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Month: April 2010

Throwing an alley cat redux

Throwing an alley cat redux

Spring has sprung.  People are dusting off their bikes, Bike to Work month starts May 1st and ghostly white legs are sticking out from shorts of Seattleites across the city.  You may remember a post from last October that gave a brief overview of the basics of planning an alley cat race.  You can read it HERE.

I also posted a race flier that I found to be really well done.  The theme was creative and the layout, beautiful.  The 3.14 Race in Boston.

After the race, I got a recap sent to me by Mr. Eric Stratton.  It was a letter that put a smile on my face.  Somebody found the tips useful!  Even better, they had found some things that didn’t quite work so well for them.  With Eric’s permission, I’m going to lay out the letter he sent.  The experiences that these organizers had are a good example how you should be able to roll with it,to make things work with what you’ve got.

We had a pretty good turnout despite the monsooning weather here in Boston – 35 racers, 13 ckpt workers, and only 2 minor injuries. I worked really hard to attract sponsors, organize routes, recruit checkpoint workers, and overall put together a race that will be fun for experienced riders as well as beginners. I wanted to let you know that the post you referenced – “Planning an Alleycat – a Primer” – was actually one of the first of several resources I turned to when I decided to put together this race. A bit of history – I’ve raced in alleycats since I rediscovered cycling my sophomore year of undergraduate (back in good ‘ol 2004) and have had nothing but good times in them, despite several falls, dfl’s, dnf’s, and more. I’ve often volunteered to work a checkpoint, though somehow I’ve always been unneeded or persuaded to race instead. This time I figured that throwing my own alleycat would be an excellent way to give back to the folks who I love to ride with, the community which supports it, and to hopefully entice some new blood with the hard to resist urge to race about the city (cause lets face it, it’s a drug in its own right). So I figured I’d provide a few reflections on my own experiences in relation to your article/post.

Regarding a theme:
You’re absolutely spot on regarding the need for a theme. A theme is essential to any good alleycat. It gives you something to work with, and a fun way to catch peoples attention. I chose Pi day because my brother and I have celebrated it since I moved to Boston in 2007 by eating pizza pies, apple pies, and usually by watching some math/round/or otherwise geeky movie. It’s always been a fun time for us to hang out and do something in the month of March when the weather is still slightly crummy. This is why I decided to share it with everyone in the Boston community this year. While the theme can be “LETS RACE” having something to tie the race to seems to really do the trick in attracting participants.

Regarding sponsors:
This is a tricky one… I tried to contact lots of local companies first, as I am a pretty big fan of living local, and for what it’s worth, these were also some of the EASIEST sponsors to attract. If you actually visit them on a regular basis, or know folks who work there, they’re much more keen on supporting your event. In turn, be sure to plug them whenever possible. I made sure to list them on the facebook page, the online only flyer, on various message boards, and possibly MOST IMPORTANTLY, at the event when you’re handing out the prizes they’ve generously donated.

Route planning:
This part of your article was really fantastic – I hadn’t thought to look for cover in case of rain until I read it. Fortunately I made sure that all checkpoints had somewhere to stay dry, though I totally forgot to do so at the start… and paid the price. I was soaked for the better part of the day since I spent a good two and a half hours in the rain. Additionally, riding the route is huge. You want to be sure there’s no construction, no bad road conditions, no parades going on on your race course. PLANNING AHEAD IS KEY! You’re also able to get a good feeling for what the course is like and possible hiccups that might occur if you ride it, or take someone with you when you ride it. I had several friends who couldn’t race look over my manifest/route to make sure that all the locations would be easy enough for beginners but not too easy for experienced racers.

Race Day/Checkpoints/Finish Line:
Be sure to keep your cool even if something goes wrong. In my case, we had a torrential downpour on the day of the race. As a result, the manifests TOTALLY ATE IT. Because of this checkpoint workers were keeping track of the first 10 through each checkpoint, and otherwise waving people through. In hindsight, laminating the manifest might have been good in conjunction with holepunchers. Additionally, we had someone at the finish line keeping track of who showed up, and when.

