The race was SWEET.
Tavio and I showed up early, around 5, to make sure we could get registered and figure out the route.
We were given maps and numbered spoke cards. The map had six stops: The ReCyclery, Wendy’s, Sunflower Bikes, Starbuck’s, Trick or Treat, and the Union Parking Garage.
Once everyone was assembled – there were about 15 of us, we decided on a Le Mans style start at the Wescoe Beach. Malakai gave a 3-2-1 countdown, we did 10 pushups, and ran to our bikes, which were all laid down on the sidewalk. We blasted off the sidewalk, onto Jayhawk Boulevard, and down the massive hill that runs from the middle of the KU campus basically straight into Lawrence High School. Tavio easily took the lead on his 52×16 SS freewheel, and I held up third or fourth while the guys on the brakeless fixies were sweating. I commute on a fixed, but I race a freewheel. Pretty sure we hit 35-40mph down that hill – and Chris Klee, aka Lawrence’s number one fixed trickster, was pumping his legs pretty fast. He kept up for a long time, but I eventually overtook him.
Tavio veered through traffic, probably without touching his brakes. I tried to keep up, but he was soon out of sight. I got to the ReCyclery, and they gave me a sticker. They said I had to go all the way through the store. I picked up my bike and slung it over my shoulder. I waved at Dane and huffed “hey” as I trodded through the store and around the bike pile in their back room. I re-mounted and sprinted to Wendy’s.
I grabbed a handful of napkins and gave some to riders coming in as I left the restaurant. We hopped on 23rd street together, and smoked the traffic. 6pm Friday traffic in Lawrence was heavy, but slow – so that meant easy weaving all the way to Massachusetts street.
Mass Street is long and flat, so that was definitely the spin cycle. I caught up with Malakai, who was taking it easy. When I got to 10th street, I was following the moves of the guy on the Nishiki fixie, weaving in and out of droves of Trick or Treaters and drivers. Stroller here, stroller there, goblin here, ghoul there.
I stopped at Sunflower to find out that we didn’t need to collect anything. The owner/worker guy was mostly just confused as to why we were there, so I took off before much more conversation. Saw a middle-aged dude go by on a fixie, but didn’t have time to chat!
I sped over to Starbuck’s. Dude riding a black/yellow Centurion in the race and rocking a Casino TDF hat was hanging out outside. “What do we get here?” I shouted, trying to clear the crowd noise and confusion of Trick-or-Treating moms and dads and kids. “Sugar and sweetener!” I dropped the bike and ran inside, almost pushing a few people aside to get to the condiments section. Sugar – check. Sweetener – check.
I left the store. Decided it would be much easier to take 7th street West than ride back down Mass. I caught up with the team of four that had been at Starbucks. “Have you guys Trick-or-Treated yet?” I hollered. Mixed responses – I think they were either huffing too hard to say much, or wanted to keep competitive! I decided that pretty much none of them had stopped at a house to get candy, and that they might be on their way to find one. I raced past them. Quick right on 9th street.
Found Mississippi – it is a long, slow hill that leads up to campus, past the football field and up to the parking garage. Ashley and Greg had just parked their car. They shouted “don’t slow down” as I pumped on past them, slowing down as I got further up the hill.
At the bottom of the parking garage, a guy in a pimp suit told us to ride the elevator up to the top. We did, and then it was an all-out sprint back to Wescoe. We passed cars and a kid on a motorcycle. We blew through the stop sign. At Wescoe, the rider next to me took the curb cut in the sidewalk and rolled to the finish, while I bunnyhopped the main curb and skidded to a stop right next to him. I think I came in 6th or 7th place. Maybe 5th. It wasn’t really decided after first and second.
I found out later that Tavio got first. Way to go, team Topeka! Dude on the brakeless Nishiki was next. Tavio won $25 to the ReCyclery – a pretty sweet deal.
At roughly 7pm, they started the other parts of the whole Alleycat competition. Quick stop – who can stop the quickest, and in the proper spot, on a fixie. Greg (from Topeka!) won style points with his leg-over-the-handlebars skid. I tried riding his bike, but didn’t really succeed.
Next was the foot-down competition. I won! I think I had an advantage riding a freewheel, but hey, there were two or three other freewheels that got knocked out first. Foot down is where everyone rides in a circle that gets smaller and smaller, until eventually you can’t turn any tighter and have to put your foot down (or fall over).
The trackstand competition came down to the Nishiki kid (did I mention he was also wearing an American flag as a cape?) and Chris Klee. I tried to participate, but the surface was to flat to trackstand on the freewheel. It went trackstand – no hands – one foot. And it was pretty awesome to watch. In the first round, at the “one foot” call, the Nishiki guy just put a foot on his front tire – but everyone decided they should start over and only use one foot on the pedals, and that was it.
Finally, there was a best trick competition, and it came down to the same two. Nishiki kid was doing some sweet backward circles, but Chris won hands-down with a sweet combo: No-handed trackstand to no-handed wheelie to two-handed pogo/bunnyhop. It was really sweet.
The whole time, it was like I was at home, watching fixed gear videos on my computer. I hardly thought to take any pictures because I was finally too busy participating! What a great phenomenon bike culture (or bike counter-culture) really is.
Lawrence’s Halloween Critical Mass was wild. There was a guy wearing a speedy, blaring a kazoo the whole night. A dude riding a tall bike and wearing a jersey. A pretty short person in a huge, inflatable fat suit. There were probably 45-60 people for the biggest parts of it, and it was great fun. We had tons of support from spectators and fellow Halloween partiers!
Lawrence bike culture is alive and well! The university atmosphere, as well as a strong downtown, lends well to all of that. But Topeka is well on its way. The Topeka crew will gladly host Lawrence soon for an Alleycat!