You are on one of two identical bicycles that are locked into identical trainers. Two identical bike computers are synchronized and the countdown begins. Three, two…(you stand up on the pedals, tensed and at the ready)…one, go! You and your opponent drop your heads and pull on the handlebars, hammering the pedals as hard as you can as if you are trying to keep up with freeway traffic. Holding onto the front wheel, and sometimes the handlebar, is someone helping to keep the bike steady as your Herculean efforts threaten to rock the bike right out of the trainer. There’s another countdown, and you hit the brakes when time is called and stop the rear wheel. The bike computers are compared and the person who traveled the farthest is declared the winner. It’s all over in the longest 60 seconds you’ll ever spend on a bike—unless you win.
Wednesday Night Bike Fights are held at 8:00 pm on the first Wednesday of each month at Soulful Soups and Spirits, 117 N. Howard in Spokane. It’s put on by Lauren D’Arienzo of Soulful Soups and Chris Walmsley of The Bike Hub in downtown Spokane. This is not intended to be a wintertime, off-season, oddball cycling fad thing. D’Arienzo, an avid cyclist herself, says she will host the event as long as people turn out for it. The $10 entry fee includes two beers so you can carbo-load and hydrate (kinda sorta) before, during, or after your race. Or, if you win, races. It’s a single elimination tournament. Depending on the number of participants, the finalists could race up to four times.
How serious was the racing last December 4th? Serious enough for Allison Chauvin and several others to compete in blue jeans, for Nigel Davies to sport boxer shorts, and for John Kercher to wear a skin-tight triathlete jersey along with an aerodynamic time trial helmet—backwards. While it is all in good fun, understating the efforts of the participants would be a great disservice to them. A minute doesn’t sound like much, but going all out for that amount of time is more taxing than you think. The time does not pass as quickly as you’d expect. It was not uncommon to hear a rider groan in disbelief and shake his head when “thirty seconds!” was called.
The intensity level in the place skyrocketed as the riders bore down on the pedals and spectators yelled encouragement. In one of the first-round races, Phil Sandifur and John Martinek ended up in a tie. After a two-minute rest, they raced again, thankfully for only 15 seconds, and John was declared the winner. John and his son, Alex, both made it to the second round before they were overcome. Allison Chauvin came out on top of the four women who competed. John Kercher wore his time trial helmet into the third round where Nigel bested him. Meanwhile, Levi Guthmiller quietly and effectively eliminated his competitors, scoring just over a half mile of distance each time. He and Nigel, also a half-miler, faced off for the final.
There was no trash talk; only quiet and intense concentration. Shirts came off, deep breaths were taken, and both men selected their starting gear. They swung their pedals backward to their starting positions, the computers were zeroed out, and they stood up on the pedals for the countdown. Starting off in a high gear, both of them strained through a couple of pedal strokes and quickly got up to speed, shifting into higher gears until they topped out. Spectators and defeated competitors yelled encouragement and both competitors responded. But there can be only one winner. Finally, time was called and Levi was announced as the winner. Out of breath and showing the wear of four races, both men shook hands and took a few breaths before easing off their bikes.
The winners receive a medal of sorts, but there’s a catch that goes with it. The men’s and women’s winners – technically, I suppose, they are undefeated champions – each receive a bike chain to wear around their necks. A cassette from a rear wheel hangs down as a medallion. The catch is that each winner returns the award with another bike part attached. Nigel, the November winner, zip tied a brake handle to it.
Show up for the races on Jan. 8 (the 1st is a holiday) to see what Levi adds. And while you’re there, you might as well give it a shot and have some fun. Regardless of how you do there are no losers because you get to enjoy a couple of beers and friendly competition. Whether or not you race, cheer the racers on. They are working very hard for nothing more than bragging rights.