At the All City race, held from 8 to 11pm, there were about 150 competitors. Another Minneapolis event, Babes in Bikeland on September 19, drew more than 160 entrants, making the women-only alleycat the largest race of its type in the country, according to organizer Kayla Dotson.
I signed up for the All City not knowing what to expect. My bike, an urban-oriented ride with a fixed gear, fit in among the single-speed bikes stacked in the alley. We were behind One on One bike shop in downtown Minneapolis. Frane started shouting. “Does everyone have a manifest?”
With the manifest comment, Frane was referring to the race clue sheet and guide, a printed page with almost 20 objectives for the race. Most were an address and a simple, fill-in-the-blank question. For example: “Linden Ave. Back of West 394 Sign. Year on back of sign?”
Racers could pick any route through the city to find the clues. Speed and strategy were equally important to win.
Frane shouted “Go!” before my route was sketched on a page, but I jumped on my bike anyway. A mass of riders — yelling, shoving, red safety lights blinking on their backs — pushed out of the alley and into the streets.
On top of the manifest, race organizers printed “I urge you to obey all traffic laws and ride responsibly. Your actions are your own.” I thought of that cutting out into Washington Avenue, signaling a turn and tracking left.
At 1400 NE Quincy Street — the first stop on my route — I scribbled the clue answer from a sign on a brick building. It was getting dark. I clipped in and pedaled north.
The 331 Club, a bar in Northeast Minneapolis, was stop No. 2. A race volunteer stamped my manifest and asked if I wanted a partner to race with. “She’s from California, and she’s lost.”
The next three hours were a whirlwind race with Briana Forbes, 21, an ex-courier and strong urban cyclist from Los Angeles. We went from downtown Minneapolis to Northeast, to the Bryn Mar neighborhood.
Then it was across the city on Franklin Ave. To St. Paul. To the University of Minnesota. To Bryant Lake Bowl. To the Hexagon Bar, address 2600 27th Ave South.
“Stamp here,” a race volunteer yelled.
Briana wheezed while cranking up a hill. I strained to read a map in dim light. Cars roared past. Our legs spun, bodies moving ahead on the road, in a race, deeper into the night.
—Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at www.gearjunkie.com.