Bike Move

Josh Guttmacher has talked up the bike move phenomenon for a while. My perception was skewed by the Portlandia skit that featured an inept move-by-bike moving company. When Josh cashed in his own sweat equity from participating in past bike moves and organized a bike move of his own, I had an opportunity to participate.

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Josh G. leads the charge.

A bike move is nowhere near the level of unorganization that Fred and Carrie satirized. It may be a loose group of volunteers but they get the job done. When the call goes out people, bikes and bike trailers assemble, coffee and donuts get consumed, and then boxes, housewares, furniture and assorted random stuff is loaded up and pedaled off to it’s new home.

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Loading up.

Josh tied the spirit of the Halloween season into the event  by encouraging people to wear  costumes. I met Dr. Love who was wearing a $2 thrift store lab coat, the Dr. Love name tag came pre-sewn. As he was loading up his bamboo trailer he told me it could carry up to 600 pounds. It gave me confidence that Josh’s book collection would survive the journey.  I talked to John, in a flannel shirt and longish hair. His costume: David Foster Wallace. In my initial bewilderment, this being my first bike move, he put me at ease saying “we like a challenge, I think.”

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Dr. Love supervises David Foster Wallace.

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Potential costume prize winners.

I imagined a bit more precision during a bike move. I thought all the bikes would ride single file through the street but this isn’t necessary. The stuff needs to get from point A to point B. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

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Precise moving order.

Steph Routh told what sounded like a horror story about an urban move she once made in  New York City using public transportation. She edited a collection of tips and tricks to inspire potential bike movers. The resulting book How to Move by Bike makes me think she saw the light and found an easier way to move.

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Team work.

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Bed by bike deliveries.

For someone living a bohemian lifestyle, this seems like a great, low-budget way to move. If you’re a hoarder/pack rat type or if you spend too much time at Mor furniture holiday sales this may not work. From what I can tell bike movers are undaunted and proud of their ability to move anything. I spoke with a woman who mentioned using bikes to move three times in two months. She was resigned to thinking that she’d never move by bike again only because she figured her next move would be out-of-state.

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A well planned route uses a bike corridor.

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Bike moves, rain or shine.

Even in a light rain, Josh’s effects were transported without incident and unloaded with relative ease from the hands of the many volunteers. It didn’t hurt that the distance between the new and old residence was around a mile. Bike movers enjoy getting together, hanging out and they appreciate some post spoils for their labor. The movee is expected to feed the moving crew and the event tends to end in a festive atmosphere of drinking and eating.

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Unloading.

During and after the move I heard some great comments from various conversations. As to who said what it’s a mystery now but the quotes tell a bit of the story:

“This is not a bungie cord, this is my spare tube.”

“This was the shortest bike move ever.”

“Your tires are too big for your trailer. You’ve got a slant.”

“Is this your first bike move? Do you feel accomplished?”

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Unloaded.

Josh explained that he got into bike moving after hearing about it through his involvement with “bike stuff” in Portland. He expressed having had some tentative feeling initially but he has now participated in enough moves to have earned his Amish barn raising credibility which garnered him the love and support of 20 or so bike movers willing to cart his belongings through the rain soaked streets of Portland.

Tales of a 70 person bike move as seen on CNN if you’re listening this far:

http://bikeportland.org/2013/02/01/portland-bike-move-breaks-record-gets-national-attention-82489

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4 thoughts on “Bike Move

  1. Will says:

    This commenter is pretty nutzo about all things bicycle, but I’ve got to say that moving an entire household by bicycle doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Did you get a sense that this is done because the movers don’t ever want to get in/use a motor vehicle? sense of community/camaraderie? or, you know, “just because”? They’re all legit reasons, I suppose, but it seems like a lot of extra effort just to prove it can be done.

    Also: your photos make the journey look pretty flat (I can’t remember if this is typical of Portland?). There’s no way you could do a bicycle move in (most of) Pittsburgh–either rider or cargo (or both!) would end up in a gully. Are there any tales of moving entire record collections up steep hills or grandma’s crystal over gravel/potholes? Did anything get broken? This reader needs a follow-up!

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    • davidc5033 says:

      Well in the scheme of things this was an easy bike move, only a mile, no hills or even inclines, not all that much stuff either. I think bike moving is a way to be social, spend less money on moving costs and do it because it can be done. I did get the sense that bike movers would take on greater distances and tougher terrain and I like the idea that people are willing to get out and help out. The other thing is the more people that show up the easier and faster it can be done. That whole move took about 2 hours. No crashes, nothing broken from what I heard. All the rest of the tales, I’ve yet to gather. They also may be in the book Josh G. lent me called “How to Move by Bike.” I have yet to find time to dig into that. It’s a good point, I mean there are places that might not work. It sure has to beat moving by public transportation.

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  2. Steph says:

    Hi Will,
    Great questions. This bike move was super easy: a short, flat move. This was my 79th bike move (I know, I know), and gotta say, every single one has been a whole lot easier and more fun than any truck move I’ve endured, on the whole. They take less time, too. The longest bike move I’ve ever been on was actually mine: 10 not un-hilly miles and 4 hours, from load-up to unload, followed by 4 hours of housewarming party. It was, umm, not flat. Few bike moves are as flat as Josh’s was. I remember one bike move from Washington to Oregon, over the I-5 Bridge.

    Entire record collections: Yes. Jeff and Jodi’s bike move had a solid collection. Fragile glassware: Yes. A few things have surely been broken. Then again, that can be said of moving generally, no?

    Surely bike moves sound really weird at first. Why would you do something like that? It seems so silly, so unnecessary. But then again, traditional moves seriously suck, right? No one likes them! They are stressful: you can’t get many people to help you move because the truck’s hull is only so wide and also because truck moving sucks and no one wants to help. Moving is considered one of the top 10 most stressful things that can happen to a person. So sure, moving by bike seems weird. But maybe, just maybe, relying on truck moves as the only viable option is weirder. If you can accomplish the same thing in less time with more people and have more fun in the process, why the hell wouldn’t you?

    They’re not for every move (I do remember a few, umm, “memorable inclinations” in Pittsburgh that I could imagine hefting stuff up but certainly not racing down), but when they’re possible, they’re incredibly fun. It’s like Tetris plus a bike ride plus a parade plus celebrating and supporting someone’s life-changing event. The hauling generally isn’t so difficult, and meanwhile you get awesome bragging rights. What’s not to love?

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    • davidc5033 says:

      Such a great response Steph. I appreciate it. I was struggling a bit to explain bike moving I guess when you consider 1 bike move vs 79 that makes sense. Your comments really hit the mark.

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