A Minneapolis bike tradition, this weekend marked the 15th running of the Stupor Bowl, a massive alleycat bike race held each February the day before the Super Bowl. It is billed as the second-oldest and one of the largest alleycat races in the country, and this year was no letdown — 350+ riders showed up at 2pm on Saturday, Feb. 4, with their fixies, mountain bikes, and urban road cycles to tackle a course that’d wind 30 or more miles around the city.
Like most all alleycat events, Stupor Bowl racers are given a manifest sheet before the start marked with addresses. It is an open course, meaning no streets are closed down for the event. Your goal is to bike around town, through traffic, jumping curbs, finding addresses, and getting your manifest stamped by volunteers manning the checkpoints. In all, there were 17 checkpoint stops on the Stupor Bowl’s course this year, which I raced with mates T.C. Worley and Parker Roenfanz.
I rode a single-speed mountain bike with studded tires. It is a winter race, so I expected ice. But unseasonal warmth and sun made the roads clean and clear, and my race partners (both on single-speed road bikes) pushed the pace fast for 2+ hours as we rocketed around the town. I was WORKED by the end!
Highlights this year included a mass start on the Mississippi River, a pack-separating steep hill climb out of the start, a few fast stops in downtown Minneapolis, then miles and miles of heart-in-throat riding all through the town. We biked in traffic, cut corners through city parks, hit the bike-only express lanes that course across Minneapolis, and once ducked through a rail yard for a shortcut.
At each stop, we’d whip out our manifest and get the official stamp. Making your way from checkpoint to checkpoint most efficiently is key to this kind of race, which blends physical output with urban navigation and the street skills to ride through the busiest parts of a town.
By the end, I was utterly whipped. The Stupor Bowl stops linked up this year to create a circle tour around Minneapolis and a 30+ mile overall route. We hammered it to the end, and I skidded to a stop outside the finish area at a bar called The Nomad.
Inside, I handed a race organizer my stamped-up manifest and he put it in a pile. “How’d we do?” I asked, out of breath. He gave me a pile of finisher cards, and I counted down to see our place in the pack. 19th out of 350+ racers! Not bad. A true adventure and a heck of a fun afternoon with two friends and a mass of riders willing to brave Minnesota winter temps, traffic, and the challenge of a serious, long and tough city course.