Posted by: adventuressetravels | December 16, 2011

Bike Moves

As we peddled up to the huge mass of wheels, trailers, and boxes I gaped in astonishment.  I could barely recognize some of the bicycles they had been so modified and piled with boxes.  It looked as if a tornado had hit a bike shop, hardware store, and moving company, spitting out the contents in a disheveled pile.

Ryan hadn’t been kidding.  The Portland cyclists really did move apartments via bicycle.

I’d met Ryan a few days earlier at a couchsurfing meet-up.  The old-school punk rocker and I hit it off immediately.  Over a pint of one of Portland’s famous craft beers, he enthusiastically told me about bike moves.

A group of his cyclist friends would pack apartments onto their bicycles and

the Antelope of Burden

move their friends and acquaintances.  Rather than a move, bike moves were more like big parties.  “It’s not just the fact that we’re moving stuff on bikes.  Instead that’s secondary to the vibe of it… With bike moves everybody’s excited to be there.” More people showed up to bike moves than were invited because it was just so much fun.

Even after Ryan’s glowing review I was still reticent.  Helping someone else move didn’t sound like the most fun way to spend a Saturday.  But Ryan was determined.  He would meet me near my couchsurfing host’s house with a bicycle for me to ride.



Saturday morning Ryan met me, his guest bike bungeed to the front platform of the Antelope of Burden.  I was settled:  I was going on a Portland bike move.

Cyclists of all shapes and sizes with their inventive Cargo bikes filled the sidewalk and street joking and laughing.   A steady stream of boxes, furniture, and miscellaneous household items paraded down the stairs to be bungeed onto the waiting cargo bikes.

Having cargo bikes explained to me had been one thing, but actually seeing the bicycles with huge trailers welded behind them.  Ryan’s bike, the Antelope of Burden had a large platform between the front wheel and the seat, but cargo bikes came in all shapes and sizes.  One bike even had a ladder fixed behind it, boxes affixed to each rung.

Mickey Rourke

“Who’s the academy award nominee!?” the little black and white dog wagged his tail enthusiastically, despite his annoyance.  When Mickey Rourke went for a ride in his bike basket it invariably meant he was going to the dog park, but here he was in the middle of a bunch of cyclists.   Even if he wasn’t getting to run at the dog park, the Chihuahua, Jack Russel mix lapped up every moment of attention and quite clearly enjoyed being the cutest cyclist there.

I chuckled at how competitive the cyclists were getting about who could haul the most stuff behind their outfitted cargo bikes.  Huge piles of apartment furnishings were loaded onto platforms.  A kitchen table, a bed with box springs, chairs, even a cat’s scratching post were among the items taken in the move.

But this apartment was a piece of cake, one of the cyclists told me.  Once they had moved a cast iron wood burning stove by bicycle, he boasted.  I just shook my head in amazement.

Bike Move First Aid

Clowning and maneuvering furniture, boxes, and household appliances onto the backs of bikes, there were one or two scrapes.   I happened upon one of the hardcore cyclists even Mcguivered a bandage out of packing tape and a paper towel to staunch her boyfriend’s moving injury.  A little scrape wasn’t going to keep them from the bike move.

At 11:00 the 26 laden bicycles hit the road.  As if peddling through a vat of honey, their cyclists struggled for speed bit by bit building up momentum.   At a turtle’s pace the motley band of laden bicycles rolled into action.  The mattress and box springs trailing one bike were pretty fantastic, but the cat scratching post protruding from one pile of boxes, and hula hoop hanging off the back of another bike were priceless.

When the bikes were up to optimum speed they took over the whole street.  I had no idea how cars would get past.  I soon found out.

“Car up!” one of the leaders shouted and a moment later the pack melted into a single file line allowing the car ahead of the group to slowly roll past.

“Bike moves are like cilantro… you either love em or you hate em,” one cyclist had commented before the move started.  At the time I had wondered how anyone could dislike such an environmentally friendly, community-oriented movement, but it started to make sense how motorists could dislike bike moves.

The cyclists really took over the Portland streets.

Approaching street crossings the corkers came into effect.  Two bikes would ride ahead of the group and stop traffic while the move rolled through the crossing.  After all, it was difficult enough to gain the momentum while towing a bed.  These lad
As we neared a traffic light on a busier four-lane street my heart sank.  Though the corkers might be able to block traffic on smaller side streets, we really did have to follow the rules on major thoroughfares and the light was red.  It wouldn’t have mattered if the light had been on a flat stretch, or better yet, at the top of a hill, but this light was located directly at the bottom of a steep hill.  Realizing the light wasn’t going to magically change and we really would have to stop, the group groaned in unison.  Getting rolling again at the bottom of a hill was not fun, especially when you had a dresser strapped to your bike.en bicycles couldn’t stop at every stop sign.

Everything was unloaded in the new apartment by 12:05.  Incredibly the whole m

ove had taken barely 2 hours.  But the fun was far from over.  We feasted on pizza and enjoyed microbrew beer in the sunny back yard as the tail end of the bike move became even more of a party atmosphere than the rest of the move had been.

I couldn’t believe how much fun helping a stranger move had been.  As incredible as they may sound bike moves really do work, and work well.





If you’re interested in bike moves and starting them in your area or if you live in Portland and want to move by bike check this site out:

It’s a fantastic and fun way to move.



  1. Great article, Sally! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on bike-moves. It’s interesting to see it from an “outsider” perspective. I think that we here in the Portland bike community forget how truly extraordinary bike moves are. I’m so glad we got to hang out and that you were able to join us on the bike move. Come back to Portland and hang out again soon- this time I’ll protect you from The Tiki God find you a bike that fits!


  2. Bike moves ‘R’ a whole lot of fun.
    Here’s more photos/videos of some of the moooving experiences that we’ve enjoyed

  3. Good job 🙂 We’re doing bike moves in Montreal since 2008 and we just wrote a guide to share some tips on how to do a bike move:

    Please let me know if you have suggestion to improve it.

  4. […] This leads to some creative transportation alternatives.  I thought the strangest 2-wheeled transportation I would ever see was when I helped move an entire apartment by bicycle, […]

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