Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Spin, skin and sin; roller races gone wild

Posted by on October 13th, 2008 at 11:51 am

Bright lights set the stage for cycling showmanship
at the Rapha Roller Race event Saturday night.
Slideshow below
Photo Gallery

I had never been to a roller race before, but I got a taste of what it’s all about on Friday night. At the urging of a little voice inside by head I decided to try and quality for Saturday’s main event. “500 meters? How hard could it be? You used to be a hot-shot racer. You were a sprinting specialist — try it!,” said the voice.

Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-208

I shouldn’t have listened.

Not only did I not qualify, but I needed the help and support of bystanders (thanks Elly) to keep me from completely losing it. My head spun, my stomach churned, my legs screamed.

I have to admit, part of my anticipation for Saturday’s Rapha Roller Race (held across the street and as part of the Oregon Manifest Bike Show) was to watch others suffer like I did.

There was plenty of suffering Saturday night, but it was hardly as interesting as everything else going on. Rapha put on a stellar exhibition of pedaling and pageantry that was unlike anything I’d ever seen. Teams showed up in all manner of costume, trying to outdo each other before even taking the stage.

In the green room (which reeked with a combination of icy/hot muscle cream and body odor) the athletes prepped and postured before being introduced.

Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-159 Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-155 Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-152 Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-154

Team Beer was nearly naked with tight briefs and their signature arm warmers. Gentle Lovers (men and women) wore 1980s jumpsuits about as well as you can wear them. Team Sabotage from Seattle invoked one of my favorite bands — the Beastie Boys — with their fake mustaches, dress shirts, and reflective, state trooper-issue sunglasses.

Even Team Zoobomb was there to represent (and represent they did).

Once it was showtime, the racing was brutal and the crowd was deafening.

Roller Racing at Oregon Manifest-173

As if a 20-25 second, 500 meter sprint (it’s longer and more painful than you think) wasn’t enough, once finished, each competitor had to dismount, grab a mini-bike from a pile (made possible by Zoobomb) and run a lap around the room. Rapha had set up a course complete with barricades, steep ramps, and plenty of beer-throwing maniacs.

The athletes were competing for custom frames (a Sweetpea for the ladies and a Signal for the gentlemen). So to make them earn it, the event officials added another 500 meter sprint after the mini-cross lap.

On the women’s side, Team River City’s Megan Farris pedaled to victory. Seattle-ite Craig Etheridge of Team Sabotage (who looked as if he barely broke a sweat!) stole the hometown thunder and took home the win.

Check out more sights and sounds from the action in the audio slideshow below (full photo gallery here):

I’ve also uploaded a short video to YouTube.

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  • Caroline October 13, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Spin, skin, sin… stink? You forgot that one! Oh, and WIN! Congrats to Megan and Craig!

    Thanks everyone for coming it was great to see you!

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  • Joe October 13, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Craig Etheridge monster! man.

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  • chuck October 13, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    too bad it was $10 to get in, and there was no entry granted to exhibitors. looks like it could have been fun.

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  • Jeff TB October 13, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Great times! Team Sabotage, you’re welcome to Portland anytime!

    Can’t wait for the next roller race. Based on the crowd that was there, I don’t think I’m the only one.

    Start planning Rapha.

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  • Barbara Kilts October 13, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Looks like a fun, wacky time! Would it be less fun if the the racers actually rode the rollers, sans fork supports? I ‘spose watching a bunch of kids falling off rollers just would not do it, or maybe it would be a hoot!


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  • somebody but nobody October 13, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    ? nice spectacle ?
    free 3 $ beers?
    Enough drunken vein yahoos and rapha logos to make me want to barf my free 3$ beer. Bike culture; I don’t get it. Have you seen how much a rapha t-shirt costs?

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  • Funny... October 14, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Yea, Rapha is kinda funny. They make some nice crap. But it is all really expensive, and lots of it is made in CHINA?!? WTF?

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  • girl-shawn October 14, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    While I would’ve loved to have competed for an awesome SweetPea bike, I’m kinda happy I didn’t go. $10 to get in, no break for bike builders, and I even heard the Rapha event managers were sour grumps to local coordinators.

    There’s a great creative culture here, and most of those who’re part of it are poor or live simply. I know that “Ralpha”‘s trying to make portland its portal for hoity-toity bike goods, but if they wanna fit in here, they’ll need to mellow out on our awesome malcontents, be a little more laid-back, and make things cheaper/free.

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  • gabriel amadeus October 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I second actually riding the rollers, including the front wheel. Maybe even add some resistance, what a concept!

    I was pretty sick of the snotty attitude of everyone as well. Hassled by doorman–sunglasses and a trenchcoat? Really? Then I was in the team room and they wouldn’t even let me out to GO PEE! They “wanted to hide the teams until they were called out”. And unless you could see the bike’s grips, you couldn’t tell which racer was ahead. And then it ended @ 11:30pm!!!! $10 for a 3 hour party? What?!

    Hell, even Salt Lake City does it better, movies and roller races monthly:

    This pretty much sums up what I think about Ralpha:

    So, sorry for the rant, let’s do this better! Anyone want to step up and organize a monthly roller race? Maybe at Plan B? Can’t be that hard…

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 14, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    gabe… I think riding the rollers with both wheels would be pretty dangerous once drinking, cheering, and all-out exertion are involved. .. not saying it would be cool… just saying it would be dicey.

    as for the ‘tude of the event. I was sorry to hear about that as well (a few folks shared feelings about it with me at the event).

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  • Caroline October 14, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Gabriel, I suggest you speak to the organizers of this weekend’s roller races to ask about how “easy” it is to put on a quality event. From where I stood it didn’t look easy at all, or cheap. Credit where it’s due: it was another great Rapha event.

