Cyclists are stripping down to basics
June 6, 2007
It’s called an alleycat race and the cyclists heard about it word-of-mouth. They pedal to a side street near the Gallivan Center. Some are barefoot, some have long beards, some have dreadlocks. Few wear spandex.
Nearly all ride basic bikes, stripped of any bells or whistles, and only a single gear.
None will know the course of the race until they’re permitted to rip open an envelope to read the race’s "manifest" a list of addresses they will need to visit before crossing the finish line. Using their knowledge of the city, they create their own route.
Each address will present a task, like a scavenger hunt and participants collect the items from the tasks in their bags.
This race, which took place Saturday night, required participants to bob for apples and toss a heavy Huffy bicycle.
The weekend race was called the Cancer Cat. The single-speed bicycle community in Salt Lake put the race on to raise money for University of Utah doctoral computer science student and aspiring single-speed cyclist Kristi Potter who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in April. She needs a $400,000 bone marrow transplant. Participants donated $20 each.
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Potter arrived at the finish line for her bike benefit a park on West Temple. Since being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, the once avid road cyclist was unable to race the single speed she built with the Salt Lake Bicycle Collective this spring.
Patrick Beecroft, bike messenger and Salt Lake Bicycle Collective shop director (a nonprofit bicycle shop), created the manifest with the theme in mind. Many of the stops listed were at medical centers, like LDS Hospital and Fourth Street Clinic.
Prizes for winners, such as massages and gear came from shops like Black Diamond and the Bicycle Collective. Park City’s Replay Sports donated bicycle tune-ups and T-shirts.
Parkite Chelsie Richter, who works at Replay, helped to get NYC Bikes, her friends’ bike shop in New York, to donate frames for the race.
"Park City hasn’t had an alleycat race yet, but I would love to do one in the mountains," she says. "I’m from Boise, Idaho, and actually this weekend, there’s an all-girl alleycat called ‘Dirty in Pink,’ going on."
According to Richter’s husband, Nikos, who also works at Replay and helped to contribute to the race, the single-speed culture has emerged from the underground and is becoming mainstream in the mountains.
Though he has yet to see an alleycat race in Park City, Richter reports the single-speed culture is nevertheless thriving.
"It’s amazing how popular it is around here," he says. "On the trails in Park City, there are a lot of people who ride single speed I ride single speeds exclusively. I don’t even own a mountain bike with gears."
For city couriers like Beecroft, the single speed serves a more practical purpose. In addition to single speed, his bicycle’s gears are "fixed," so that bike pedals propel the bike backwards as well as forwards. The feature gives them better control in the midst of crowded intersections and when negotiating risky situations with buses, trucks and automobiles.
But it’s also about style.
"There’s definitely an aesthetic to have a single-speed," said Aaron Campbell, who helped organize the Cancer Cat. "It’s cool. It’s all about hand-built bikes. People like to use them in town and I like it because it’s much better when you mountain bike it helps you to focus on just one thing."
The female winner of the evening’s race, single-speed cyclist Julie Holms, clocked in at 58 minutes in a schoolgirl uniform that featured a plaid skirt and white stockings. She commutes by bike to work, giving her an advantage when it came down to navigating the course, she says.
And after submitting the various challenges along the way to race officials an apple, a get-well card for Potter and an emptied cup of sauerkraut Holms offered some words of advice. "Basically, ride as fast as you can and take the big nasty hills first," she said. "And look good."
For more information about Kristi Potter, visit kpaml.blogspot.com.
And for more details about the nonprofit bicycle cooperative, the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, visit http://www.slcbikecollective.org .