By Guy Still, WCCO-TV

On any other Saturday, the Sunrise Inn only has a handful of salty regulars from the neighborhood, sipping coffee or 3.2 beers while swapping stories. But this wasn’t any other Saturday, and anyone passing by could tell. Dozens of bikes leaned against the neighborhood bar, while other steel steeds were secured to nearby poles and trees.

Inside, the small griddle was hot, sizzling with thick slices of bacon, premade burger patties and buns, while the baskets of the small fryer were constantly being dunked with new fries for the hungry mustached masses. A lone bartender manned every position behind the bar, while another guy acted as his assistant, grabbing slices of bread and wiping down counters, but never touching the register, taps or griddle. Cyclists were staging for the 2014 Homie Fall Fest.

Gallery: Homie Fall Fest 2014

 

(credit: Guy Still)

(credit: Guy Still)

This ride is like no other. There is no pre-registration or established course. The starting location remained a mystery until 14 hours prior, coming out via a single tweet Friday night. Despite that, about 100 cyclists were in the pack, which rolled out of the Nokomis neighborhood watering hole around 1 p.m. Single speeds are encouraged, and almost everyone obliged.

Given the ride’s proximity to Halloween, a good number of participants were in costume. Superheroes, priests and cartoon characters cranked on single-speeds and fat bikes as they were led into Minnehaha Park. As the procession wound into the lower depths of the park, some cyclists rode down stone stairwells while those of us less daring took a more manageable path. It was time for a derby.

A bike derby isn’t unlike its roller skating counterpart: Cyclists ride in a circle, attempting to knock opponents off of their bikes. When your foot hits the ground you’re out. As the number of remaining cyclists dwindle, the crush of spectators crowd in. No king would be crowned this derby, as the final competitors piled into a heap, simultaneously falling off their bikes.

(credit: Guy Still)

(credit: Guy Still)

From here cyclists were led down technically challenging descents. Many of the riders are industry and racing professionals, handling these challenges with gusto and relative ease. Others chose to walk bikes down steep slopes onto more stable ground. The group snaked on, deeper into the woods along the river bottoms, in search of the next challenge.

A large downed tree was the location of the next Feat of Strength. Riders attempt to ride the length of the fallen log, with the winner having traveled the furthest. After 30 minutes of successes and failures, leaders of the organized chaos yelled it was time to move on.

Beaten down hiking trails became the home of individual and relay races. The occasional dog and owner would stumble upon the brood of bikers, a bit dumbfounded at the spectacle. Organizers were sure to yell when non-participants were coming, in order to ensure they safely made it through the gauntlet of grunge. Before racing began, bikers attempted to ride a steep leaf-covered ravine, often resulting in a crash. Onlookers encouraged successful rides, while booing others who weren’t so fortunate.

The last location included another derby and more Feats of Strength, challenging riders to attempt things which would be preceded by the message “Do not attempt this at home” if broadcast on television.

As the sun fell beyond the horizon, fires were stoked and the crowd dwindled. Others hunkered down, prepared for hours of socializing with old and new friends.

If bike rides were film genres, the annual Homie Fall Fest would be a cult classic. The ride will certainly never be a part of the cycling mainstream, and I think the organizers would have it no other way.

(credit: Guy Still)

(credit: Guy Still)

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