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Riding the Powderhorn 24

Riding the Powderhorn 24

Riding in Minneapolis' Powderhorn 24 bike race stands out as one of the most fun events I've been involved in by bike—ever. The field of riders is men, women, teams, solo riders, unicycles, recumbents, road bikes, touring bikes, folding bikes, fixies, single-speeds, etc, etc. All riding together... for 24 hours. The wide range of cyclists and wheels big and small all riding together made a bit of a party out of it (to say nothing of the hundreds of people camped along the Greenway's start/finish area). Trapped together in the maze of the Powderhorn neighborhood, we all shared an intense need to keep going and going and going. Minneapolis bike culture at its best!

Calhoun Cycle owner Luke Breen rides his recumbent in the 2012 Powderhorn 24

The route was simple, or so it seemed. There was about a 5 mile loop that started and finished on the greenway. The loop (or lap) was a fairly straightforward ride that made a rectangular pattern out in the open streets (not a closed race course) around Powderhorn Park. The lap had 4 checkpoints that you had a hole punched on your lap counting card that we were all wearing as necklaces. If you missed a checkpoint, the next checkpoint would not give you a punch and this way it was obvious that everyone was hitting all checkpoints every lap.

When I signed up I didn't pay attention to anything beyond it being a 24 hour ride. Upon learning about the checkpoints I thought it was something a bit different than I imagined and I considered bailing out, but thanks to peer pressure (I signed up with a friend whom I had done a 24 hour ride with once before) I kept my doubts somewhat in check. After finding out we wouldn't just have our laps counted, we'd have bonus checkpoints throughout the 24 hours within a mile of the route, I worried we were on the verge of a potential disaster. Truth: the last 24 hour ride Derek and I did together led to us making some irrational decisions starting at about 14 hours in and were pretty much completely delirious for the last 8 hours (and that was a simple ride to Duluth and back!).

The roll out with a few hundred spectators cheering the couple hundred riders was exciting and we quickly got into a rhythm and discovered that even with all the stops, we were able to keep up a decent pace and within a couple of laps we had a route that was making sense to us. An hour in and we had over 15 miles under our belts and then we get handed a manifest with our fist 5 bonus stops (each with 2 hours windows to stop at them).

The bonuses forced us to start thinking beyond the laps. We had to go to a Beehive where we added antennas to our helmets to turn us into bees (worker bees, for sure), did a karaoke stint to Rocket Man, raced through a little obstacle course on a tiny kids bike, rode a lap on a Nice Ride, did yoga, played out a bit of an operetta (I was Crete, stirring up the seas), tried a little bike polo on my recumbent, wrote a Haiku, learned about in-season veggies at the Midtown Farmers Market, etc, etc. Phew!

The bonus (!) of the bonus stops was that they kept us sane (though they were mostly doing things that took me out of my comfort zone) and the constant encouragement and socializing with other riders kept up our pace and sometime Saturday morning we had ridden a double century and a triple seemed do-able. How cool is this, eh? Things continued going smoothly for us and while we didn't make the triple, we did end up clocking 275 miles over a total of 51 official laps.

The final lap was glorious in that the "race" was over and all the riders were content with simply finishing off the lap (only full laps were counted) and celebrating an amazing accomplishment. Thanks to all who came out to cheer us on, to the organizers and volunteers of the Powderhorn 24, and to our fellow riders!

Post-race group shot from the Powderhorn 24. A crowd of participants pose with their bicycles on a hill along the Greenway in Minneapolis

Here's some video that I shot:

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