- From the earlier days - completing the RAMROD (Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day) in 10 hours.
- Most recent - the epic White Rim Trail trip.
- More most recent - having my friends getting thrilled about fat bikes, buying fat bikes, and joining me in exploring the unpathed.
If you could ride anywhere in the world, where would it be?
So many places like the Baja Divide, more southwest exploring. Right now, I want to explore more of the backcountry of Oregon, mostly east of the Cascades.
Where can people follow along with you?
Facebook: Pawlah Foonah