Not Zupan’s, not Zumiez, they’re a completely noncommercial bicycle community with a penchant for late-night, en-masse, high-speed rides from Washington Park to W. Burnside.
The Zoobombers were a formidable presence Sunday night as they boarded the Westbound MAX train at 9:29 p.m. Twenty cyclists conscientiously validated their tickets and declined to embark the first train, already full of bipedal commuters.
A few got change or a six-pack of tall-boys (16 oz. beer cans) from a convenience store nearby. Some donned helmets, another, a sort-of double-mohawk. There were conservative looks and outlandish ones, sensible 10-speeds and comical hybrid bikes with different-sized wheels.
A collective sensibility prevailed, and no one was left behind. The group had been filtering into Rocco’s Pizza at 949 SW Oak St. since 8:30 and for a gung-ho gang of risk-takers, no one appeared put-out, impatient or in any hurry.
As the light-rail transportation exhaled to a halt, the group’s excitement level scaled a notch. There where a few whoops and hollers, then polite silence as everyone scurried in. Bikes hung from hooks and were parked at every angle, but their riders hugged them closely to free the aisles.
Under the train’s fluorescent light, everyone could see the condition and craftsmanship of their neighbor’s ride. Black plastic, inner tubes fashioned into handlebar grips, crudely-fashioned seats and a sophisticated use of discarded trikes; compliments, laughs and shaking heads marked mutual regard.
The motley crew disembarked at Washington Park, boarded two elevators and started a trek to the mountain’s highest point. Rumors circulated that skateboarders might join the cyclists on tonight’s descent. “Man, that’s crazy. I knew one guy that could do it, but he left town,” a seasoned rider panted between breaths.
“I saw a girl who broke both pinkies and lost her front teeth on this run,” said another.
“Turn off your light,” was whispered though the group. There was a general unease while crossing a stretch of pavement where police had lain in wait for the Zoobombers in the past.
Another half-hour passed on the hilltop plateau, filled with visiting, introductions and goodbyes. It would be the last run for the man with the double mowhawk. Stragglers caught up, and others had been waiting on the hill since 9:00.
In orderly fashion, the whole lot assembled at a starting line. “I just counted 40,” one voice sounded out. “That’s great. We’re growing. I want to thank everyone who showed up yesterday for our community relations campaign. They swept the entire course, guys.”
“Tonight would be a good opportunity to practice racing for the winter Olympics next weekend. So we need all of the minibikes up front, that’s with 16-inch wheels. Oh, look at that! We’ve got a twelve! And there’s another!” Two riders hunched over tiny children’s bicycles, maneuvering to join the front line-up.
“There are rumors that Tri-MET will be closing the Washington Park stop on the MAX after 10 p.m. on Sundays, but we’ll fight them and we’ll win,” one spokesman for the group said.
A ten-count started the mass downhill, racers pedaling furiously ahead of the pack, others content to straggle. The scene was lifted right out of “E.T.” replete with hooded sweatshirts and a disregard for stop signs.
Ten minutes of cold, whipping wind, inertia and nothing but the reflectors of the cyclists ahead to guide them ended in more praise for the volunteer sweeping crew, “it was something else without all of that gravel.”
The exhilaration was contagious. “Let’s go again!” someone shouted. “Piggy Park!” was the unanimous vote. The lot rode to PGE stadium to reboard the train and zoobomb again.
Communications director for TriMET Mary Fetsch said, “there has been no formal request to remove the Washington Park stop on the MAX. A police officer suggested such a move to the neighborhood association, and if submitted, we would have to review it. But for now, it’s purely heresay.”