Sunday Sixer beginning

One of the most exciting parts of the fixed-gear scene is the races, called alleycat races.

These races are usually between 15 and 25 miles long and are based on checkpoints. Sometimes the checkpoint will just have the map to the next checkpoint, but sometimes the checkpoint will involve a task such as getting a signature or chugging a beer.

“They’re supposed to be a replication of what a messenger might do,” says Matt Bort, who has organized a race himself.

These races are usually announced through online forums and local bikes shops and bars, but most information travels by word of mouth.

Matt says people will often come into the bike shop he works at and ask about upcoming races.

Winning these races takes much more than physical fitness, says Chris Williams, who has participated is several alleycats. You have to be quick, but also knowledgeable about the routes.

“You have to read a map at full speed,” he says. “There’s a lot of room for mistakes.”

Getting lost during the race can be especially disheartening, Chris says. He recently found himself alone during a race in Gainesville, Fla.

One trick is to follow the local riders, "but sometimes even that fails," Chris said.

The races can also be dangerous, as they will often run riders through traffic like actual bike messengers. People will take stupid chances, like a girl at a recent race in St. Petersburg, Fla., who was hit by a sport-utility vehicle, Chris says.

“Prevention is the most important thing,” he says.

After the races there is usually a party where everyone can have a few beers, talk about bikes and even compete in other skill contests, like the longest skid.

My Sunday Sixer

The one race I've participated in was called a sunday sixer., in Jacksonville, Fla.

The idea was simple. There were six checkpoints, and you had to chug a beer before you could leave the checkpoint and move to the next.

This would fine, except I wasn't very familiar with the race route.

The organizers handed out maps at the beginning of the race, but they were blurry and some of the roads on the map didn't exist in real life.

For the first three checkpoints I felt like I was becoming stronger with each stop. That ended fairly quickly, however.

I passed the fourth checkpoint in a haze while trying to read my map, ride my bike as fast as I could and not die.

The fourth checkpoint was at a local bar. When I finally reached it, the keepers of the cooler treated me to stories of the how the lead riders were throwing up in the plants before I got there.

The fifth checkpoint was probably the nicest, as I realized I was so far behind there was really no need to rush. I got to have a nice conversation with the organizers and they told me about a recent race in Gainesville.

After all was said and done, I ended up passing two checkpoints, having to double back over a bridge and finally finishing dead last.

My only saving grace was that I kept my beer in my belly and not on the sidewalk like most of the lead pack.