Remember in college when you were surrounded by pretty people and it took everything in your power to keep your neck from snapping in half as you tried to take it all in? Imagine that, but add in high speed cycling, your ass encased in spandex, and traffic, and you have our favorite part of this ride: the University of Portland campus on hot spring day (note: the students get creeped out when you circle numerous times around the soccer fields, so just try and make one pass).
The Downtown/U of P loop is an abbreviation of the Skyline to Rock Creek Road Loop, dropping the long out and back and adding in one of the best descents in Portland. Starting in downtown Portland, the ride heads up the Lovejoy/Cornell corridor and on to Skyline, where it winds north through the West Hills before dropping down Germantown Road and crossing into North Portland and back into downtown. Along the way you get to see the venerable St. John’s Bridge, the University of Portland campus and the Adidas U.S. headquarter’s campus before crossing back into downtown via the Broadway Bridge.
A couple of things to watch out for: crossing the St. John’s Bridge can be a bit scary, as the sidewalk on the bridge really isn’t wide enough to ride on. We usually just stay on the road; which is two lanes in each direction so not too bad. Also, traffic merges onto Greeley on your right a little bit after the Adidas campus; they have a yield sign but pay attention. Finally, the transition from Greeley to Interstate Ave. is a bit dicey, requiring you to cross a lane of traffic, so keep your head up.
Apart from the undergrads, we love this ride because its a great way to see a lot of Portland and has some amazing views of the Cascades, especially coming over St. John’s Bridge where, on a clear day, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood are all visible. The Germantown Road descent is one of the best, and fastest, in Portland; a great way to get used to cornering at higher speeds. The highlight of this ride for me is coming back into downtown Portland and riding down Broadway during the late afternoon, around sunset. Crossing the Broadway Bridge when the Willamette below is lit in reds and pinks is an amazing way to finish a workout. This is the ride that I do when I’m feeling unsure of Portland; it reaffirms my love of both the Northwest and this city.
Distance: 23 miles roundtrip
Directions: Starting at the Salmon Street Fountain at Tom McCall Waterfront Park; take the paved path north, making a slight left by the Steel Bridge and crossing the railroad tracks. Continue north on Naito Parkway to NW 9th Ave, and take a left. NW 9th will intersect with NW Lovejoy. From there, take the first part of the Lovejoy Loop (Lovejoy to Cornell, right on 53rd, right again on Thompson) to get up to Skyline, where you will take a right. Take Skyline for about 3.8 miles until it intersects with NW Germantown Road. Take a right on Germantown and descend to the bottom, where the road will intersect with NW Bridge Ave. Take a right and head to the intersection of NW Bridge Ave. and NW St. John’s Bridge. Take a left at the intersection on to the St. John’s Bridge.
After crossing the bridge, take a right on to N. Syracuse Street (it’s the first right that you can make. Be careful; it’s a sharp right on to a pot-holed road) which will dead end on to N Burlington Road. Take a right here and then your first left on to N Willamette Blvd. Stay on N Willamette for about 3 miles, past the U of P campus, where it will take a sharp right that bikes, but not cars, are allowed to turn at. Stay on the road until it intersects with N Greeley Ave, where you want to take a right. This road will take you past the Adidas campus and to N Interstate Ave. This is where the transition gets tricky: you have to move from the right lane over to the left, crossing the on ramp for I-5. Make sure NOT to go up the on ramp, but down towards Interstate, where you want to take a right on to the bike lane.
Once on Interstate, take a right (the light rail tracks should be on your left) and head south towards downtown, passing by the Widmer Brewery. After the intersection of Interstate and N Tillamook Street you want to bear right, on to N Larrabee Ave, which will bring you to the intersection of Larrabee and N Broadway St. Take a right on N Broadway and cross the Broadway Bridge into downtown. To ride down Broadway, and through Downtown, take a left on Broadway St., cross Burnside, and enjoy the people watching and downtown. To get back to Tom McCall Park, take a left on Salmon Street.