AFTERPARTY AND PRIZES!
For this race, the afterparty was at a local bar/restaurant. Plan this out ahead of time. Make sure you give them a fair estimate of how many people will be showing up, and the fact that people may or may not have big ol bags with them. Additionally, be sure to keep the racers well behaved. The location is being kind enough to allow folks to hang out, drink, and have food, so be sure people tip, don’t bring in outside drinks, and treat the wait staff nice. When distributing prizes, be sure to let the crowd know what’s been won, by whom, and who provided the prizes. PIMP THOSE SPONSORS! Additionally be sure to have something for the folks that didn’t win the race. Spoke cards make a nice little take home for everyone who participated or helped out with the race.

AFTERMATH:
Post the results somewhere for posterity. Twitter, facebook, message boards, blogs, where ever. This is especially helpful if you plan a race using the same theme the following year, ala Easy as Pi 2 – 3.13.11. Additionally definitely thank the sponsors. I sent mine spoke cards as well as links to the few pictures that were take along with a nice thank you and a race report of what happened (with some exceptions maybe…) and how many folks showed.

Thanks Eric!  You can find Eric on the Boston Fixed Forums.

As always, if you have a race that you’d like the flier up for, email ryan@gomeansgo.org.  If it’s in the Northwest, I’ll get it up on the calendar.  I love to hear what people think of the posts- what you’d like to read more about- and whether you love Penny Farthings and the history of the bike as much as I do.

SSCXWC Coming out tomorrow!

SSCXWC Coming out tomorrow!

Spoiler alert: Starting with the coming out party there will be a total of 5 events leading up to the SSCXWC event that you can pick up a limited edition spokecard (only 30 available at each event.) Be the first to collect all five, bring them to the race and win something nice. Stay tuned to the SSCXWC website for info, as well as here at Go Means Go.

We’ll be at Hooverville tomorrow and you will learn fun facts that will not only better your everyday life, but you will find them extremely helpful and informative if you have any interest in cyclocross of the single speed persuasion.  There will be a DJ, beer specials and as always, peanuts are on the house…. and floor.

sscxwc-final-poster_sm2

9 to 5 Raffle Winner

9 to 5 Raffle Winner

Kristen Forseth was the lucky winner of Friday’s drawing.  She’ll be taking home a Superflash Stealth tail light, valued at $29.99 from the fine folks at Planet Bike.

superflashstealth

Raffle winners can either pick up their winnings before the 9 to 5, or pick it up at the scavenger hunt.

Raffles take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  Register by 5pm on those days to enter.  Next drawing tomorrow at 5pm.

Register now to enter!

Major

Major

I saw via Cyclelicious that it looks as though there may be a feature film about Marshall “Major” Taylor in the works. I think it’s way past due and I’m excited to see more of this film honoring the “The greatest hero America ever forgot.” Producers Scott Mednick (produced “Where the Wild Things Are”, “10000 BC”, “Superman Returns”, “Ant Bully”, “We Are Marshal”) and Michael Dubrow (Entrepreneur: Bargain.com, TouchCommerce.com, Vision Capital) will be tackling the project and I look forward to more information.  I’m not certain on the format- if it will be a historical drama- the slide show below (posted by Michael Dubrow) definitely has more of a documentary feel to it.

In 1979 Columbus, Ohio became the first city to have a club honoring the famed but forgotten cyclist. Books have been written about his life, products from Nike and Soma bear his name, a velodrome in Indianapolis is named after him and there was even an Australian mini-series was made in 1992. To me, his name is synonymous with discipline, hard work and a steadfast approach to training. He always kept his head held high in the face of adversity. Unfortunately, like all too many talented individuals, he was a victim of society’s racism and the inequality of his time, retiring at 32 years old because of it.

Unfortunately, many cycling dramas are difficult to watch. I’d like to think movies like Rad, Breaking Away and Quicksilver are bad not because of the premise of the film, but because the filmmakers just missed the point. There are many films that came out in that era that have mediocre acting and seem to capitalize on whatever the fringe culture it’s based around (skateboarding, surfing, punk rock, etc.) My hope is that the filmmakers will see the story as it is, not try to dumb it down, but to use it as a something that can be inspirational.  Perhaps in a similar vein as The Flying Scotsman, which I feel is one of the better cycling movies out there.

