Babes in Bikeland alleycat brings female cyclists to the streets of Minneapolis

Categories: Cycling
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Some brave ladies rode in heels. Photo by Eric Shoultz
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Babes in Bikeland is an annual WTF (women, trans, femme) alleycat where participants receive a list of stops and then determine their own route to the finish line with a pen and a map before taking off. Alleycats, a product of messenger culture, are often male-dominated events, but Babes in Bikeland is a celebration of female cyclists. Men can volunteer for stops and attend the dance after party, but they can't race.

For the 2012 ride, I joined in as a volunteer while my girlfriend Nola Gradzielewski rode as a Babe with faux flowers crowning her white Bern helmet.

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Photo by Eric Shoultz
Riders plan their routes
Babes in Bikeland draws in both experts and naifs. As is common in alleycats, some participants ride the event as a race, reaching for the big prizes, while others treat it as a long, fun treasure hunt with friends.

This year's sixth-annual Babes, organized by Kayla Dotson and Kat McCarthy, began at a baseball diamond in Powderhorn Park. Participants sprawled around the field, examining their Minneapolis maps to determine the best route point-to-point. Some riders were fully outfitted in spandex, while others were costumed in ultra-feminine getups to reflect Babes' celebration of WTF. There were super-short skirts, brightly colored tights, and even some high heels.

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Photo by Eric Shoultz
Before the race kicked off, I pedaled away to Boom Island in strong winds that struck from every direction. My Babes in Bikeland stop was manned (literally, in this case, har har) by myself and a group of supportive guys. Our job was to reveal bonus stops, so we placed stickers on participants' manifests with info on where to go next (the Northrup King building), then marked their sheets with stars, hearts, smiley-faces, or A-plus marks.

Manning an alleycat stop is intense. You must move cyclists through quickly. They're in a race, after all. I'm proud of how speedily we processed Babes. Each volunteer had a marker and a page of stickers. "Have fun!" I told the Babes as they departed.

Thanks to Mason Meisch's MOAB über-bike, which plays music and prepares food, we spent the rest of our Boom Island time enjoying tunes from the Beastie Boys, Madonna, and Frank Sinatra, plus dancing the "Macarena." We ate bacon, wieners, and marshmallows. We also passed around the drinks. I shared a flask of maple syrup-tinged rye whiskey that earned both jeers and raves from the guys.

We left our stop for the after party at 9:15 p.m., rolling down Washington Avenue to Meisch's tunes. And hour or so later, the Babes in Bikeland winners were announced. Cyclist Elise Adair, who co-organizes the Powderhorn 24, took first place and sprayed the crowd with champagne.

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Photo by Eric Shoultz

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