Monday, September 22, 2008

New Belgium Urban Assault Ride

It has been a long time since I have participated in any type of competitive event.  Of course, as soon as that thought leaves my finger tips I think of having participated in the TransIowa ride.  I think of that as more of a “survival” event than a competition.

This weekend was the Urban Assault Ride sponsored by New Belgium Brewing.  This is an unusual event where participants in teams of two set off to navigate to a variety of disclosed “checkpoints” without any prescribed order or route.  At each of the various checkpoints, team members were required to perform some type of activity before earning a bead to indicate that the team of riders had reached the check point.  Failing to obtain a bead (or losing one) would result in a 10 hour penalty for each missing stop.  So, there was no short-cutting the course or picking off only key destinations.

In addition to the 5 disclosed locations, there was an initial clue to the first of three mystery checkpoints.  Reach the first and get a clue to the second.  Find the second, get a clue for the third.

Preparations for race-day began on Saturday afternoon with a ride to pick up our race packet at Old Chicago in uptown.  We arrived around 1, picked up our packets, and then stuck around for a few beers at the bar while discussing “strategy.”  We didn’t get anywhere on our true route planning, but managed to finish a Guinness, a Surly, and a Fat Tire before leaving. We did determine that Sunday’s “race” was going to require some specialized equipment and early morning preparations. We weren’t but a couple of miles into our route back home before we decided another pitcher of beer was required at the Longfellow Grill.

During our pre-race planning session, Scott and I had decided that performance was going to be key to our participation.  We made a stop at Big Top Liquors on the way back to his house to pick up some supplies for our morning adventure.  A bottle of top shelf Vodka and some Bloody Mary mix.  Scott made a trip to the grocery store on Saturday night while I worked secretly in the garage for bit on preparing the race machine. I mounted a basket on the front, low and level to make sure that it could be easily reached.  I also mounted a cup holder within easy reach so that I could keep the beast on the road.

The secret weapon:  a 1960’s era Schwinn Twin tandem.  Single speed, fenders, basket, coaster brake, single front brake, brown, squeaky and heavy!   Perfect!

 I  was up early on Sunday morning for final packing.   Put the cooler in the basket, stretched the bungee over the lid to both hold the cooler in place and keep the lid closed. The ride over gave me a bit of a chance for a good shake down run.  I arrived at Scott’s house almost right at 7am.  I was glad that overnight, our desire to bring massive quantities of alcohol with on the ride were tempered.  We tried to mount the Burley Cargo trailer on the back of the tandem, we would have been unable to negotiate any right turns without the trailer interfering with the fender.  Even though our “plan” was to travel in a counter-clockwise route through the checkpoints, we decided that the ability to turn both directions was important. We premixed some goodies for the road, poured ourselves a traveler, and set off on our way around 8am.


We arrived at the start/finish around 8:30 and waited to be released for the start in the second wave of riders slightly after 9am.  The mood festive and very entertaining.

We set off to the first mystery check point: Lake Harriet to learn the clue to One On One Bicycle Studio for the second. 

We back-tracked north to Chipolte the first of our other check points.  Being the first choice of many people, we waited in line for the obstacle.  The bicycle limbo.  Team members took turns riding their bikes under a pole at three different heights.  Since we were on a tandem, we were obviously set for efficiency.  Though we managed to nearly take out a volunteer on our first pass, we easily cleared the lowest setting, earned our bead, and were on our way.  Deciding that since our second point was north that we would instead travel the “course” clockwise.

We headed north toward One on One to learn that the third mystery point was none other than 1st Avenue in downtown… Only a few blocks away.  A quick trip down Hennepin to Washington, to Cedar to Freewheel Bike Shop for our second physical challenge.  We had to don a pair of wet oven mitts and gather enough flattened bottle caps from the parking lot to fill a small bowl… While volunteers squirted us with large “super-soaker” type squirt guns.  We quickly accomplished this goal, earned our bead and set off to our next stop.

Peach Coffee parking  set  up with a course to be completed on large big wheels.  Short cranks, slippery back tires made for a very entertaining but brief stop.  I did a quick mental calculation and time check to realize that finishing the whole event within the 3 hour time limit was going to be somewhat of a challenge.

We refilled our cups for the final time and set off for the long haul south to REI for our next activity and to collect another bead.  I climbed aboard a 20” wheeled kids bike complete with stocked basket of rolled up newspapers.  Objective, ride and throw newspapers to Scott who was to catch them in his cardboard box.  I don’t know if it was wind, weather related, or skill but it took me several  throws before I could get 3 newspapers into the box to earn our bead.

We rode the southern frontage road of 494 on our way West to Penn for a run at our final stop.  We passed by one of the clocks for I believe a car dealer to see that it read 11:30.  Even though we had been really make the wheels on the ol’ Schwinn turn at a furious pace, we picked up the pace to make sure to roll into the final checkpoint.

Penn Cycle had what was probably the easiest least entertaining, least challenging of events.  One partner to ride a minibike from one side of the parking lot to the other where the other partner could ride it back.  It was a quick stop before we were back on the tandem on our route back to the start/finish line.

I don’t know what our official finish time was, somewhere right after noon.  After spending a couple of hours at the post-event celebration, we were back on our way back home. We covered ground vert quickly with what felt like a small number of people passing us.  Our route was certainly not the most efficient, but with the exception of waiting at the first checkpoint, moved quickly through the challenges.  It was a truly very entertaining adventure.  The ol’ Schwinn Twin was the perfect machine to take, though I have to admit logging nearly 60 miles on it made me a little tired.  Scott (I think I can speak for him) and I had a great time.  I would definitely suggest participating if it comes around again!

I wish I had more photos to share.  My hands were full either captaining the tandem or with my drink :) Here's the route:

1 comment:

rigtenzin said...

That explains why I saw strangely dressed bicyclists riding north on Portland Ave. with race numbers. It sounds like fun.

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