Saturday, August 8, 2009

13th Annual DBB Downhill Race/Party: Insane Fun

On the first Friday in August each year the Dead Baby Bikes group puts on a huge race and party, showcasing some of the craziest stuff you'll see in the bicycle world. I've gone to the event twice, my first one was in '04. And I've missed it a few years as well, and have always regretted just hearing stories about what went down.

So when I saw this poster on the walk to the bus recently I was happy to be reminded that this year's edition promised to impress just like previous ones, and that I needed to go!
Yes, this monkey was ready to race.

I met my friend Matt down at the Comet on Pike St at about 6 PM, so we registered & hung out for an hour waiting for the race to beging at 7 PM. There were plenty of bikes to look at while we waited.

The crowd was getting pretty big, with most of the side-street blocked off by human traffic, music blaring. Yeah this is not your usual race.

Inside The Comet (note the dollar bills on the ceiling) to purchase my entry in the race, a DBB water bottle for all-you-can-drink beer, and a "contender" t-shirt.

The thing about this race is that you'll see all types of bikes in it: tall bikes, BMX, fixed gears, road bikes, and even ones like this:
Oh and there was at least one guy riding on rims, I heard he did the race like that.

Getting closer to the 7 PM race time - the crowd is getting thick and now blocking most of Pike St. It's gonna be a great night of all things bike.

The Downhill Race

Before too long a loud firework was set off (a tradition in this race), actually I think there were two, and it was time to race. Too bad we were still kind of in the middle of a huge crowd, with some people not even on their bikes yet.

The great thing about this race is that there's no official route, and not many if any rules. In fact the first time I did this race in 2004, we bombed down Beacon Hill to the same general area, and the race was cut off by a slow moving train. So what did some of the more daring competitors do? They threw their bikes onto the flat platforms and hopped up on them, scrambled across, and kept riding! Yeah, it's that kind of race. (The PI has a picture of this in action, here, scroll down a bit)

Here's a video of the start:

We weren't even sure of the best way to get down there until we overheard someone say something about 12th Ave to King St (skipping the stoplights on Jackson), and then a left on 6th which gets you to Airport Way and the destination of the race. Pretty much what I had in mind except skipping Jackson.

After weaving through the standing crowd I filtered through more riders in front of me, also squeezing through traffic and ran every red light in sight. We blazed down 12th Ave, and when people in front of me started slowing when crossing Boren a group behind yelled "Don't stop!!" - in this kind of race you can break any rule in the book, and running lights is part of the thrill - and sure enough we found a way through traffic and kept moving. Not the safest thing but I'm sure traffic survived the delay.

When it came time for King St nobody in front of me was taking it, a huge group was going up Beacon Hill. I don't know what flyer they saw but this is supposed to be a downhill race! Still, I took a right on King though it didn't' go all the way through like I thought, and instead dumped me on Dearborn.

There were other bikes around so I figured it couldn't have been too bad a route choice. Before too long we were on Airport Way, a flat stretch of rough road. And heading south we were going straight into a nice headwind. Actually I shouldn't say we, at this point I was alone, chasing a few rabbits up the road. I passed a few people here and there, but couldn't catch a larger group up ahead. I wondered what route they took.

I saw one rider bomb down the Lucile St ramp to Airport Way, which is really steep, blasting through a red light at what must have been at least 35-40 mph. Now there's some risk-taking for you.

Even though this was just a 5 mile race it was enough to make the legs burn, and to make the lungs beg you to quit. But I kept chugging along, catching a few riders at the bridge closer to our destination, but not making any progess on anyone else and not feeling super strong.

Once to the destination in Georgetown we saw a few "Dead Babies" waving us into a gravel alley. We made it! Here are a few riders streaming in from Airport Way:

Now in the alley, more riders showing up.
And more bikes.. bikes were coming in for what seemed like 30 minutes. On the way down I heard one guy say he had a flat but, "Fuck it, I'm riding it all the way," and surely others got lost along the way.

