Alley Cat Racing: The New Extreme Sport?
    2012-03-21 14:39:04      Web Editor: Duan Xuelian
For the highlight of Beijing's first annual Bike Week, CRI's William Wang participated in the Alley Cat bike race.

William Wang gets his race on for CRI, at the Beijing Bike Week Alley Cat race.

by William Wang

I mentioned to my brother that I was going to participate in an alley cat bike race. "Alley cat bike race? What's that?" he asked.

"It's this race where everyone rides through downtown Beijing to three or six checkpoints before returning to the starting place. But it's kinda crazy 'cause everyone rides in traffic. So it could be a bit dangerous."

My brother paused a moment before responding, "That's stupid. I don't think you should do it."

The race was the highlight of Beijing's first Bike Week, and I was a bit nervous since I'd decided to participate. In competitions people can push themselves harder than they'd thought possible, which is great. Except that my direct experience is that in the streets of Beijing, the faster I ride, the more dangerous it is. And in the past my easygoing attitude has been crushed by the surge of adrenalin that organized competition brings about.

I heard that somebody got hospitalized last year. I was worried. What could I do to protect myself? I checked to find out if my health insurance was operational yet, and was told "not yet." I had another idea: invite friends. Then I could transform the race into a leisurely social outing. It wasn't too hard to convince a couple couples since amazingly the race was free, thanks to organizers Selkirk and China Bikers.

Saturday afternoon, me and my crew of four ogled all the fancy two-wheeled machines haphazardly scattered on the sidewalk. The minimalist fixed gear bikes that have come to stereotype hipsters won a clear majority. But I'd been to races before and knew that people with good equipment aren't necessarily any better than people without.

Ten minutes before the start, maps were passed out, revealing the destinations. The rules were yelled out to the restless contestants who had trouble staying behind the starting line. Six check points. Three for the short course. Any order. At each station, complete a mystery task. Get your map stamped, and continue.

After a couple exhilarating false starts, about 150 riders all charged off in a rush of mass disorganization.

The mass of bikes had momentarily overwhelmed car traffic and surged forward, its constituents hooting and hollering. My friend Craig materialized beside me and he astonished everyone by sprinting ahead of the pack on his rather uncool beater bike. He faded after a minute, panting, "I just had to show them I could do it."

At the first red light, a few riders stopped. Some darted ahead through gaps in traffic. Most veered right.

Me and Craig sat around an interminable two minutes before our group re-coalesced, and we hit the asphalt again. Our frantic map-planning now seemed irrelevant as it suddenly seemed more effective to yell at each other.

"I'm going left!"

"Don't go left! The main road is faster!"
"I'm going left!"

After 15 minutes, we arrived at the Workers Stadium, along with a handful of other riders. There was terrible confusion trying to decipher the task at hand, partly due to my inadequate Chinese, but it seemed that every rider was as baffled as I.

We had to find some hidden Post-it notes, and report the numbers written on them to the race officials with the stamps. It took a long time. I gave up after five minutes, waiting for someone else to complete the task. Someone did. And after another three minutes of waiting for our friend Yulong to reappear, we headed off.

On this stretch, we did spot one race casualty, a guy sitting on the curb, holding a blood-spotted napkin on his leg. Nothing serious, but nonetheless a good reminder not to ride any stupider than usual.

The second checkpoint task involved carrying two eggs to another mystery address before carrying them back to the original spot. Tragically, broken eggs were spotted, raising questions about disqualification.

The final stop was the national art gallery. Sprinting down the narrow alleyway, I incessantly rang my bell in such a way as to instill panic in pedestrians.

I luxuriated in screaming past a couple green lights, and arrived at the gallery in good time. A race official handed me a jar of beans, and said some stuff in Chinese.

"Do I have to?" I asked, and he affirmed that yes I had to.

They didn't look very good, but I popped a few into my mouth, which caused him and the other officials to start yelling at me. Oh. Uncooked beans are not slated to enter mouth.

I soon found out that we were supposed to count the beans. That seemed much more hygienic. My friends and I counted out 128 of them on the sidewalk (yuck), and hit the road one last time for the final stretch.

When I pulled up to the finish line, one or two people were standing there and one of them might have clapped. I was asked to produce my map with its required stamps, and I confessed that I'd lost it. My friend pulled up just after me, and shrugged that he'd lost his too.

"Sorry," apologized an organizer, as if we'd be bothered not to get an official placing. As if we were trying to win something. I was happy that I'd raced and not crashed. Yes, we'd broken a few traffic laws, but nothing that would be considered really inappropriate by Beijing standards.

Of course Carly was mad that her husband Craig hassled her to hurry up for the whole race, almost getting them killed crossing an intersection in a zigzag formation; but generally everyone enjoyed a drop of adrenaline in our afternoon tea.

