Race photographed by John Murdoch
When life gives you snow, make snow cones! Or if the thought of eating dirty snow doesn't suit your fancy, do what we did and throw a 3 up, freewheel, brakeless, no holds barred race in a back alley in Minneapolis. Although, the alley behind Handsome Cycles (click) and One On One (click) is not your average alley. Throughout the years it has seen more action than Ron Jeremy. It's the starting line for America's drunkest race, The Stupor Bowl (click), and was also where Chrome One set up to party last summer on the Wrenched Nation Tour (click). During one of the coldest winters Minneapolis has seen in years, the boys at Handsome Cycles invited us to get rad and help throw the 1st Annual 'Shop Bike Shoutout.' The Shootout would take place during year five of Handsome's The Cutter's Ball, a party they throw while much of the cycling industry is in town for the trade show Frost Bike (click). With all that snow and all of that beer, how could we lose?
The day before the build, the heavens did the same thing they've been doing all winter, and dumped a huge pile of snow on the city. Like lemmings to the sea, all the cars on the road simultaneously went into the ditch. Meanwhile, Minneapolis bikers rode like it was business as usual. They truly are hard as fuck. The snowstorm, for us, could not have come at a better time. It gave us fresh shred material for the track, because no one wants to take a digger on dirty, old snow. Especially since the bikes we were racing on, Handsome's 'Shop Bikes' (click), weren't running studded tires and had no brakes of any kind. The forecast for this race: 100% chance of carnage. The snow was welcomed.
Our Midwest guy, Dan Copeland, rallied the troupes, threw on his coveralls, and spent the night creating a single serving race track for one evening, one lap; never to be raced on again. The booze kept them warm through the night of building in sub zero temperatures and when the guy with the Bobcat never came to help them move the massive amounts of snow, they drank more and moved it all by hand. Midwestern work ethic is real thing.
The guys from Handsome came up with The Cutter's Ball as an answer to Frost Bike. They figured if all their industry pals were going to come to town for a bike show, they're going to throw a party. This year was the 5th Cutter's Ball and as a celebration they decided to throw a race into the mix. It makes sense, shredders gonna shred. Inside Handsome, the 10 kegs from Grain Belt (click) were ready to be tapped and as the place filled up, they were quickly drained one by one. The funky jams of Bootsy Collins and The Fatback Band filled the air and started to get people hyped to ride. The race was scheduled for 9:30, giving everyone enough time to build some liquid courage and register to race. $5 to enter. Winner take all. On that slippery snow course, it was anybody's game.
After registration closed, we sorted out the names and put them in 3 rider heats. We let people pre ride the course so they could get a feel for the freewheel brakeless bikes on ice. Multiple fires were lit and the crowds huddled together to keep warm. The promise of a crashtastic race became apparent as people took their practice laps and slid out all over the track. By the time the race started the temperature had dropped well below zero.
The riders lined up on one side of the alley and on 'GO' they raced to a berm, over a huge roller, around a turn, and to the other side of the alley. At the start, the trick was not to jam on the pedals too hard so you don't peel out, but with the adrenaline pumping many riders made that mistake and ate it at the start.
Rules were, "rubbin' is racing, but don't be a dick." Meaning: a little elbow action is acceptable, but don't take anyone out on purpose. It turned out most riders who crashed took themselves out. (insert sad trombone sound here)
Although crashes were plentiful, no one got hurt and riders wore their snow skid marks like badges of honor. It was smiles for miles.
Chrome's Amanda Sundvor was there calling out the action-packed racing spectacle. As always, her commentary was laced with a healthy dose of comedy to keep the smiles on those faces in between races. After all the heats were raced, the winner was the guy who was the first to pre register the day before and said he was there to dominate. Everyone called him Wheels, just Wheels... like Cher.
Congratulations Wheels! As the winner of the 1st Annual Shop Bike Shootout, it's Wheels' responsibility to return to the Cutter's Ball next year with the trophy to defend his title and Chrome will be there cheering him on.