Inaugurating a New Alleycat
January 21st, 2013 [photography]
First question: What is an alleycat? The first time I saw a poster announcing an alleycat, it was clear it was a bike event, but I didn’t see where the alleys and the cats fit in. DC’s most recent alleycat was the “Presidential Inauguration Alleycat.” Like a good party, alleycats always have a theme. Costumes aren’t required, but it’s nice to see at least one of the participants dressed up for the ocassion.
An alleycat is a race. You put out the call, people show up, you race. Lots of bike couriers, bike shop people, and anyone who loves biking. It’s very grass-roots. The organizer has to plan the course, recruit volunteers, solicit prizes, promote the event, and then manage the race. The debut of the Presidential Inauguration Alleycat was put together by Sean Campbell, seen below as he explains the rules to the assembled cyclists in Thomas Circle.
For this alleycat, everyone had to lay down their bikes on the grass, after which a volunteer placed manifests on each bike. At the starting signal, they raced to their bikes and read the manifest to see what their route would be. A manifest is a checklist of checkpoints. Some checkpoints have volunteers waiting to stamp your manifest, others might have you write down something you’d know only by visiting the location. That’s Alex below studying the checklist.
Once they figure out their route, the cyclists head out.
I’m too slow to chase after the racers taking photos, but this time the starting point was also one of the checkpoints, so I got a few photos of cyclists returning to Thomas Circle.
On the way home, I ran across two contestants riding up 14th Street.
The final check point was at American Ice Co, where riders could get refreshments and swap stories.
But wait, there’s more! After dinner, folks headed up 8th Street for some bike games. Not every alleycat does this. And though the day started unusually warm for January, night brought much colder temperatures. But it was great fun. The first game was a skid mark contest. Racers build up speed, then slam on the brakes at the starting line and see who can leave the longest skid mark.
Next up was the foot-down game. Cyclists ride in an ever-tightening circle, and the last one to put his foot down wins.
The track stand contest requires riders to balance on their bikes without pedaling or putting their feet down. You can make it more challenging by using only one hand, or no hands. The cyclist who stays up the longest wins.
Lastly we come to the sprints, quick races up the street. You’d think after racing a 20-mile course earlier in the day this is the last thing anyone would want to do for fun, but it was a crazy night.
Prizes were distributed at the end. Some of the prizes had been contributed by the riders themselves. Viva the alleycat!
More photos from the 2013 Presidential Inauguration Alleycat via the pia2013 tag.
Photos from previous alleycats: Gobbling for Goods (November 2012), Dead City Alleycat (October 2012), Weird Science Alleycat (September 2012), Mark of the Beast (April 2012), Happy Holidaze Alleycat (December 2011), Dead City Halloween Alleycat (October 2011), Tragedy on Two Wheels Alleycat and Fixt Trix Jam (August 2011), Midnite Crit (June 2011), Courier Cross (May 2011), Dead City Halloween Alleycat (October 2010), Business Casualley Cat (May 2010).