Now the full-length course seems more tempting. Those hardcore riders got to do distasteful tasks such as catching poor little goldfish with their hands, while completing a 50 km course.

I hear that unsurprisingly, there were a number of spills in the course of the race, but nothing really bad. Probably nothing any worse than the crash I had myself as I hurried to my post-race appointment. Which did hurt, and did draw blood. But if it had happened during the race, at least it would have seemed more purposeful, and less like a bad literary device.


         claims the copyright of all material and information produced originally by our staff. No person, organization and/or company shall reproduce, disseminate or broadcast the content in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of holds neither liability nor responsibility for materials attributed to any other source. Such information is provided as reportage and dissemination of information but does not necessarily reflect the opinion of or endorsement by CRI.

• Mount Emei Celebrates Lantern Festival
At the night of February 10th, the night before the Lantern Festival, Mount Emei holds its annual lighting ceremony at the Dafo Temple. The ceremony attracts many people, who express expectation on well-being.
• Spring Snow at Mount Emei
Mount Emei has its first snowfall after the Start of Spring on the lunar calendar.
• More than 200,000 Tourists Visit Mount Emei During Spring Festival
More than 200,000 tourists visit Mount Emei during the Spring festival this year. The accurate number of tourists is 214,389, marking an increase of 12 percent compared with that of last year. The ticket revenue is 26 million yuan, increasing by 9.8 percent on a year basis.
• 2th International Micro-film of China National Film Festival Held in Xi'an
The second international microfilm ceremony of the China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival was held in Xi'an, the capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on January 19, 2017. More than 500 cineastes from around the world attended the ceremony.
• Chinas 1st Large-Scale Snow Field Pets Festival Xiling Snow Mountain Pets Festival
On January 10, the 17th Southern China Snow and Ice Festival kicks off in Xiling Snow Mountain of Chengdu, Sichuan.
• Xiling Snow Mountain Launches Campaign of 'Love for Stray Dogs'
On January 10, the 1st Xiling Snow Mountain Pets Festival kicks off. A campaign called 'Love for Stray Dogs' is launched.

Travel Videos
• Leshan Releases Tourism Promotion Video

Leshan city in southwest China's Sichuan province releases a tourism promotion video to attract global tourists.

• Time Out Beijing Food Awards 2014: Leaning Towards Luxury
Beijingers take their food seriously, but on April 29th at the Time Out Beijing Food Awards...
• Chopsticks & Beyond, Back at the Farm
Chopsticks & Beyond takes a trip to Tootoo Organic Farm.
• Chopsticks & Beyond Mixed with Chinese and Italian
C&B invited Italian chef Mattia Salussoglia  and local chef Wei Han to teach each other how to cook a dish from their home country.

Editor's Pick
• Special Event Offers Culinary Surprises and More
Beijing's high end food scene is hardly a well-kept secret. Unless, that is, you're talking about Time Out Beijing's Kitchen X event, which was held this past Saturday evening. The event was bravely billed as the ultimate dining experience. While that may be debatable, the event was definitely unique one. Diners signed up for the 888 rmb dinners, not knowing where they would go, what they would eat, or who they would eat with.
• 15 Artworks Stolen from Chinese Museum in France
15 pieces of art have been stolen from a Chinese museum south of Paris, including a cloisonn vase from Emperor Qianlong's reign during China's Qing Dynasty. There was also a replica crown of the King of Siam given to France's emperor in the mid-19th century.
• Former TV Anchor on Crusade against Pollution
A former celebrity TV presenter has released a self-funded documentary about smog, inspired by her sick daughter.
• Chopsticks & Beyond: On Track in Tianjin
Chopsticks & Beyond took to Tianjin last Friday, where the cooking show invited a number of food industry professionals to take part in the Tianjin Snack Attack contest.
• Hilton Beijing "Fly Me to Hawaii" Food Festival Launch Party
Hilton Beijing and the Hilton Worldwide portfolio of hotels & resorts in Hawaii, together with Hawaiian Airlines have unveiled plans for a "Fly Me To Hawaii".

The Sound Stage
China Revealed
My Chinese Life
Photo Gallery
Learn Chinese
"In" Chinese
Chatting in Chinese
Pop Culture
Traditional Culture
Living Chinese
Chinese Studio
Chinese Class
Learn English
Special English
Pop Chart
Everyday English
Fabulous Snaps
CRI News  | Xinhua  | People's Daily Online   |  | China Daily  |  Global Times  | China Job  |  China Tibet Online  |  | eBeijing  | Beijing Today  | China-Eurasia Expo  | APEC Yiwu Conference  | Chinese Embassy in S.Africa  | Chinese Embassy in Australia  | Chinese Embassy in NZ