As you likely know, Major’s story does not end with “and they lived happily ever after.”  He was born poor, lived an extraordinary life traveling the world as the fastest bicycle racer of his time winning 7 world championships, experienced many trials and tribulations, finally dying at 53 years old, poor and buried in an unmarked grave. (In 1948, through the efforts of a cycling club and Schwinn Bicycle Company, his grave was moved to a more respected location in the cemetery and adorned with a bronze plaque that along with his image reads:  ”

Worlds’ champion bicycle racer — who came up the hard way — without hatred in his heart —

an honest, courageous and God fearing, clean living gentlemanly athlete, a credit to his race who always gave out his best —

gone but not forgotten.

Major’s focus on staying positive and living can be seen in Chris Piascik’s zine, “Good Habits for Clean Living” which is on it’s second printing and is a beautiful example of the way that his dedication has inspired people throughout the years.  Chris’ zine consists of Taylor’s 12 “Good Habit for Clean Living” in illustrated fonts.  Chris is making a name for himself with his illustrations as well as through his apparel company Print Brigade.

majortaylorzine2

The history of bike racing is one that seems very European- which may be one reason I hold on to Major Taylor.  There are many books about Taylor, you should do yourself a favor and pick one up.  His story is a good one and his accomplishments were incredible.  Here’s to Major Taylor!

Get upright, not uptight

Get upright, not uptight

Bikes were made to be ridden. The bike as it leaves it’s point of sale is something of a canvas. It will become something to the person that owns it that is hard to explain. It’s like a friend- with benefits. Like that friend that will give you a piggyback wherever you want to go. We can dress it up or dress it down depending on what we’re looking for. Maybe we’ll change the grips, the saddle, the stem, the bars, all to suit the bike to our body and our style. This customization is one of my favorite aspects of cycling. It is very prevalent in fixed gear culture, sometimes to such a degree that people have been known to change their front wheel out to match their messenger bag. To each their own.

Last weekend we traveled to Portland for the annual Filmed by Bike film festival, which has become something of a tradition for Go Means Go and many other Seattle bike folks. It’s a great way to break into spring. Except for a freak 20 minute downpour, the weather was what we have come to expect when we visit- sunny and 70 degrees. The Friday kickoff party was especially raucous this year, with the street party attended by over 1000 people. Professor Dave and Webster Crowell represented Seattle with their films and all had a good time. At a campfire by the river after the movies, it got “real Portland”- real fast, when a guy found his pants and underwear to be too stifling, and proceeded to walk around in his shirt and shoes (I believe this is called “shirt-cocking”, a decidedly Portland tradition)

After a long night of bikes and beers, my lady and I got to explore the city and check out a few bike shops. I enjoy riding around Portland’s bike routes as well as the Esplanade and appreciate their bike planning- planning as though it was put in place by people that actually ride bikes. In comparison, Seattle planning seems to work from two rooms- one filled with people that only ride bikes, one filled with drivers having never ridden a bike. They don’t talk to each other. Each camp submits their proposals to a big brain that is floating in a tank hooked up to computers. Then the brain does some calculations and equations pooping out an idea that it feels is the best theory for bike planning- this is what is put in place. Portland’s planning seems to revolve around the safety of vulnerable users, where Seattle’s seems to revolve around those with the most money. I feel that this will change, it does take time and input from the users of the roadways (that means drivers and bicyclists)

We stopped in to Clever Cycles, which is a great shop for the “Dutch minded” cyclist. Brompton, Linus, Electra, Breezer, Retrovelo… A beautiful shop with not a drop bar in sight. Bikes and fashion dedicated to comfort and practicality. I got to take my lady for a ride in a Bakfiet. I would love to get a Bakfiet- though living on Phinney Ridge might make it difficult. The thought of riding a 100lb (empty) bike around Seattle is daunting, though I look forward to the opportunity. We tried a few other bikes, Melissa gave one of the new Electra Ticino mixte bikes a shot. I fell in love with a Brompton and would LOVE to get my hands on one. Folding bikes are the new fixed gear, or so I’ve heard. Clever didn’t carry them, but Lane at Cetma Cargo, who is involved with the Porteur to the People photo contest is now making cargo bikes. I want to give one of these low boys a test ride.  They at least appear to be more agile and lightweight than the typical box bike.

