The Worst Day of the Year Ride has, since its launch in 1999, embodied the “Keep Portland Weird” aesthetic: While the rest of Portland stays warm inside, up to 4,000 cyclists thumb their noses at Mother Nature by riding one of two routes through wintry weather, competing in costume contests, and enjoying a post-ride beer at a local brewpub.
Then 2014 happened.
For the first time in the event’s history, bad weather actually derailed what would have been (fittingly) the 13th annual Worst Day of the Year Ride. Freezing rain, along with more than six inches of snow, caused havoc on Portland roads in the days leading up to the ride, leading organizers to scrap the event and media outlets to poke fun at the irony.
Provided Mother Nature cooperates on Feb. 8, 2015, organizers have a few changes in store.
For the first time, riders will receive a free non-alcoholic beverage or post-race beer from Lucky Labrador Brewing Company—both courses start and end at Lucky Lab’s brewpub on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard—but only if registration exceeds 3,000 riders, said Tonya Oyala, customer service manager with Good Sport Promotion. Riders can grab hot cocoa at rest stops throughout the ride, but organizers felt like beer would be a nice reward at the finish line, she said.
Also new in 2015: Laughing Planet Cafe is now the event’s title sponsor and will serve two handmade, organic soups at the finish line.
Riders who signed up in 2014 are automatically registered for the 2015 event, Oyala said, and can choose one of two routes. The 15-mile “urban” course is generally confined to central Portland, with a modest elevation gain of 459 feet, while the 46-mile “challenge” course takes riders through the West Hills and out to Hillsboro (total elevation gain: 2,707 feet). Hot chocolate, spiced chai tea, fruit, and baked goods from Franz Bakery will be provided at rest stops along the way.
Keeping in line with the oddball nature of the event, organizers hold a costume contest before the ride, with more than $5,000 in prizes going to the top finishers in four categories. In years past, riders have dressed up as Santa Claus, bumble bees, and vikings, leading the contest to become as much a part of the fun as the ride itself, Oyala said.
Other attractions include a pre-race performance by the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers, a Portland-based marching drum corps; a heated and covered after-party; and an on-site photo booth. It all adds up to an event that’s uniquely Portland. “It’s a Portland staple,” Oyala said. “There aren’t a lot of cycling events going on this time of year; it’s nice to have this in the middle of winter.”
Registration is $35 through Feb. 6, $40 on Feb. 7, and $45 on Feb. 8, the day of the ride; discount coupon information is available on the Worst Day of the Year Ride website. The event is a fundraiser for the Community Cycling Center, a Portland nonprofit dedicated to broadening access to cycling and its benefits.