Monday, November 1, 2010

Helltown Helloween Alleycat Race: October 31, 2010

Recently my EP Cruiser was stolen, so I was "forced" to buy two new second hand bicycles. One was a cheaper version of my EP Cruiser that works almost as well but cost less than $100. The other bicycle is a used semi-competition road racer (now known as the EP Racer) that reminded me of a better, faster version of my original blue bicycle that so faithfully carried me around town my first two months (when it wasn't getting a flat tire or breaking down every two days).

Fast forward to some time last week when I noticed an advertisement for an Alleycat race in the window of one of my favourite bicycle shops - Nauss Bicycle Shop - in the North End (regular readers all know how I feel about North End Halifax). Not knowing what an Alleycat race was, I did some research and it appeared to be an informal type of open-road race started by Toronto cycle couriers in the late '80s, which has now spread around the world.

Apparently there are many different kinds of Alleycat races, and this particular race in which I was taking part had a courier theme. All the contestants would be given a list of "pick-up" and "drop-off" locations around HRM. We were free to choose our own path around the city, and could do the pick-ups or drops in any order we wanted. The winner would be the first person to complete all of the drops and then arrive at the finish location - The Old Mill bar in Dartmouth - a roughly 20-25 kilometre journey depending on which order you decided to hit the requisite checkpoints.

The race started in front of the Alexander Keith's Brewery near the Waterfront, Le Mans style, with every racer having to run across a busy street to his/her locked bicycle, unlock said bicycle, and then head off to his/her first destination. The boards in the picture above were quite slippery in the rain though, and more than one racer slipped on his backside.

If you're trying to follow along on Google Maps I suggest not bothering, though the checkpoints were mainly located in North End Halifax, but went as far south-west as Chocolate Lake (near the Northwest Arm), and as far east as Sullivan's Pond, in Dartmouth. Furthermore, if you're trying to imagine what an Alleycat race might look like, check out this video or this one (disclaimer: these videos are from a third-party and the views/riding techniques represented in them are not necessarily the same as those held/practised by EP Dave).

(Sweaty, exhausted, but none-the-less happy racers resting their aching legs at the "finish line.")

I may have finished DFL ("Dead Friggin' Last"), but that's okay because a) I had a blast, b) Alleycats are really all about participation and getting to the final destination to enjoy some food and drinks with your fellow competitors, who are by this point your good friends - you've all battled the four-wheeled murder/heart-disease machines together - and c) there's actually an award for DFL (I won a cow mug).

I can't wait for the next race, and the next chance to get back out on a bicycle and ride fast.

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