Alleycat races

Charting a route for an Alleycat race

Charting a route for an Alleycat race

I am fortunate to have a few Minneapolis friends in the cycling scene. Max works at the Behind Bars bike shop, and has been cycling and tinkering with bikes in the Twin Cities for as long as I’ve known him. He loaned me a sweet Surly Long Haul Trucker for my survey rides, and led me on a number of rides through different areas of the city.

His latest passion has been alleycat races. Alleycats are a race form that grew out of bike messenger culture, focused on knowledge of how to get around urban areas of the city by bike. Organization is informal; a meeting place is announced where everyone contributes a few bucks to a prize pool that will typically be used to buy beer for everyone at the end of the race. Participants must ride to a number of checkpoints, which they map out on their own. Riders design their own routes, so knowledge of the best ways to connect places in the city can be as important as riding fast. Most riders wear street clothes.

Heading off to the first alleycat checkpoint

Heading off to the first alleycat checkpoint

Alleycat races are part of the bike messenger inspired counter-culture that has expanded to cities like Austin and Minneapolis. Despite the fact that the profession of bike messenging itself has declined precipitously, the culture it spawned continues to effect urban cycling across the country.

The group also plays a social media game they call “bike tag”. One member takes a picture of his or her bike at an identifiable location in the city and sends it to the group. The first person who figure it out goes and takes a picture of their bike at the location, and then at another spot somewhere else in the city. Again, knowledge of the streets, pathways, and buildings is key.

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