For all intents and purposes, bike riding is a verrry new thing for me. (there are 3 'r's for good reason) Before moving to the bay, I never rode a bike on city streets. I never rode hills or at night or amidst rush hour traffic and I certainly never performed in a bike race.
An 'alley-cat' is a bike race/ride wherein riders are given a manifest of 5(ish) checkpoints that they must hit before reaching the finish line. Riders are allowed the freedom of setting they're own routes, using whatever shortcuts or alleyways they see fit... Hence the name, alleycat.
Upon learning new friend, Christy O. was organizing a girls/trans only alley cat race of her own, I was equal parts intrigued and terrified. I knew I wanted to support her but bigger than that, I wanted to face a few fears of my own.
What fears?, you ask... Let's see:
-fear of cycling on city streets? check
-fear of crashing on city streets? check
-fear of competing with teams? check
-fear of letting teammates down? check
This alley cat seemed to have it all, so to speak. I had no other choice but to commit unabashedly and attempt to squash all my fears in one fell swoop.
When I arrived to the race's start I was pleased to meet some lovely, very mellow ladies. They assured me this was more of a ride than a race and that I had nothing to fear. "Remember", one said reassuringly, "there's even a prize for DFL." "What's DFL mean?", I naively inquired. "Dead. Fucking. Last. Of course", she deadpanned.
Dead Fucking Last, eh? Now that's my kind of race.
I was lucky enough to team up with Casey, Adrian, Julie and Chris, all awesome gals that knew the city and the cycling way better than me!
From Cupid's arrow we cycled down the Embarcadero to Pier 39 in order to get our manifests. That first part of the race was the only moment of cattiness in the race, reminding me of cross country meet starts where girls would push and shove to get ahead. 'Whatever' then, 'whatever' now.
My teammates looked over the manifest and assessed we ought to hit up the Grant/Commercial checkpoint in Chinatown since we were already in Fisherman's Wharf. The ride over was fine save for Commercial street. If a flat street is 180 degrees and straight up is 90, Commercial is probably a solid 82. Jokes aside, a San Francisco street like this is NOT built for Linus bikes.
Sweaty and sore, we arrive to Grant and Comm. to discover there is no checkpoint. We ride up and down the street to no avail. Turns out the checkpoint person bailed so time to move on...
We ride back down the wrong way on the steep one way street, this time on the sidewalk. I knew I should have just walked ol' Linus since it only has coaster breaks but I didn't want to loose street cred with my team. Sure enough though, going down I gained so much natural momentum that it quickly became impossible to stop. Everyone was already waiting at the intersection when dread washed over me. It all happened so fast. All I remember was yelling out some helpless whimper, then clipping Casey's bike, then flying off the bike and into the intersection.
Everyone was silent for a moment, but I arose to discover I was totally fine. Linus was fine. Casey was fine. THANK HEAVEN!
That all could have played out very differently.
I shook it off and the team trucked on. The race was smooth sailing from there on out and was an incredible way to see/learn the city. We could not have asked for better weather; clear and in the mid 60's, I rode in a tank top and felt great. September and October truly are the most beautiful months in the Bay.
The race ended at pushbike, the beloved cycling apparel shop at 22nd & Shotwell in the mission. Riders and friends alike enjoyed icy cold tap beer and shared war stories of the ride while we all waited for Christy to announce the winners.
When I pulled up to pushbike it looked as though Drew were purchasing something at the register. When I inquired he handed over a beautiful vintage cycling jersey and said how proud he was of me. What a total babe.
The race was a $5 buy in and winner takes all. Since there were 30 riders, the prize money was $150 but just before they announced the winner, Tae of Alite threw in an extra $100 bucks bumping the grand prize up to $250! Not too shabby for an all girls race!
Because this alley cat received such a warm response from various bike vendors in the city, there was a lot of loot to go around. The crowd giggled slightly when Christy announced prizes for 12th and 13th place. In the end there were prizes for 14 girls plus DFL.
Forgot about DFL? Well, to be sure that prize went to yours truly! That's right, folks, I was Dead F*%@ing last in my first alley cat race and I have a 6-pack of 21st amendment IPA can beer to prove it!
And I have to say, I have not been as proud of many other accomplishments in my life.
An enormous thanks to Christy for organizing this and to my teammates for doing their best to keep me from killing myself...til the next ride, ladies!