Electra, a name that I typically associate with beach cruisers, has brought out their Ticino line- designed to offer a more relaxed geometry than the typical, more race oriented layout of a modern hybrid bike. I think that one of the biggest flaws in the design of the modern bicycle is their opinion of the user, or they might not see that there are a lot of people out there that haven’t found a bike that they find useful. A bike that works well for racing is not necessarily going to be comfortable for the average Joe, especially if they are carrying around some extra weight (which most of us are.) The popularity of beach cruisers should be proof enough. Sure, a beach cruiser is comfortable, so people buy them. The problem is- at least in Seattle- to leave the beach- you must climb mountains. If you look at a standard Dutch bike, it is vastly different than most of what has been available in the US until recently. There are a couple companies that are finding their niche in this large and still growing market of “non-athlete” cyclists. More of an upright riding position, larger diameter wheels with narrower tires, fenders, a few gears maybe, the ability to carry a bag of groceries. In the early 90’s, it seems that hybrid bikes were starting to lean that way, but for whatever reason bikes seem to have jumped back onto the competitor train.

Gas prices rising, climate change, traffic congestion, poor health, economic downturn, all reasons that are getting more people on bikes than ever. People that want to use their bikes as a tool and a toy. It seems that US companies have started to embrace this market, offering a wide range of commuters for various rider types. Unfortunately, in an effort to keep the price low, the materials and components used on many of these bikes are generally of a lesser quality and a higher weight.

Back to the Electra. Melissa liked it, though the handlebars were a little too wide for her. I can’t remember the price, but it was something in the $450-550 range. Alloy frame, fenders and rack standard. Derailleur as opposed to internal gearing (not a deal breaker for me, though I do love some internal gears) A clean package at a good price.

electra-ticino-rear

Linus offers bikes that have simple lines and are made with less performance minded materials, but at their price point- would be great for people getting into practical cycling. Many people would agree that a comfortable riding position is far more important to search for in a bike than the weight savings of a few grams or even a couple pounds. That said, the 32+lb. weight of their mixte bike might be a little on the heavy side.

linus_mixte

Linus Mixte $559 Retail

I really like the Roadster Classic. Super clean- it looks similar to my rain bike (sans fenders.) At $389 Retail, if you are looking for a simple bike to get you around, this is a pretty sweet deal. I will still argue on behalf of the coaster brake hub, even though my Shimano coaster brake isn’t my favorite (The Roadster Classic comes with a Shimano as well.) I do wish that fenders were standard- you can pick up a set of full fenders starting at $30. In my humble opinion, any utility bike worth it’s salt will have full fenders.

linus_roadsterclassic

Linus Roadster Classic $389 Retail

If you are looking to spend some more money on a bike that seems to be going down the right path (or Alley, as it were), you can step over to your local Raleigh dealer and check out the Raleigh Alleyway. This bike calls out to me on a couple levels: Internal gearing, fenders, disc brakes, I like the touch of the one piece stem/bar combo- but the biggest thing: Belt drive. I’ve had a love for belt drive since I’ve seen it on bikes. It’s the perfect example at technology that will help make the bike gain a hold as something that is performance driven while being comfort oriented. Belt drives do have some drawbacks, but in my opinion the benefits are worth far more. Sitting, in the $1200-1500 range, it’s a bike with quality components and built to last.

raleigh_alleyway

Raleigh Alley Way

Greenlake

Greenlake

Greenlake has long been a place for people seeking solace in the city of Seattle.  Between soccer, baseball, street basketball, a playground for the kiddies and non motorized watersports- there are lots of people that enjoy the park.  Add to that the paved trail surrounding the lake and you have joggers, walkers, longboarders, rollerbladers and bicyclists.  On a hot summer day you may have a hard time finding a spot to hang out and getting around the lake can be difficult.

I’m not quite sure of the date on this postcard, but it’s definitely from before the paved trail was installed.  Oh summer, we await your arrival.

green_lake_01