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Insider Profiles

Pursuing Your Passion in the City You Love

Phillip Ross"There's an abundance of energy and creativity here in this tough little rainy river town that I love."


When Phillip Ross birthed Metrofiets with partner James Nichols, it started as an art project and gathered fans.

Now the duo's exotic, front-loaded cargo bikes are a frequent sight around the city, helping to redefine transportation in Portland and support its burgeoning cycling community.

Fondly described by Ross as "American choppers without motors, or the screaming," Metrofiets bikes are inspired by the classic bikes of the 1930s and '40s.

Years ago, however, the notion to build what has since become a symbol of Portland's esoteric culture was merely a lark. After seeing a cargo bike that had been imported from the Netherlands, Ross first sought to ride it, then aspired to build one. It took him and Nichols years to do the job. By the time they were through, they'd not only earned fanfare on the popular cycling news site BikePortland.org, but also a following of curious onlookers, all clamoring to buy one.

"The pressure became so overwhelming that we decided to incorporate it, form an LLC and start making them," says Ross.

Since Ross waved goodbye to his job as a research librarian in 2008, Metrofiets has become so symbolic of Portland's quirky culture that its bikes have appeared in episodes of TV spoof "Portlandia" and will provide transportation for a soon-to-be-released mobile talk show by the Un Road Trip's Boaz Frankel.

The bikes built by Metrofiets, whose name, loosely translated from Dutch, means "city bikes," are also a nod to the Dutch "bakfietsen," or the first documented front-loaded cargo bikes, which are sought by artisans and craftsmen for practicality. Hopworks Urban Brewery owns one — its signature beer bike — for porting kegs of beer, complete with tabletop and taps. And Perpetua Wood Floors transports its finishing supplies, sanders and tools on a Metrofiets bike. Trailhead Coffee Roasters, with an eye on vending, also owns one. So do dozens of Portlanders now toting their kids, dogs, groceries and other cargo.

"There's an abundance of energy and creativity here in this tough little rainy river town that I love," says Ross, adding that most people in town are like him: earning a living doing what they love.

Small wonder the BrewCycle has followed, a four-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle that drives beer sippers on tours to Portland pubs. Ross likes to high-five its patrons as he rides by. "I love creating those kinds of environments," he says, "where people just freak out and wonder if that just happened."

His own cycling takes him frequently to Mt. Tabor and on to Rocky Butte. He loves the quiet off-road ride along Stub Stewart State Park, with its miles of paved trails. Champoeg State Heritage Area is also a favorite, and he's planning a caravan ride to Cannon Beach or Pacific City, both on the Oregon coast.

Shorter trips often end at Jim and Patty's Coffee, where his wife is a baker, or Ristretto Roasters, both in Portland's quaint Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood. On Williams Street in North Portland, Hopworks BikeBar, the Fifth Quadrant and Tasty n Sons are all favorites, serving food and beverages along a prime route for cycling commuters, with plenty of bike parking.

Check out Phillip's Portland.