This guy had a nice race costume:

And this guy's bike was a portable sound system, blasting some kind of crunk-ish bass. Awesome.

The Party

No that's not a crucifix you see. This creation is four guitars connected to a drivetrain - when you pedal it strums the guitars and plays music! Put together by Cyclecide, an SF group that builds human powered awesomeness.

Or how about the merry-go-round powered by four cyclists? It was fast, as you can see in this video: (if you don't see a big video below, get Flash)

And the pedal-powered ferris wheel is always a hit.

Later on this wonderful bike showed up. Is it a group bike? Monster tall bike? Who knows, but I love it.

We made our way inside the venue to get some beer in our water bottles, and chow down on some veggie burgers. Later on in the night there was a huge line for beer, but Matt & I would just sneak around to the left and just make it happen, only taking a few minutes! I was sure to tip well even though we'd already paid for it.

BMX Tricks

The first event we saw was the BMX action. There was a set of ramps set up for BMX madness, and about 10 guys were doing some crazy stuff. As seen in the videos below.

BMX 360 on video:

And a back flip:

Or how about three 360's?

Here's a snapshot of one of their back-to-back-to-back 360 tricks. Wow. There was a dumpster turned sideways they were jumping over too.
Some impressive stuff:

Later on, the "guitar-ride" in action:

And the merry-go-round:

Bunnyhop Competition

This even featured riders trying to clear an ever-rising horizontal bar. I remember doing little 6" hops back in my BMX days as a kid, but these riders were serious about this shit! After all, most of the competitors were the same stuntmen from the BMX ramp course.

They started at about 6", and raised the bar by three inches each round. A guy on a fixed gear got pretty far into the rounds, and cleared 18" I think, pretty impressive.

Eventually it came down to two BMX guys, hopping over the bar raised up to 36" or three feet. And when they both cleared it, the judges decided to have their helpers put the bar on top of their hands, adding an inch to the height. They both cleared it, so they went to best two out of three, and they tied again. So it was best trick over the bar, as judged by crowd feedback, best two out of three. Something like that - anyway eventually there was a winner, who I think landed a 180 over the high bar.

Bunnyhop video from early in the competition:

The Bicycle Belles & B:C:Clettes

The Bicycle Belles doing a Tour de France-themed performance (the music was Kraftwerk's TdF song, I believe). Note the malloit jaune:

And here's a shot of the B:C:Clettes from Canada doing one of their dance routines:

Tallbike Joust!!!

At 12 AM or so it was the moment we'd all been waiting for. Two people face off in what is really an amazing event, and I had a front-row seat, sitting on the ground only feet from the action. Only downside to a front-row seat in this even is that there's a good chance you might have to "catch" a tallbike and/or rider coming down on you. And by catch I just must survive the impact.

The poles were about 10 feet long, with a boxing glove on the end. Only rules was aim for the chest, not the head.

Here's a video of the tall bike jousting - yes, it's as crazy as it sounds! (again if you don't have Flash, you won't see the video)

And this one featured a rider who went straight into the crowd - lucky for me it was on the other side. I missed the actual crash since I was busy watching the carnage in person.

The Ride Home

I slowly, and a little buzzed, pedaled home at about 2 AM, cutting a hilly route up 7th Ave, 6th Ave, and Yesler to Broadway. I had my new DBB water bottle, a new t-shirt, and a new appreciation for creativity in the cycling community. It was a great night.

Here is the full photo/video set from the night. The camera was running out of batteries, but it does this weird thing where I can turn it off for a while and then turn it on for 30 seconds or so, hence missing some key moments.

Of course I wasn't the only one snapping pictures. Here's what else I've found so far:

Huge thanks to the crazy mofos at Dead Baby Bikes for putting on this crazy event! I'll be out again next year for sure. If you're interested in seeing something different, it's the event for you.


Hida Yanra said...

I'll definitely be there next year- I was really sorry to miss it.

Sounds like you had a great time!

Dan O said...

I've heard about this event - had no idea it was this big and crazy. Looks like fun.

Maybe I'll check it out next year.