Words: Hurl Everstone
Wednesday nights got weird in the mid ’90s in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when some of the local dirt bags darkening the door on the weekly Wednesday night ride started showing up on singlespeed mountain bikes. These hump-day rolls had been initiated by several employees from Quality Bicycle Products and typically included a singletrack social on the way home from work. Ride some dirt, crack a brew and stay safe.
As word spread about these midweek rambles, more and more locals began showing up, and soon a weekly tradition was born. The nocturnal shenanigans often delved into derby territory, and with some of the more, uh, “rowdy” attendees, it became apparent that full-contact, aggressive riding was not just a possibility but a real probability, and therefore, riding your “A” bike or your “race” bike might not be the proper choice.
Singlespeeds were ascendant, and with many of the riders employed at QBP, the product-development angle accelerated at a break-neck pace. The first product on offer was the “Pete Geigle Singleator” chain tensioner, and pretty soon everyone was cobbling together a bonafide rat ride to take on the Wednesday night mayhem.
Rippin’ singletrack on singlespeeds begets singlespeed rallies, and so early in 1998 the Single Steam ClaSSSic (yes, three esses) was held on some of the bootleg singletrack in the Minneapolis metro area. A common denominator among several riders was home-brewing beer, so after a day of shredding in the woods with friends, these rallies typically ended with the sharing of several kegs of delicious ales, steams, porters and stouts.
Other rallies popped up over the summer (usually heralded via word-of-mouth and crude, DIY-style flyers), and by the fall of 1998 a singlespeed juggernaut was born: the Singleator Sandbagger Single-Speed Fall Festival.
With the explosion of interest in these one-speed bacchanals, 1999 saw the creation of the MMFMSSS (Minneapolis Metro Frothy Mug Single-Speed Series). Six unique rallies culminated in another end-of-the-year blowout festival, what is now known officially as the Homie Fall Festival. Memories are hazy, but if nothing else, skids were laid down and livers were punished. Riders of all shapes and sizes gathered along the clandestine deer trails and footpaths lining the Mississippi River, worn in by years of usage, for singletrack hot laps, feats of strength, impromptu dirt jump exhibitions and, naturally, a derby.
Over the ensuing 17 seasons, as the tall tales of dirt-honed debauchery spread, the Homie Fall Fest has been a steady stop on the underground Minneapolis bike calendar. More and more local and regional riders have made the pilgrimage to experience the Homie. Some years have seen riders take unplanned (and unwanted) trips to the emergency room.
Now, it may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. The loose-knit core of rogue riders on these oftentimes bootleg trails, with little regard for decorum or safety, has garnered the moniker “the Minneapolis Mafia.” But given the outlaw status of these events, no one has ever been “in charge” of the Homie Fall Fest. And yet each year since, when the leaves begin to turn colors, the local cognoscenti start rumbling about when and where the HFF will take place.
Sometimes popularity breeds problems; there have been years that the HFF has seemed like little more than a rolling bicycle circus with costumes aplenty, snaking through town to some secret trail that never arrives. In recent years there has been something resembling a (poorly kept) shroud of secrecy regarding the location of the Homie.
But the reality is, you show up to the Sunrise Inn in south Minneapolis, typically around Halloween weekend, and join the rolling mob riding out to a clandestine trail location that has only days before been leaked via internet rumormongering and Facebook posturing. Expect the unexpected, a full day of rambling through the substrate of Minneapolis dirt, vacant lots, alleys and singletrack. More often than not you’ll be led (astray) by at least one orange-jumpsuited “Amigo.”
I’d recommend a backpack filled with extra clothes, extra beer and a burrito. As the sun sets, you can usually count on one or more bonfires lighting the way for more stumbling stunts, with tall tales matching the proportion of tall cans littered around you. Stick with a local if you need to find your way home.