|Ice riders saddle up for a Tour de Chance
Studded tires help cyclists stay upright in a race called St.
Valentine's Day Massacre
Globe and Mail, February 12, 2005
By Oliver Moore
John Lindsey is praying for a cold snap this week as he gets ready for
the cycling race he has been waiting for all year. Preparing for it has
involved painstaking work: He has fit the knobby tires of his bike with
1,512 tiny screws. And to hone his racing skills, he has snuck down to
City Hall at night to practise -- on the ice rink in Nathan Phillips
Mr. Lindsey is one of dozens of ice-racers expected to compete today in
the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, an annual event that is traditionally
held on Ward's Island but in recent years has shifted to the rinks at
Dufferin Grove Park.
Participants are supposed to be coming from Montreal, Ottawa and the
United States, an organizer says, joining the local contingent as they
vie for bragging rights and small prizes.
This will be the fourth year Mr. Lindsey has raced at the park and he
says skilled ice riders can push the laws of gravity further than road
Riding on ice is disorienting at first, but "once you get used to it,
it's as good as a velodrome," he says, referring to the steeply banked
track used in some cycling races. "It's like a very, very small and
tight velodrome -- you're pretty much always in a turn."
Customized bikes and tires help. "It's something hard to grasp . . .
but you can actually hit corners better on ice with studded tires than
on the road with regular tires," he says. "After the first two
wipeouts, you find out your boundaries."
Mr. Lindsey says the first heats can be the most tense. There are a lot
of riders on the ice at once and not everyone is familiar with the
surface. Serious injuries are rare, he says, but the experience can be
unnerving for novices.
The event has been held in Toronto for at least a decade, with varying
degrees of participation and legitimacy. During recent years, it has
become more popular, but its core backers seem to cherish the outlaw
vibe that has come to be associated with it.
"What makes you think it's above ground?" counters organizer Derek
Chadbourne, sounding a bit miffed when asked when the race went
But everyone is welcome, he concedes, and it won't be strictly a
courier crowd. Entry costs will be minimal, probably in the range of $5
to $10, and money raised will go to a bike-messenger relief fund and a
Mr. Chadbourne plays down the possibility of injury and says people
with properly spiked tires should be able to keep control of their
bikes. "The only sliding that goes on is by the people who do the final
race, the rubber race, with regular tires."
Those unwilling to test their luck racing on the ice can instead join
the GoldSprints, an afternoon of competition, music and racing films at
the Harbord Street Café.
GoldSprints organizer Navid Taslimi says these are indoor races done on
fixed-gear bicycles similar to those used in the city's spinning
studios. Races are between two people at a time and anyone can step up
to try his or her luck at a 500-metre race sprint, a flat-out effort
that takes experts as little as 30 seconds.
"A lot of people are intimidated the first time they see it, but by the
second or third time, they want to hop on," he says.
Mr. Taslimi says the races can be incredibly tense despite their
brevity, with the difference between winner and loser as little as
1/100th of a second.
"It's a very popular sport right now as an underground event," he says.
"It's a big show, and the beauty of it is that it's a show that is not