This past Saturday evening, I debuted as a bike racer in a local (Oakland) underground AlleyCat race as part of the occasional Hoodstock boho event. Although I had to use my tank commuter 3-speed Ross lead bike (my Bianchi cross bike started having chainsuck issues as I tried to ride from our Adams Point/Lakeside apartment to the start line at the Lake Merritt Bandstand), the event was a ton of fun. A ton of fun. The weather was bright, still (winds and been up some afternoons this past week), and moderate temps. For the $7 entry fee, it was 52 minutes of electrifying fun out of the saddle. I now see the allure of fixed-gear bikes for urban riding… less mechanical systems to breaks… the need for speed to various checkpoints means that you stay in one big gear anyway even on short climb to Oakland High.
I took too long planning my route after getting my manifest, otherwise I would have been in the middle 30 percentile, instead of the bottom 25%. But once I got going, with my iPod cranking tunes, it was truly liberating and transcendent to feel the breeze and letting it fly to the checkpoints on streets that was almost devoid of auto traffic because of the hour (5 PM), the day (Saturday of Labor Day… many hipsters/families out of town at Burning Man or Yosemite or in SF). The route also had streets that had long stretches without traffic lights. Feeling the breeze as I was riding to locations in my end of town (Eli’s Mile High Club was a blues club from my misspent youth… Earthquake Park that commemorates the fallen Cypress Structure freeway that collasped in the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake… Merritt Bakery on the western shores of Lake Merritt… climb up Park Blvd to Oakland High School… the Wolf statue at Jack London Square… then the one place I did not know and got help from non-participants on the streets… Metro OperaHouse music club). The streets I took to the checkpoints were new to me so it was rejuvenating to see new parts of the familiar Uptown & Downtown district of Oakland. Or seeing parts of Oakland that I normally see only in the seat of a bus or car from out of the saddle on my bike was grand sociological experiment/experience.
It was disappointing that I did not get a prize for finishing (since there were so many bottles of whiskey or bike gear/accessories handed out); but it was a just result… coming in fourth to last was deserving “orange slices” and nothing else.
But I will keep my manifest and spokecard (in the rear wheel) as a momento for a long time. Look forward to my next mad dash through the streets of Oaktown.
Thanks EJ, Anton, Savannah, and the rest of the WABO gang for inviting an old fool like me. If you ever get the opportunity to ride an AlleyCat and especially Hoodstock I highly recommend it. Fun ride, hang loose people, the high intensity interval training such a ride out of your comfort zone.
Jay W. J. Mitchell (Bad Back Trojan)