    I didn’t encounter a single snot. The Rapha crew are a pleasure to work with, and the crowd who turned out were great fun as well. I’m sorry some people had a hard time with the door man.

    Yeah, it’d be great to see more races like it, I’d go to every one, but I’m not sure it can be done better! (The SLC photos left my jury hung.)

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  • chuck October 14, 2008 at 3:38 pm


    I’ve been to multiple events that Gabriel has had a hand in organizing, and I can assure you that much fun was had, without ANY cover charge. It’s possible. you just have to think outside the box.

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  • gabriel amadeus October 14, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Jonathan #10:
    Yeah, that’s the point! Okay, okay, liability, I get it…

    Caroline #11:
    Don’t need any lessons on how hard it is to put on events. I respect all that Rapha put together for this – that which was seen, (their big logo and clock) and that which was not seen (hollywood lighting is very expensive and leftbank has tough event policies). There were many things done very right that night, but I think the ones that weren’t overshadowed the rest. For me at least.

    I would normally just write this off as a result of Team Beer’s liberal pours earlier that day, but I’ve heard the sentiment echoed from several people.

    But whatever, all I hope is that Rapha takes this into consideration for their next event. If there is anything that makes a good event organizer it is willingness to listen to feedback after the fact.

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  • froot dawg October 15, 2008 at 12:04 am

    thank you rapha for a great fun time and my best finish ever (third) mabye if all the people that had a gripe offered to help you could lower the price to get in who knows! what i do know is that i a good solid “C” racer beat Shannon Skerrit and Tony Kick! you should have seen that! that was worth 10 bucks in my book!!! BEEEEER!!!!

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  • thinker October 15, 2008 at 6:40 am

    caroline must be getting a ton of free products from rapha………or $$$$. ha!

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  • Sally...The Chief October 15, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Thanks to all for a great overall weekend. The bikes were beautiful, the Roller Race amazing, and the cross scene…127 riders in the SS Category?! For Real?!
    With any event there will be gripes. Just be thankful that we all live in an area of the coutnry where we even have bicycle events like this to gripe about.
    Look forward to seeing ya’ll at SSCXWC.

    Team Sabotage

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  • Pigeon October 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    A couple of thoughts. . .

    The security people were dicks. That was unfortunate, but the hiring of outside security was a stipulation forced upon the organizers by the building owner. I can assure you that the Rapha folks were as dismayed about that situation as anybody else.

    As for the gripes about the cost of the event, sorry, but no sympathy here. Sometimes entertainment costs money. Been to a movie lately? Done a bike race lately? Ever go to a Blazers game?

    I just don’t get the sense of entitlement that one must hold in order to criticize an event like this for charging to get in the door. I’m baffled. Don’t want to pay? Don’t go. It’s simple.

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  • carey sh October 16, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Carey here from Rapha – first and foremost, I and everyone at Rapha, want to sincerely apologize for the unfriendly doormen. As was mentioned above we were required to use these men by the managers/owners of the building; we had no idea they were going to be so aggressive and out of place. If we had our wish, friendly people of the community would have greeted everyone. Again, we apologize for this unfortunate experience to just get in.

    Also, we want to thank everyone that came out and made the night great! All the participants and spectators were really amazing and made for a very unique night.

    On the cost side of things, just read Pigeon’s comment, he/she put it nicely: “Sometimes entertainment costs money. Been to a movie lately? Done a bike race lately? Ever go to a Blazers game?”

    I (carey) didn’t even think twice about laying down $22 dollars the next day to race my cross bike for 45min. Pay to ride my bike? What am I thinking? – I was happy to pay because I understand how much energy, logistical planning, and expenses it takes to put on a quality event. Anyhow, like Sally mentioned above, there will be gripes, there will be celebrations, there will be memories, but in the end we all have fun whether we go to a Roller Race event or not.

    Again, a thousands thank-you’s to everyone involved and who came out to make a night of roller racing a blast!


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  • john October 16, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Roller Race, it is not, rather this is a bike trainer race! Ahh how exciting. racing on a bike trainers!

    it’s not a roller race unless they are actually riding rollers. and it would 5x more exciting… if they don’t have the skill to ride rollers, well then, they aren’t going to win.

    As far as being dangerous: Ahh No. you just come off the rollers and then you put your foot down so you don’t fall over. The secret to making it even safer would be to have a column, wall, chair, etc. to put your hand on.

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  • tr October 16, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    HA! this is awesome! Someone called Gabe on organizing “a quality event”! I’m at a loss as to where to begin.

    Um…how about this: Gabe has pretty much single-handedly organized dozens of events that run the entire spectrum of bike related activities and some non-bike related ones as well.

    Now here’s the catch they were all FREE for participants!!!!!!!! (though Gabe definitely invested much of his time and some money)

    Maybe all you should just keep shelling out your expendable income on “entertainment” while the people who put the “culture” in “bike culture” keep raising the bar.

    Here is just a sample list of events Gabe has organized, participated in, or been a driving force behind. These are just the ones I know about. There are probably many more.

    Ambassadorial bike trip to Vancouver Canada for the Bikes inside weekend. (Over 15 people made it there and back)

    Chariot Wars Minibike winter

    Many Pedalpalooza events

    Outdoor Movie ride in washington park

    Zoobomb Century (organized and Won)

    Pipebomb (organized and raced)

    Zoobomb booth at the Oregon Handbuilt bike show (Organized and built many of the bikes)


    The Freakin’ World Naked Bike ride (that was the one he had the least creative control over but still rocked)

    Zoobomb Century

    Team Zoobomb Gravity bike racing at the IGSA races at Maryhill

    If you want to find out more, just search his name on here and you’ll find many, many stories about his accomplishments.

    Anyway if you knew Gabe you would take his critiques to heart.

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