Close to 150 bicyclists gathered on the corner of 14th and Madison on Capitol Hill to compete in this third annual and very illegal event. When the gun sounded at 8 p.m. sharp, contestants blasted down the hill in an all-out race (traffic and intersections be damned) to the alleyway behind the Rendezvous Lounge in Belltown. There were no set routes or rules -- just get to the Rendezvous in the shortest time, and, if possible, in one piece.
"Actually there's one rule," says Dave Ranstrom, owner of the Dead Baby Bicycle Shop. "'No eye-gouging.' Contestants are also asked to sign a waiver that says something like, 'I'm a bad-ass motherfucker, and not a sissy who would sue if I get hurt' -- but that's pretty much all that's required." The Dead Baby Bicycle Race is kind of a punk rock Critical Mass -- but without the political agenda. Its sole purpose is to burn off the seemingly endless energy of bike messengers and their friends. And because of its illegal status, the race is strictly hush-hush and advertised by word of mouth.
"I mean we would do it legally if we could. But it's just too expensive to hold a legal race in this town," Ranstrom says. "Once the city gets involved, there's permits, and insurance, and the roads have to be blocked off. So far we haven't had too many problems with the police... unless you count our first year, when we accidentally raced into the Torchlight parade and knocked over a couple of motorcycle cops. They weren't so happy."
Though accidents have been rare in the race's short history, this year's ended in a doozy. Downhill winner Tony Reed, who -- arms held high -- crossed the finish line in four minutes, 20 seconds, was knocked off his bike by a reeling drunk getting 86'd from the Rendezvous. Though Tony was taken away on a stretcher and strapped into a neck brace, he escaped with only a few stitches and a missing tooth. He was riding again by Monday. At this point organizers can only assume Reed will be defending his crown next summer -- or (hush-hush) whenever the Dead Baby rides again.