(Photos © J. Maus)
Three full days of mini bikes, tall bikes, freak bikes, parties, and an international crowd of spectators and competitors helped make the fifth annual Mini Bike Winter (hosted by Zoobomb) a raging success.
Crews came from Vancouver (BC), Seattle, Santa Cruz and Australia to take part in what has become a two-wheeled spectacle without equal.
The action started on Friday with the Badass Challenge where competitors do a reverse-Zoobomb (from the Pyle at SW 10th and Oak to the top of The Hill in Washington Park). This is a five mile uphill race, and it’s not for the faint of lung — especially on 16″ wheeled kids bikes!
Scott Nowicki came out on top for the second year in a row, but it was the pedaling prowess of veteran ‘Bomber Solid Gold that wowed the crowd. He became the first rider to ever complete the course on a mini-mini 12″ bike. In Solid Gold’s words, “it’s the type of race that leaves you gasping and puking…pure badassness.”
The other events of Friday night — the Skate Bomb and the Gravity Bike Race — were all about speed. In order to protect the innocent, I won’t publish the top speeds I heard about; but trust me, it was faster than most of us have gone on our regular bikes.
With a reported 250 people up on The Hill, Friday was a great start to Mini Bike Winter V.
Saturday was Medieval Day and the event we’d all been waiting for: Ben Hurt II, the Chariot Wars.
It began with a convivial brunch in North Portland where steeds and gladiators showed off their chariots and came together to fuel up before their battles.
“Beef Cake Patty Wagon”
was made out of steel,
angle-iron bed rails.
The chariots ranged in quality from a converted shopping cart, to plywood and 2×4 fours, to fully welded and enclosed steel units (complete with protruding saw blades). The excitement grew as team after team assembled; the Pedalphiles, North Freak Cyclists, Laurelwood Dropouts, Team Dethwish, The Dead Babies.
As things got underway at an undisclosed former industrial site on the Willamette River, it was clear this would be an event to remember. This year there were more chariots, more competitors and the battle was one for the ages.
The rules were simple, there were no rules. The object was to survive. The last team standing would take home the coveted Ben Hurt Cup. To win it, you had to endure what must have seemed like an eternity of brutality. Implements of all types (padded of course) were swung, others were used to hook and pull gladiators from their chariots. Meanwhile, roving hordes of malicious spectators dumped oil on competitors, shot Roman Candles, bottle rockets, and smoke bombs and basically made life a living hell for those still mounted on their chariots.
The sheer determination and unrelenting will of the gladiators and their steeds to maintain forward momentum was inspirational to all who witnessed it. Despite seemingly insurmountable odds and the wrath of crazed crowds hell-bent on destruction, the competitors survived, with valor, lap after lap.
In the end, there could only be one champion team, but everyone that did battle deserves high honors and a place among Ben Hurt Chariot War legends.
But even wounds and battle-weary bodies couldn’t stop Saturday night’s party from raging until sunrise.
From all accounts it was a special night. Attendees reveled in the debut of the Zoobomb Cover Band and Chain Reaction (Portland’s new all-male bike dance troupe), and the Mini Bike Winter Fashion Show was a big hit.
But the fun wasn’t over yet: Sunday was the all-important Mini Bike Winter Olympics.
The event took place on the Eastbank Esplanade amid huge crowds of sun-seeking Portlanders. Hundreds of people — spectators and competitors alike — shared in a picture-perfect Portland day.
The contests included bike derbys, a blind race, bike limbo a chicken race (racing on a mini with someone on your back), flatland race, and more. We were also treated to a Sprockettes performance and the traditional Cupcake Challenge, where a few brave souls launched bikes off the boat ramp into the frigid Willamette River just north of the Hawthorne Bridge.
After the Cupcake Challenge, it was time to warm up and then get back up on The Hill for more Zoobomb races and mini-bike shenanigans.
It was by all accounts a mind-blowing weekend (and I didn’t even get to the parties). What I’ll remember most — besides all the fantastic exploits, crazy bikes and people — is how the culture and community around Zoobomb seemed to flourish in all sorts of new and exciting directions right before my eyes.
I’m still uploading photos, but here are the galleries I’ve published so far: