Alley Cat Racing

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.

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.

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  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.


  • Greg Barnes

    April 29, 2010

    Re: rainy manifests. I have a friend who puts on in-city running/biking races year-round (see, and after a particularly disastrous rain problem a few Decembers ago, he switched to using a water-resistant paper (Rite in the Rain, I believe it’s called) whenever there’s a chance it might be soggy. As far as I know, he has had no problems since then.

    Note that pencils actually work best on this paper when it’s wet, so if it actually rains and you go this route, be sure the people who are writing on manifests have pencils.

  • Bikejuju

    April 29, 2010

    Any of the new generation of “stone” papers (Google it) are waterproof, you are starting to see pads and notebooks of them for sale at various stores. The paper is normal weight and texture, but is basically gypsum bonded with recycled plastic (think super-duper thin Tyvek), instead of wood and cotton pulp.

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