For many, bikes occupy a huge chunk of their lives. More than just a means of transportation, our bikes give people a way to move around, connect with their communities, and stay healthy. As a result of spending infinite hours in the saddle, cyclists often treat bikes like children: We name them, we groom them, and we protect them with our lives—but just like any good parent, you can’t always be there for your bike.
An anonymous door below a green marquee with the number “35” in modest letters marks our destination. It’s a cold winters morning in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and we’re happy to get inside. Up old industrial stairs to the third floor, and we knock on the door. The clock has just chimed eleven.
Until the 1960s, this was an old toy factory. Today, the third floor houses a huge studio and apartment. With dented doors, dusty windows and old wooden beams lining the ceiling, this is where Tahlia Lempert lived together with her boyfriend. Both bicycle enthusiasts, she’s an artist and he owns a bike shop over in Manhattan.
Maybe I’m just getting old, but this winter seems like it was the hardest I’ve ever experienced. Along with a near constant barrage of ominously named winter storms, the Weather Channel kept reminding me that it was something called the Polar Vortex that was keeping the air temperature far below zero, not to mention the wind chill factor.
And so here I am writing this a few days before the vernal equinox, lamenting the added pounds around my waist and the lack of snap in my legs. Taking the long way home has been a wretched thought the past few months, whereas the lure of takeaway curry and kung fu movies on Netflix has become increasingly hard to resist.
Domestically, outlaw bike races have enjoyed an off-road, off-stage spotlight since the days of the Repack events on Mount Tamalpais back when Saber Tooth Tigers and Woolie Mammoths roamed the earth. Alleycats have been an urban cycling mainstay for almost two decades. In that time, roving bands of cyclists have eschewed traditionally organized events with insurance coverage and astronomical entry fees. The Bay Area has long been the home for off the grid events in every discipline of bike racing, and having a long and sordid history with these races, I was intrigued when Minneapolis resident and All-City Brand Manager Jeff Frane began organizing his own cyclocross series through the network of roads and trails along little traveled banks of the Mississippi River. Having watched the development of his races from afar, I was thrilled that one was to coincide with a previously scheduled trip to the Twin Cities.