I completed my first ever alley cat bike race. Welcome to the Second Annual Frigid Bitch, Pittsburgh’s ladies only alley cat bike race put together via our very own Pittsburgh Babes on Bikes leader, Anna Lena! I checked out the weather for that day and it was a high of 31°F with a low of 13°F and -17°F with wind chill aka the coldest day of the year! By the end of it, I was so focused on hustling back so I could warm up! This race was so much fun!! So pumped for next year’s! Naturally, I was more concerned with getting to each of the checkpoints in time that I didn’t take any pictures and those below are from the photographers//volunteers of the race.
History (courtesy of wikipedia):
An alley cat race is an unsanctioned bicycle race. They almost always take place in cities, and are often organized by bicycle messengers. The first race to be called an ‘alley cat’ was held in Toronto on 30 Oct 1989 and continued, in its original form, around Halloween and Valentine’s Day (just like this one!) for the following five years.
Alley cats reflect the personality, contemporary environment and competitive interest of their organizer(s). Races may be extremely grueling and designed to eliminate all but the fastest and best overall messenger, or less competitive and designed to be enjoyed by the local messenger community around set holidays.
Rules vary, but include:
- Checkpoints – the first checkpoint is given at the start of the race, and on arrival the next checkpoint is revealed to the racer. The route to a checkpoint is left up to the rider and showcases the knowledge of the area.
- Task checkpoints – some races upon arriving at a checkpoint the rider may have to perform a task or trick before being given the next location. They can involve physical tasks, performing a skillful trick, or can test the racer’s mind.
- **Checkpoints up front – A common format is for organizers to give the checkpoints/manifest 5–30 minutes before the start of the race. This allows the rider to choose the best route between stops… **that is this race’s style 😀
- Point collection – Some races use a scavenger hunt style race where each stop is worth a certain number of points. These are often races of the Checkpoints Up Front variety and a rider may decide to not stop at some checkpoints valuing an earlier completion time over the points a particular stop may earn them.
Also: riders receive spoke cards, originally Tarot cards but are now often specially printed for the event; they have the rider’s race number and are then wedged between the spokes of the wheel (hence the name).
16-18 mile course, break down of the route I did:
HoRW to Checkpoint #1 Banker Supply (Baum Blvd in E Liberty) = ~1.7 miles… rode uphill toward Penn to Friendship then left onto Baum
Banker to Checkpoint #2 Phantom of the Attic (Craig St in Oakland) = ~2.3 miles… continued down Baum, cut over to Centre into Oakland, down Craig
Phantom to Checkpoint #3 Over the Bar Cafe (E Carson St in the S Side) = ~2.6 miles… rode down to Boundary St and hopped onto the Panther Hallow trail, which lead into Greenfield, turned onto 2nd then cut across to Hot Metal into the South Side then down East Carson (was really nice to warm up here and catch my breath)
OTB to Checkpoint #4 The Point Fountain (at the point downtown, where our 3 rivers meet) = ~3 miles… rode the whole way down East Carson into Station Square, crossed over the Smithfield Bridge into downtown (had some vodka and whiskey to warm up here)
Fountain toCheckpoint #5 The Mattress Factory (N Side) = ~2 miles… quick lap around the fountain then crossed the Fort Duquesne Bridge into the North Shore, rode up through the North Side circling the commons (the children’s museum, CCAC, the Aviary, the park etc.) then biked up Federal to get to over to the MF (more tasty whiskey//sours to warm up with plus heated place to go into)
MF back to HoRW = ~4.3 miles… home stretch to get back before time runs out! rode back downhill and past the Commons, hopped on the 3 rivers heritage trail to 31st St Bridge, crossed over back into Larryville, got onto Penn and continued up the long hill (*Mistake!*) once got to 45th it was downhill but I lost time having to walk up hill.
*I should have taken Butler because it’s flat and I would’ve been able to bike instead of walking; made it to 45th faster and even though I would’ve walked up 45th vs. of riding down from Penn, I think it would have been faster but I was new to the area and realized this after looking at my fitness map.
There were so many prizes to be had since it was so cold not many people turned out! I was rider number 3 out of 5 total competitors. I was also 1 of 2 people to complete ALL 5 check points! Ultimately I came in second due to that last hill, walking back. I needed to walk to regain feeling in my hands and toes! I still came out on top with loads of prizes (as did everyone so cheers to that!)
My loot included:
- 3 t-shirts (1 was the race shirt),
- a pair of bike shorts,
- a comic book,
- a pair of sweet looking socks,
- a water bottle (with a patch kit, some stickers and a beer coupon inside),
- a bike button,
- a bike key chain,
- and some reflector stickers
Here’s a super cool article about the race with further links and information on other races: Pittsburgh Babes on Bikes
Fitness Tracker: about 19-20 miles (extra mileage from biking from my place to the start and back afterward)