By T.C. WORLEY
“Jack, Jack, Jack!” chanted the crowd. It was August 8th, a hot day in Minneapolis. A small, shaggy-haired boy circled the asphalt on a miniature bicycle with 5-inch wheels. He gained speed as he approached a low-hanging pvc pipe. An instant before he reached the pipe, he shrunk down onto the bike, glided beneath it, and flashed a big grin to a roaring crowd. My race partner, my 9-year-old son, had just won the kid’s mini-bicycle limbo contest.
The bike limbo contest was one of many unique events built into the New Belgium Urban Assault Ride. Making 13 stops around the country this year, the NBUAR is essentially an urban adventure race, including checkpoints scattered across the city. At each checkpoint, participants complete obstacles or challenges before they collect a bead — proof they’d visited the checkpoint — and then heading onto the next one.
Challenges included puzzles, human-on-skateboard bowling, a “dance off,” descending a waterslide, and more.
At the finish line, adult-sized bigwheels awaited. It was nearly impossible not to have fun on these things. They felt silly and looked silly, but they handled like sports cars. Drifting sideways through corners, we weaved our way around the race course.
Last, a quick trip down a 30-foot inflatable slip-and-slide and we were done. The race was over, but the party was just hitting its stride.
New Belgium-themed twister, the mini-bike limbo contest, a dance-off between a group of mustached men, and much more would carry the party for the next three hours. Of course, New Belgium gave two “free beer” tokens to each age-appropriate rider, and Peace Coffee kept iced java flowing all day. An award ceremony and the closing raffle saw lots of swag handed out, too.
When Jack and I first signed up, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the crowd. Would they be go-fast, lycra-cloaked athletic types, or sandal-wearing fun-lovers? In truth, both groups were represented. But this event — held throughout the summer this year, with events in Des Moines, Chicago, and Madison still to come — is definitely more about fun than competition.
Less grimacing, more smiling, the NBUAR is billed as a “ride,” not a “race,” after all. But as the goal is to be the fastest to complete the course, it is certainly a race for some, and one I’d call the most-fun I’ve ever entered.
Next year, maybe Jack will take a top rank in the Dance Off. I’ll be there to watch.