Friday, August 5, 2005

Race Day IX

Ever since we went to San Francisco for Pedal Monster in July, there had been a lot of back and forth about Cyclecide journeying to the Pacific Northwest. A small contingent of Cycleciders, along with their 2-person ferris wheel and "dizzy toy" went to the Dead Baby Bike Club's eighth annual Downhill Race and Messenger Challenge in Seattle last year. This year they went back in force with two more rides and twice as many clowns.

On Wednesday they arrived in Portland in their new bus, a de-commissioned '70s Oakland City Bus. We then proceeded to drink beer 'til 2:00 in the morning. The original idea was that on Friday morning they, along with a handful of CHUNK 666 raiders, would head up to Seattle together, set up the rides, do the race, do the party, break down the rides early Saturday morning, drive back to Portland, and do a show in Portland. But since the bus averaged about 35 mph from San Francisco to Portland, Cyclecide instead left around 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, so CHUNK had to drive to Seattle in Stan's little car with two choppers on a bike rack on the back. Talk about a clown car whenever we stopped at a rest area. At least Cyclecide was able to drive the majority of the CHUNK bikes up there in the bus, and a few CHUNKs rode back in the bus.

Once in Seattle, we headed straight to end-point of the Race and location for the big party afterwards (a big warehouse underneath a freeway near Harbor Island) around 1:00 p.m., and helped Cyclecide set up their rides, namely the really labor intensive Cyclofuge.

After a brief emergency where I had to bring C.Collision to his senses, we wrangled a ride out of some Seattle people to ferry the bikes up to the top of the hill. At the starting line I got my pre-registered shirt (#600), signed their stupid waiver (I mean, it was funny to read, but waivers are pretty useless as far as absolving liability is concerned. Maybe if they were notarized. Dead Baby needs a notary public), the water bottle that equated free beer for the rest of the night (by the way, Dead Babies, you sealed the deal when I found out you had Olympia on tap), and went into my standing-around-waiting-for-this-thing-to-start mode.

Observation: the first downhill I went to was in 2002 (the sixth race, for those keeping track). Five of us went up, but only brought 3 choppers (Thud brought Sproing, Big B. brought Handcicapper, and I brought the first iteration of Biscuit, with the mono-tube fork). But Thud also brought his road bike and rode that in the race. I distinctly remember Big B. and me at the starting point, looking around and anxiously noting a lack of other mutant bikes in the crowd. It was primarily a messenger downhill race back then (which is what it was when it started), with a bunch of other pleasure riders on various cruisers and tandem and what not (this race ended up earning Big B. the nickname the human speed bump" amongst the Dead Babies). This year however, I was impressed by the roughly a 50/50 split between mutant bikes and "regular" bikes.

The race finally started, and I began my anxious descent down the west Seattle hills on my tallbike. Why "anxious," you inquire? Well, in case you have forgotten, gentle reader, I am a severe head trauma survivor, having been catapulted by my tall bike onto the sidewalk in Minneapolis. As such, ever since my attitudes about riding tallbikes have been infused with a certain judicious degree of trepidation.

As the race bombed down Admiral Way, a rider about 100 feet in front of me on the steepest portion of the course lost his cowboy hat, then started breaking, then came to a dead stop in the middle of the road. When someone 100 feet in front of you slows and stops, but you're coasting down a hill 15-20 mph, this translates into that person being 100 feet in front of you one second, and two seconds later they're a large obstacle RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. I pulled a nice curve around him, but just as I did that C.Collision effin' FLEW by me doing the same thing on my right.

Having survived that and now in the home stretch, I was riding through a small intersection and espied a small, roughly 1 inch square block of metal on the ground in front of my front tire. I rode over it and did that sickening thing where it actually shoots out away from your wheel, which means that you managed to run over its corner, which meant… I flatted out.

Now, if I was riding a chopper I would probably just have finished the race on a rim, but a flat on the front wheel of a tallbike results in a severe case of the wobbles.. So hoof it back to the finish line it was. And as I walked I contemplated my horrible luck at these downhills. In 2002, Big B. turned an unplanned wheelie by the handicapper into a belly slide down 10 feet of the road. He also threw his chain, and I was the only one who waited up for him. The entire race passed us and we weren't sure how to get to the finish line so we ended up tying for dead effin' last (an appropriately CHUNK thing to do, I s'pose). In 2004 Choppy's stem bolt stripped out while I was putting it back together before we even left the swank hotel Cyclecide hooked us up with. I rode to the race finish line on the back of Rino's chopper trike and didn't race at all, had too much to drink, and on the walk back up Capitol Hill kicked newspaper boxes over. And now this. What do I have to do to actually ride from point A to point B in Seattle?

Well, the powers that be showed a little compassion for my plight, because Dead Baby Terry rolled up next to me on his Keg trike while I was walking, and filledth my water bottle with beer, which eased my pain.

Once back, it was the usual. Drink. Eat. Ride the rides. Namely the two-person ferris wheel.

And the cyclo-fuge.

Cyclecider Paul the Plumber had built a new ride on commission for New Belgium, originally called "Ride to the Moon" but renamed "the Grasshopper" after it received its coat of dark green paint. The Grasshopper consists of a long beam on axis, but centered on said axis at about the 3/4ths mark of the beam.

One rider sits in a seat at the end of the longer portion of the beam and pedals, which makes the beam go round and round. Whenever the rider feels like it they can throttle a lever which controls a tank of compressed air, causing the seat to rise up in the air. I’d guess the arm raised about 35 or 40 degrees in the air. The sensation created by this quite pleasant.

Eventually I got bored and ended up playing carny for about 3 hours, running the cyclofuge. Another weird thing about the downhill is that its this big bike party, then the bike people tend to thin out a bit, and all these Seattle suburbanite club kids start to trickle in. Not enough to take over or anything, but I was working the 'fuge and this one guy had just ridden it and was like "man, don't ride this thing if you're on E" and then I gave him my hand to pull him out the seat and he was covered in cold sweat. Yuck. Wipe that ride down with a sani-wipe.

While minding the 'fuge, the tallbike jousting started up. The dead babies were doing the "winner stays in" format. At some point I looked over and saw Thud readying for a pass. When I glanced over again he was readying for another. And another. And then Rino walked up and said "Thud's the jousting champion." For a trophy he received several beauteous PVC burns on his torso.

With the kegs kicking (an impressive feat, seeing as there were over 20 of them) Cyclecide closed the evening with a totally drunk-ass punk-rock show at 1:30 a.m. Shortly after that the arduous task of breaking the rides down so we could return to Portland the next day began.

A particularly precious memory is the familiarity developing between CHUNK 666, the Dead Babies, and Cyclecide. Many Dead Babies followed up a hello with promises to be in Portland on September 4th for the Chunkathalon, and there was a certain drunken l'esprit de corps as all three groups pushed the Grasshopper up onto its trailer at 3:00 in the morning.