Urban Wasteland: Bike Race In Abandoned Mill Complex

The official description of this Pawtucket, Rhode Island, bike race is: ‘Brutal manmade course in an old mill complex.’

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Add to that jumps, loading-dock drops, a dumpster ramp, obstacles made of decaying industrial matter, and a creepy bagpiper who plays in an echoing chamber… and, well, you have one wild event.

The Rhode Island Urban Assault took place earlier this month in a former coat factory the race creators say is one of the first factories built in America.

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Mountain bikes are preferred, but racers can ride any kind of bike. There are kid and adult heats, with the courses making multiple laps around and through the mill.

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Race co-creator Michael Richard said the Urban Assault is “basically our core riding crew throwing together ideas of what we would want to ride in an industrial setting, then we try to throw in whatever else we can dream up to keep people talking for the next year.”

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Added race organizer Chris Nichols, “We had a guy get dropped and lose third place because he didn’t see the sneaky ‘panty drop’ line where we found some risqué underwear; he was pissed but took it in stride.”

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What about the bag piper? Nichols said he “was pretty much by accident. He was practicing [playing bag pipes] in one of the sections of the mill where we had the course set up, and the sound was mind-blowing.”

During the race, he said, “the bag pipes blasting and echoing were a ‘shock and awe’ kind of trippy sound” made to enhance the strangeness of the course.

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Nichols added, “The stories after the race are just as good as the race… everyone comes together over a beer to discuss the course and what they did, crashes and near misses. The best part is these folks meet for the first time and normally wouldn’t even ride together. You gain new friendships and riders every time we do an event. We are the land of misfit toys for sure.”

–Photos by Doug Learned. Learn more about the race at Rideyourassoff.com.

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Stephen Regenold is Founder and Editor-In-Chief of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for nearly two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of four small kids, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.

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