For this blog post, we are heading to the U.S. -not for Halloween, but the night before – Witch’s Eve! I’ve been keeping my eyes open for one event in particular. I’ve been waiting in earnest to see what happened this year for Mala Bruja NYC Alleycat Race. This is an all-female charity Alleycat Bike Race. But alas, it seems like it didn’t go ahead this year. I’m still posting about this awesome race as I think it is important more people recognise, appreciate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of urban riding culture – and nothing does that more than Alleycats. I’m sad it didn’t go ahead this year, but these events can be challenging to organise, so maybe next year. Either way, kudos to those who did make an effort to make it happen for the last couple of years. We salute you! We definitely need more events like this one- and most critically in Aust!! Enjoy! NG.
This weekend most Americans are celebrating Holloween.
The night before Halloween is Witch’s Eve.
For the last two years, an ultra-cool crew headed up by Caro and Kenya have put on an all-female charity Alleycat bike race in NYC on Witch’s Eve.
I have been following this event. I think it is a great initiative and I wish there were more like it! Reminds me of the good olde days when I helped out at Melbourne Alleycat races – what a blast!
Earlier this year, BCC reported on the Melburn Roobaix, which is an annual urban bike race through Melbourne’s cobbled laneways. Melbourne Roobaix is always a smash hit with local riders – and they had an impressively high number of female riders this year.
So , I got super excited for this year’s ride after seeing KymNonStop’s video of the NYC ride from last year (see below).
What is an Alleycat bike race?
Alleycat bike races are something to behold. They are informal race bike held in cities where riders need to navigate local streets and traffic to make check points and get back the fastest. It is also a massive social get together, have some fun and ride bikes with your mates.
Alleycats are well known for having a strong participation and fun focus. Some ride to compete, others just to be part of the fun.
Race formats for Alleycats can vary – but usually, there is not official race course that riders must take, but there are check points that need to be met. Riders get a map of the check points just before heading off and are free to make their own way there and back.
The fastest rider to meet all check points and get over the finish line is the winner.
Alleycats races are unsanctioned and can be run during the day or night. Riders race through city streets and have to navigate normal traffic and vehicles while the race is going on. This is why Alleycat races are often perceived by many to be quite dangerous.
Meeting check points must be authenticated in some way. This varies depending on the race, but is often something like a stamp, badge, signature, or some other object that must be gathered at each check point as evidence.
Often there are activities and/or obstacles at each checkpoint. These can fun, entertaining, challenging and range from easy to hard. Activities could be beer-drinking, eating dry Weed-Bix, doing exercise (like 20 star jumps) or some bike skill – like track stands, monos or jumps. They are designed to add a little more variety and fun to the race – as you can see in Dave Gustafa’s video below, which was posted on the Alleycat Facebook page.
The map of race checkpoints is usually provided right before the race starts, so riders who know the city well have a hometown advantage – hence the attraction for bike couriers. Participants can pretty much ride anywhere they need to to make the checkpoints – on or off-road, through buildings, parks, uni campuses, between houses – where ever and however is needed.
Alleycat races can be ‘sticky’ (official vs. unregulated), dangerous and controversial. They are not for everyone, and it can be hard getting one organised.
What is the Mala Bruja Alleycat Bike Race?
It is an all-female dress-up charity bike race around New York City. The event has been running the last two years and has had a great turn out. It is well supported by entrants as well as spectators and support crews and family, friends and fans.
It costs $10 to enter the race, with the money going to charity.
All bikes are accepted (not just fixes) and costumes are highly encouraged.
Two years ago was the inaugural Mala Bruja ‘Hellcat’ race. With short notice and planning, the event still managed to pull over 70 female riders on the night. If you want to find out more details of this event, of which there were over 70+ women- lots of ace photos too!
See more pics from the 2015 Male Bruja Alleycat thanks to Bike Your City Photo Essay of the event.
Last year the event was held again and was also a spectacular success. It was called the Mala Bruja Alleycat Revenge.
Australia does not have a massive bike courier culture like NYC or San Franciso. However we do have a dedicated and cool crew in all major capital cities. Personally, I’d love to see some more events like this happening in Australia.
Races like this show the awesome diversity and variety in bikes, riders and lifestyles – and is a great way to bring people together.
Even if you are not up for riding in an Alleycat, helping out at one of the races (or checkpoints), or going to spectate is a brilliant way to support the event.
As the world heads more for mainstream and conservative conformity – events like the Mala Bruja Alleycat are so important.
Although these events are often secretive when unregulated (so you need to know the organisers, riders or bike messages who are part of it to know of the race) yet they still contribute much mystique, diversity and spice to our current urban cycling milieu.
Love them or hate them, Alleycat events like the Mala Bruja ticks many boxes: they are social, healthy, recognise bike skills , promote inclusion, have strong participation females urban rides, raise money for charity, bring community together and nurture our valuable, unique and much-needed sub-cultures.
General Public – Think outside the bike!!
Personally, I think there is incredible value in recognising and celebrating the uniqueness and variety in the biking community. It disturbs me that the vast majority of the general public view ‘cycling’ as being the lycra-clad road riders and that essentially this is the pervasive stereotype of what a rider or cyclist is.
Such views negate the massive diversity in styles and types of riding – both urban and track like: MTB, fixi, singlespeed, trials, Enduro, fat bikes, Tall bikes, Unicycles, tricycles, e-bikes, Cyclocross, Crits, bike packing, BMX, DH, Cruisers, Communters, cargos….and the list goes on and on. Each of these styles has their own rich and vibrant communities.
I think all these bike ‘sub-cultures’ need to be valued and recognised as being part of the awesome variety and character that form our current biking community. I can only hope people look beyond the the lycra to see how amazing, distinctive and fertile our biking and cycling communities are. Viva la Alleycats!