Editor’s note: Mark Tierney takes readers on a Minneapolis trip, deep into the underbelly of the 2000 Single Speed World Championships. This story originally appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #80, published in July 2000. Photos by Maurice Tierney and Karl Rosengarth.
Ha! Of course I reserve my young ass a seat on the magic Dirt Rag bus to Minneapolis when the opportunity presents itself, 100 percent. The trip: destination Single Speed World Championships, May 13. Fifteen hours in a van, eight passengers, two of which are full-to-the brim beer kegs, i.e.: “the fuel.” One lady present to keep the flatulence in check to the benefit of one and all.
But HEY, I don’t have a bike here, I’m just visiting, I live overseas, I don’t have a single speed, or do I? Time to tap into the heap of latchkey bikes I’ve dragged back to the office over the years. In fact, someone’s been kind enough to display my Sears Roebuck sissy bike in the tree in front of the office, in a safe place. Good thing, too. Been out of the country so long, in which time I turned to hashing as my “sport” of choice, that I come to regard the ragged simplicity of this blue, 37 pound bomber as the ride of necessity. Forget all that finger-operated nastiness. I drag these wheels down out of the tree, add knobbies and a paint/decal job, air the tires and I’m ready: got the bike, got the will.
We make it to Mpls, barely tapping the kegs, rolling into town late, and to the fairly appropriate tunes of “Tim,” conserving our strength for the challenge of two days of expectant debauchery with the hostesses of the race, the Minneapolis Mafia. We sleep well that night, crammed into a downtown motel room. We wake early and attempt to touch base with Hurl Everstone at the CarsRCoffins headquarters. Minneapolis loses us in its one-way streets and roundabouts. We find our landmark: The bright shining neon beams of Sex World beckon us forward. Back around the block we go. The bike junk hanging in the rusty rafters of a second story porch in the alley is our clue that dismussbetheplace.
It’s a beautiful, breezy day in Minneapolis, and we all step blinking over the threshold and into Hurl’s digs. They are solid, impressive, the kind of warehouse space suitable for small-scale bike races. Bikers are milling about, amongst them is Hurl, who is commandeering the effort to get tomorrow’s race packages stuffed. We join in the milling around; some of us wrench.
Then, we must ride; out into the cool breeze of Minneapolis. We squeeze in a visit to the Croll factory, where they spit out pretty frames in candy colors, very sweet, I think. Our group grows with riders picked up at Croll. The pack continues riding around the city in the sunshine, and like on all the best rides, it feels like we’re playing hooky from the world. The city touches my heart, with the riverside flour mills under scudding clouds. I love the Midwest feel; it kills me, one of few places that manage to feel like home. We head back to the motel for a rest, six people with six bikes tramping through the lobby towards a room for two. We arouse no suspicion…
The deal is to meet at Grumpy’s bar to register at 8 o’clock. This much we know. If you miss registration, you miss the race. We get our t-shirts and numbers and step into the bar for the festivities, in celebration of a night before a race. We plant it in a crowd at the front of the bandstand, order four beers each and settle in for the duration. Watch the Liquor Pigs (the band) as the evening turns to haze.
Next thing everybody knows, the bar is closed, and the biker/vultures are circling cars in the Grumpy’s parking lot, looking for derby days. The crowd gets booted out of the bar parking lot, and the growing mass congregates towards the lot next door, where a whirlpool of bikers quickly begins to form.
What’s happening here is a loose variation of bike derby and the winner’s hometown will determine the location of next year’s champs. The rules: last body up on two wheels wins, anything goes.
We use the word “derby” loosely here. This is more of a circular free-for-all. Those dabbing or crashing are just having too much damn fun to consider themselves expelled—they’re jumping right back into the fray. The vultures continue to circle, and those that get knocked from their bikes quickly find their wheels the target of bloodthirsty riders. This is way better than “Ben Hur.” From here, things rapidly degenerate as the ugly crowd spectating begins to hurl trash into the ring. Trash meaning large pieces of metal, trash cans, two by fours, that sort of thing.
Some brightboy wheels a metal dumpster into the ring. One more reason to love Minneapolis is the cops here, who turn a blind eye to these sort of goings-on. Two hundred bikers in an empty lot carrying on, and no one bothers to hassle us. That is, until another brightboy gets the idea of setting this dumpster afire and using pallets to jump over it. It’s a glorious sight, but yelling bikers are one thing, and burning dumpsters are another. The crowd senses this and thins out. We also cheese it, apparently the police and firemen show up soon thereafter.
The next (morning?) Dirt Rag barely latches onto the race, as we see the three hundred strong pack riding in the opposite direction, two blocks down. We catch up to the titanic group and follow to the start/finish line, which is a few miles out of town. We all congregate on the railroad tracks, and wait for direction. I look around: seems there are quite a few taking the “race” seriously. I seek a little hair of the dog that bit me—wouldn’t ya know it, a Dirt Rag compadre comes through in the clutch. Scooter Slogrady’s got a mess bag full o’ a mess o’ beer…
But then we’re off, Le Mans style! The pack funnels into the woods, and it’s about one lap before the crowd begins to thin out in the mostly tight singletrack. It’s also about the time I get lapped: My sissy bike, while a complete gas in the singletrack and downhill, is a 37 pound ball and chain on the uphills. Don’t matter, though, the course is a gas, mostly cool rolling singletrack. I get thirsty after one lap, and am ready to settle into spectator mode, but I’m egged on into three more laps. Somehow, I pull this off—straggling in long after everyone’s gone home, DFL. Woulda been a fool not to finish.
The award ceremony is back at Grumpy’s that evening. The vibe in the bar is quite subdued compared to the last-night-on-earth frenzy of the previous eve. “I’m not drinking tonight. OK, one beer … ” Ha! Next thing I know, I’m in a Captain and Coke duel to the death with Jeff Lockwood. We both lose. The Dishes take the stage at some point. A group of agitated boys forms at the front of the stage, which is understandable given the movie star style of the singer and the way she plays her guitar, yea, their songs are rocking and great, they shoulda coulda played all night but they ran out of songs.
Homoerotic goings-on have been the theme of the evening, and this culminates with some beard-rubbing over by a freestanding glass block wall; this wall blocks the view into Grumpy’s kitchen. Guess the beard rubbing got out of hand. The sound from my side of the bar is not unlike a truck full of empty beer kegs tipping over in an alley. Looking to the source of the racket, I see one side of the giant glass wall scattered in shards across the floor, and a certain magazine publisher slinking away from the carnage looking mighty sheepish. There are cries of “Get the fuck out!” from the owners of the establishment. “What’s the big deal?” I think to myself. No wonder they call it Grumpy’s…
The next (morning?): The last thing I can recall from the night before is thinking, that’s the second night in a row we bikers have had to beat a hasty retreat leaving total destruction in our wake. That, and a naked guy who’s been “cropping up” all weekend made a late night appearance at Hurl’s, thank god someone had him cover his fleshy bod up quickly. All this and more haze. So, morning: Of course Dirt Rag can’t leave without diving into the nearby dumpster. We dig out lotsa cool toys and a Huffy 10 speed. We give the Huffy the treatment: ridden head-on into walls, thrown from the loading dock, flattened with the van. Then we gas it out of there, leaving in a cloud of dust and bike parts. The second 15-hour drive isn’t as bad. We adopt a sardine-like arrangement in back, and everyone goes to sleep.
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