Portland Design Works

November 6, 2015

by Melissa Rush
Portland Design Works

There’s no doubt: Portland Design Works embodies the spirit of a city. Twelve times the national average of commuters go by bike in Portland, pedaling over 320 miles of designated bike lanes. No, biking is definitely not a niche market in PDX.

Creators of accessible, no-frills gear for the “everyday rider,” PDW crafts products that make urban riding safer, more approachable and more fun. Since 2008, PDW has created utilitarian bike gear with just a touch of practical whimsy to keep things, well, weird.

We chatted with Dan Powell, co-founder of Portland Design Works, to find out more about what gets PDW’s wheels turning.

Active Junky: How has the city of Portland influenced your aesthetic?

Dan Powell: We are inspired by the "Everyday Rider." That is who we design and manufacture products for. Our HQ is right on an arterial bikeway, North Williams Ave, so we can stand on our roof every day and watch a couple thousand people stream north. If we could distill our aesthetic down to a hashtag, it would be #everydaycycling. Beyond that, our credo can be summed up with “simple” and “well designed.” I think there is a current of those values running through Portland.

AJ: What’s something that might surprise your customers about PDW? 

DP: Neither Erik (co-founder) nor I come from a design background. I have a degree in English, and he has a degree in Chinese. We learned everything we know working our way up the ranks at bicycle shops and for other bicycle brands.

AJ: Favorite PDW-approved bike route in PDX?

DP: I can't speak for everyone here, but my favorite local loop is north on 30 to Scappoose, up Dutch Canyon to Otto Miller, back on Skyline and down through Forest Park. Lots of climbing, lots of gravel. Lots of places to stop and eat snacks.

AJ: What’s a critical piece of bike gear that’s often undervalued?

DP: A tire pump and a bottle of chain lube are the most undervalued things that every cyclist should be familiar with. I see people riding on the rims, and hear them grinding their drive trains everyday. As a recovering mechanic, it hurts my heart. Proper inflation and lube on the chain will make your ride a LOT better. Trust me.

AJ: PDW’s reach spans as far away as Europe and Japan. What makes PDW’s appeal so universal? 

DP: People love good design, and they like well made products. We strive to make both. I think some of the product designs we've come up with, like our Owl Cage, are playful and that resonates with people who don't care about bike racing. 

Dan’s PDW Picks:

The Take Out Basket

We don’t think it’s a coincidence that a six-pack fits perfectly in the handlebar mounted Take Out Basket. Complete with a waterproof roll top bag that clips securely, whatever cargo you’re hauling with stay in place and dry. Crucial for actual takeout.

Check out the Takeout Basket >


A carry everywhere, multi-purpose tool, 3Wrencho is a must have for prying off tires and axel nuts, not to mention opening much needed refreshments (we’re noticing a trend here). Heat-treated steel is varnished with a glass-filled nylon coating, so it’s easy on your rims, too.

Check out the 3Wrencho >


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