Bikes take it to the streets in Urban Assault

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On September 19, 500 bicyclists hit the streets of Minneapolis for the Urban Assault Ride. The ride, which started on the Greenway at 10th Avenue, challenged its participants to test their street navigation skills and challenge their funky bike talents in an obstacle course with checkpoints outside REI, Freewheel Bike Shop, Penn Cycle, Chipotle on Excelsior, and Peace Coffee.

The obstacles, which included such feats of skill as the “bike limbo” and “runt bikes,” offered a fun competition for bikers who were more interested in having a good time than serious competition. Some of the participants, such as Jen Rudy of Maple Grove and Karen Dong, of Lakeville, don’t have time to train for a major competition like a triathlon. They have families and work, but they still wanted to get out there and have a good time in a race that was “totally not intimidating.”

After the bike limbo, which was located at the Chipotle on Excelsior, Pete McGowan of Minneapolis said “I’m about to puke.” He found about the race from The Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists Website (http://www.morcmtb.org/), and says it’s the only race he’s ever done. “I heard there’s a big party afterward,” he said.

Indeed, the social aspect of the race is one of its main drawing points. Sponsored by New Belgium Beer, the race hosted a big party afterward. Even during the race, bikers chatted and joked with each other as they tried to pick up bottle caps while getting sprayed with water balloons. Volunteers, too, participated in the obstacle courses as gladiators of sorts, and talked and chatted with participants, offering water and a moment of companionship before the riders went off to the next course. Katy Rudolph, aka “Bootsy Bee,” was one of the volunteers at the limbo checkpoint, where volunteers were in charge of lowering the bar for the bikers to go under.

Underneath the fun and social aspects of the ride lies the more serious mission of the Urban Assault Ride: to encourage people to use bicycles more in their daily life. The ride had no set course, so teams of bikers had to map out their own route, and figure out how to navigate their way around the city.

Jody Quesnell, who, with her husband Tim, won second place in the race said: “We know the city, but we had to discover the bike trails.” Jody explained that she and her husband took a wrong turn, which cost them crucial time. “We took the scenic route,” Tim Quesnell corrects her.

Fiona Lockhart and Nick Bohrer won the race. Former triathlon athletes and regular commuter bikers, they knew all the back roads very well.

“Pure speed and strength isn’t enough,” said Lockhart, who admitted that they got lucky in going to the REI obstacle first, and didn’t have to wait in line to complete it.

Urban Assault Rides began in Austin, Texas six years ago. There are rides in Seattle, Portland, Fort Collins, Denver, Austen, Madison, and Chicago. The Austin ride is currently the biggest cycling event in Texas, with 1300 participants this year. Though this is the first year for Minneapolis, the inaugural year was the second largest Urban Assault Ride with 500 participants.

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.