It's not often someone gets to host their own race and I never knew how easy it was until I tried it myself in 2011. 'Make Haste', it was an idea I had going for a while when I was working as a bike messenger. The first real experience I'd had with Alleycats was '[UNTITLED] ALl3y C@t' hosted by Guan Benedict Lee, this was an awesome race until one of the checkpoint posters fell down misleading all the riders. Since that race, I became interested in the challenges involved with organising non sanctioned checkpoint style races.
The best places to have alleycats are usually around familiar places, this way it makes it more fun for people that know the area and easier for people who aren't to figure it out. Alleycats are suppose to be challenging but with so many varying factors you don't want to make it so intense that you put off your potential riders. The best way to make sure that the race runs smoothly is to choose good checkpoints! Choose locations that have certain landmarks and make sure when you set a location that it is clear and concise but doesn't make it too easy. Here is an example of a bad checkpoint:
- Go to the post box on william st.
There might be more than 1 post box on that street so its best to be a little more concise.
- Go to the Post box next to joe's burgers on william st.Structure (how will it work):
One of the best ways to structure an alleycat is to make each rider take a manifest, the manifest will outline all of the checkpoint locations and have any rules they need to follow clearly outlined. There are many ways you can verify that a rider has been to a checkpoint, the easiest way being a manned checkpoint. A manned checkpoint is a location that a friend/volunteer will wait at the specified place to verify that the rider has been there. The verification can be something as simple as a picking up a small piece of paper, a stamp of some sort or even just signing the riders manifest.
There are many other ways you can set out your checkpoints and one of my favourites is to lead people to the first checkpoint and have the next location printed on a poster at that gives you the next location and so on. This this works in city's where local councils wont take down your posters which is great if you don't have enough volunteers to help out. Another way to set checkpoints is to have people take a photo of each location with there phone or camera which everyone is likely to have available and it's also very easy to verify at the end of the race.
Judging the difficulty of your race can be one of the hardest parts of hosting an event like this, because people vary in skills and fitness so it can be hard to find a happy medium. The best way to find out if your list of checkpoints is too hard to find, too far away or just too damn boring is to get out there and ride it yourself. Bring a few friends that wont be competing (you don't want to give all your secrets away) and run the course on a timer. I've competed in many alleycats and anything shorter than 30mins is kind of an anti-climax but at the same time anything longer than 50 mins can become exceptionally difficult. If the people in your race are more advanced and you think a more difficult cat would suit then go for it! add a couple of gnarly hill climbs to throw them off!
The amount of checkpoints can easily define how hard an alleycat will be, the more checkpoints they have to navigate through the more complex your cat will be. Keep in mind here the routes cars would take to get from one point to another, choosing the layout carefully will dictate where the riders are more likely to go. Place checkpoints in locations that are a little to tricky to find and your competitors might get a little frustrated, make it too easy and they will fly through the race faster than you might of planned.Prizes:
It's easier than you think to get local companies involved and most wont hesitate to help you out with a few little goodies to give away at the end. Try contacting some of the companies who will will appreciate this sort of race, bag companies, bike shops, don't be shy even contact international brands! you wouldn't believe how happy people are to get involved. If you want to add higher stakes to your race, try charging a small entry fee and use the money to give away as the winning prize pool! Even $5 each is enough to gain a pretty enticing total with just 20 or so people competing.Tasks:
So you want to make your alleycat more fun (or less fun depending on how you look at it), you can try adding some tasks to complete at all or some of the checkpoints. Get creative with the tasks, at the "Make Haste" alleycat one of the volunteers brought a carton of beers along and decided to make every rider scull a beer before heading off to the next checkpoint! (this might not be the best idea on a second though, but you get the idea) Adding tasks to your checkpoint can mix things up a bit and allow people who might not be the fittest to still have a good chance at finishing first, and this makes it more fun for everyone.Lets go:
So everyone's paid the registration fee and they are all raring to go! Make sure you explain all the rules very clearly before you unleash your army of riders onto the streets. Cover things like verifying checkpoints and how to navigate the manifest, the clearer you make it the smoother it will run. Decide if you want to hand the manifests out a little while before the race or if you want to hand them out right before it starts, this allows you to define how long each rider has to decipher the best route to take.
Explain how dangerous it can be to be riding aggressively on the street and ensure people know not to take any risks that might put them or others in danger, the last thing you want is to have riders limping back to the finish line or something even worse.
BLEAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! Sound the horn and off they go!
tip: Ask everyone how they went and what you can change to make it more enjoyable, that way when you host another you can improve on your tactics.
Thanks for reading.
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