The first time I took my son to The Lumberyard, the gnarly indoor bike terrain park in Northeast Portland, my heart was in my throat the entire time.
I jogged alongside Ben, then 5, as he tried to navigate the ramps and tunnels of the sizable beginner’s section, worriedly screeching that he might want to walk his bike down the steeper drops. I held onto his handlebars to keep him upright while he pedaled along the bumpity track that snakes through the beginner park and breathed a sigh of relief when he was ready to go home.
The second time he visited, it was for a birthday party for a buddy, and I was out of town. His dad took him instead, pointed him toward the track and went in search of a cup of coffee from the cafe. Lo and behold, when he returned to the beginner section, Ben was zipping through confidently, dropping in for his turn like a pro.
The moral of the story? If you’re like me, and need the gentle reminder that if you just back off and let your kids give it a whirl, they’ll likely as not figure it out on their own — and if your kids are like Ben, and love to bike — then the Lumberyard is for you.
Especially on long winter days, when kids are climbing the walls, it’s a great place to go get some crazies out, and a nice change from the tumbling mats and riding cars found at so many indoor play spaces.
And your kids don’t need to be on a pedal bike yet — balance bikes are a great option. (Though the training wheels crowd and still-wobbly riders are probably not the target audience here, especially when it’s crowded, and teenagers and bike moms/dads alike are swooping around the track.) I’ve seen kids as young as 2 cruising around — and if you don’t mind carting their bikes down a flight of stairs and back up again, you can make your way to “the bunker” — a newly opened basement area with plenty of flatter terrain and easier ramps to test their skills. They’ve got knee and elbow pads for rent, and when everyone gets hungry, the cafe serves up pizza, plus beer for the adults and some healthy salad options.
As for Ben, who is now 6, the third time we went was really the charm. He took off with barely a glance at me and even ventured into the more-challenging intermediate section, where he got up enough speed to stay on his bike through a curved circular ramp before skidding to a stop. There seems to be a nice camaraderie among the riders too — they take turns without asking and there was always a big kid on hand to help haul Ben’s bike back up the steepish slope that dips down to the intermediate area.
Toward the end of our day, I noticed a few kids pedaling through an outer trail I hadn’t noticed before, and asked Ben if he wanted to try it out. Off he went, with me watching proudly from the sidelines — and then, at the top of a very steep ramp that spat out riders on a bumpy log trail, I saw him pause. I started to head toward him, then checked myself — he’d figured out his own limits, and was carefully walking his bike on down. Lesson learned, for both of us.
If You Go:
2700 NE 82nd Ave.
Friday-Monday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 2 p.m.-10 p.m
$14.95 for an all-day pass for kids younger than 12 on weekdays, $19.95 on weekends and holidays.
Pro tip for the 6-and-under crowd: It’s only $6 for a full three hours of riding on Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. until noon (except for public school closure days.)