A Randonneuring Paradise in Portland at Norther Cycles

I met Norther Cycles owner StarMichael back in 2015 here in Portland at the Bike and Beer festival where I shot one of his creations, a beautiful randonneuring frame. As with most of 2015’s content, when our server crashed, we lost the images. Bummer! So when Rie and the Sim Works crew said they were going to a few shops to deliver tires and racks, I tagged along, especially once I heard they were going to Norther Cycles.

StarMichael wasn’t there, but the shop’s co-owner Mark was. He didn’t know I was coming by, so the shop was in situ, just the way I like it. As Mark chatted about the shop – which is only open on the weekends and during the week by appointment only – I poked around with my camera, uncovering the beautiful layers from Mark’s busy work as a frame builder.

Mark used to run a small framebuilding outfit called Belladonna. He learned how to make bikes at UBI and built under Belladonna for a few years until StarMichael asked him to come on board at Norther Cycles. Rumor has it, if you ask Mark politely, he might still make you Belladonna. Truth is, Mark is busy making Norther Cycles frames and coordinating collaborations with Jeff Lyon on a run of randonneuring frames.

Mark’s personal bike is a strange mule of sorts. Disc brakes, riser bars, and red anodized components? It might look normal in the scope of this website but in the context of this shop, it stood out to me!

So what do Norther Cycles specialize in? Some might call it old stuff, others call it the right stuff. Cycling components that withstand the test of time and perform their job incredibly well. A randonnneuring frame will make a great frame for brevets, or dirt road exploration, but it is not a touring bike. The Norther Cycles and Lyon frames don’t have rear racks, because they’re lightweight, low-trail bikes. They don’t have disc brakes because disc brakes can break lightweight forks. Some of the tubings Norther uses have weight restrictions. Some of their lighting setups are complex, yet simple. The cranks they use are beautiful, yet utilitarian. The bags are rugged, yet refined. These dichotomies are what make institutions like this so elegant.

It felt like we had entered some animal’s den when we walked through the doors of Norther Cycles. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t dirty or unorganized. It was intentional, elegant, and lived in. I wasn’t expecting to take a lot of photos at Norther Cycles, more to just check out their operations, but I was glad I did! You should too if your interest is piqued!

Norther Cycles
5515 N Albina Ave
Portland, OR 97217
Hours: Sat & Sun 11-7pm
Weekdays: By Appointment Only

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Follow Norther Cycles on Instagram.

  • Daniel Smith

    Great looking shop! Is his personal bike clear coated or raw? How long can you let a frame oxidize before it effects tube integrity?

    • Brian Richard Walbergh

      Maybe Mark or StarMicheal will chime in but that is a prototype Mark has been working on, so I am pretty sure it is just raw (hence the lack rust on the stainless dropouts). It won’t look that way for much longer once the rain sets in!

      • Yeah it’s raw (99.9% sure)

      • mark j

        It’s raw. Just left it unpainted all summer to see if I needed to add more braze ons or take something off. It’s what I like to do with a prototype, cause I always change something before I name it and paint it. Gonna offer these in small batch form soon. It’s getting a cool color and fantastic name. Look for it soon.

  • mark rothschild

    The Built-In rear Light…should be Standard on more Bikes….an Artist

    • Matt O’Donnell

      I wonder if it’s powered by the dynamo or battery powered… I would imagine it’s a pain in the ass to run the cabling that far.

      • Andrew Squirrel

        Dynamo wiring is all about a little time investment upfront for long term time savings. Over the life of a bicycle a brief pain in the ass moment while your assembling is an easy choice.

        • Exactly!

        • Matt O’Donnell

          Oh for sure. I just recently had a chat with a highly respected builder who just WON’T run the wiring for a rear light. Some builders who are highly amenable in most ways sometimes put their foot down about certain things. Cool to hear Norther will put in the extra effort!

        • Every single time I get on my dynamo bike, I’m happy that it’s got permanent front and rear lights. Totally worth the effort.

      • Dynamo…

      • mark rothschild

        But…sooo…Clean

    • I love the way the Compass taillight just tucks in there. Looks so good. But at the same time, I’m bummed that the seat stays end up blocking the light from arguably very important viewing angles.

      • mark rothschild

        Hmmm….Good Point

  • Kerry Nordstrom

    Galaxy brain @ #12

  • Brian Richard Walbergh

    It is a special thing to have a shop in town where you can get dynamo wiring bits without having to order them online and have your frame modified while you wait.

  • Matt O’Donnell

    Great timing on this post as I just saw a Norther Cycles bike this past weekend and was wondering about it. It was on display at JP Weigles French Fender Day this past Saturday and it was such a mix of beautiful and utilitarian. I wish I could have grabbed a picture of it, but it was constantly surrounded by people.

  • GNARdina

    Are the quick valves on the decaleur mounts a special thing they figured out, or is this a common practice that I’ve just never seen before?

    • Zac

      Want.

    • They fab’d them up. Pretty tricked out huh?

      • Brian Richard Walbergh

        I have their most recent prototype and It is pretty solid. I think they are about ready to start making more.

      • GNARdina

        Yeah, it’s a really smart Idea.

  • Hey! They have one of my older posters framed (PIC #8)? That’s awesome!

  • Daniel Lemke

    This shop is just up the road from me and I didn’t even know it was there. I’ll have to check it out.

  • This is one of the coolest shops every. I can’t WAIT to go check it out when I get to Portland!

  • Is this guy’s name really StarMichael? You Americans are all class!

  • Seedub

    How much for the Voodoo headbadge? I lost mine somewhere in central Oklahoma – a sweet find for some lucky hiker 10 years ago.

  • Johnny Burrell

    I wandered in here once looking for a tire. Mark let me ride what I think was his partners bike and it was amazing. I was shocked just how rad it was. Not because it was decked out with the latest bling parts, it had a bunch of older stuff on it, but it all worked together flawlessly. It was a very well thought out bike. These guys would be at the top of my list for a rando bike.

  • Area45

    High on my list of shops to visit. Thanks for all the pics. I eat up all of their IG feed too!

  • mark j

    Thanks everybody. Super cool that there is awesome people out there appreciating the bikes I have busted my ass making. Thanks Radavist! Now I’m gonna answer some of these questions.

  • vopop

    Any info on this black front bag, please.