This is a bit of old news but worth mentioning. If you’ve ever been nearly knocked to the pavement on the streets of New York City by a bike messenger jamming through an intersection at top speed, your probably thought the worst. Why is this A-hole not watching where he or she is going? What you may not know is this person may be involved in a race. Messengers all over the world compete in unsanctioned street races often referred to as Alley Cats. They go on at least once a month and could be on a weekend or the middle of rush hour. Sometimes they catch a car for that extra advantage, sometimes the take their bikes on the F.D.R. and one individual who straps a video camera to his helmet has the video to prove it.
Alley Cats work like this, anyone with a bike can race. You pay a modest fee and that money is pooled for the winner. You don’t have to be a messenger, but it helps. Messengers do this to blow off steam, to compete and to see who is the fastest outside of the job. In the race you hit various checkpoints and have a volunteer working that checkpoint sign your manifest. The first person to hit all the checkpoints and have all the signatures wins. Of course there are variations on the theme. Sometimes its holiday specific like Thanksgiving is Cranksgiving and the checkpoints are local bodegas where the racers have to get thematic food like a can of cranberry sauce, which is later donated to the homeless.
There is one race in NYC dedicated to the fixed gear bike. That is a bike designed to go on a track in a veledrome but because of its simplistic nature it has become a popular street machine. It’s called a fixed because the one gear in the back is fixed to the wheel. So if you pedal forward the bike goes forward, if you pedal backwardÃ¢â‚¬Â¦you guessed it. The cranks never stop spinning, even at 60mph on the FDR. Often these bikes have no front or rear brake. What is the advantage of this? It’s light weight, nothing to brake down, less to steal and it makes you a much more defensive rider because it becomes a mental game as well as physicalÃ¢â‚¬Â¦you get into the flow. After a while, you become one with the bike. Your legs become fixed to the pedals, to the crank and to the back wheel. When you want to go slow, you go slow,and fast is up to the amount of balls you have.
So every year, there is Monster Track. An alley cat for fixed geared bikes, no brakes.
2005 was the 6th annual monster track and a very good description of this race, along with pictures can be found at the following URL: www.nybma.com/gallery/monsterTrack
(NYBMA) stands for the New York Bike Messenger Association. Call it an ad-hoc union for messengers. An organization that works to protect and provide benefits for NYC messengers who often lack health care and put themselves at risk so top models can get there portfolios to agents faster than anyone else can deliver.
There are Alley cats all the time in NYC these days. People come from all over the world to race. There is about one a month in NYC.
Coming up is the Grand Daddy of them all. The World Messenger Championships. This is an official sporting event that has taken place in different cities throughout the world for 12 years. NYC is the 13th annual and is being heldÃ¢â‚¬Â¦July 30th-July 4th.
For more info on this check out: www.nybma.com/cmwc2005
More on that to come.