The Toronto Story

by Pete Lord and Derek Chadbourne

Lost Cat , Mid-Winter, 1998

D.C. Guru Shawn Bega has posited that as early as 1810, before Europehad bicycles, the armies of the Qing Dynasty in China were sending messagesto their troops by bicycle. We have to assume that, were there two or moreof these ur-messengers, they raced one another on Fridays after work.

Through the French Postís non-pedal Stiffwalkers" of the 1830'sand the British newspaper and bakery delivery bikes of the 1870's and onto what we now know as bicycle despatch.

The first Alleycat was in the summer of 1985 in Toronto. Ronny Munroeand Marshall Sukoluk ran the race from a bar or Marshall's backyard, dependingon who you believe, to promote Marshall's distribution company. Six racersstarted and Gary Rothenberger was the first Alleycat victor.

The race as we know it was born Hellowe'en, 1987. This time it was Toronto'scappuccino supremo, John Jet Fuel and Lance Catrullo, The recorded winner,stat fans, was Dave Fix-My- Bike, who was dressed as Batman.

Hellowe'en '93 presented the most legendary street race. The coursewas "out of control by all accounts and finished with the racers climbinga 70 ramp to a first floor warehouse with an indoor wooden track. Saidtrack was just being completed as the race set off and the engineers whodesigned it had not reckoned on riders going quite so far up the steepbanking. A low hanging pipe near the roof turned several contenders intocasualties, Three bands played and 300 revellers and racers went through15 kegs of beer (at 56.8 litres each, mind), John Jet Fuel's explanationto the police, "it was a community event, officer" was acceptedand nobody has looked back since. Hellowe'en '95 saw 93 starters in therace and over 400 people at the party.

By now, TO was holding annual races on closed downtown streets in broaddaylight where the police and fire departments raced a lite beer versionof an Alleycat against messengers to huge crowds of spectators. If theidea was becoming more legitimate during the day, it had to go furtherout at night. Right out onto frozen Lake Ontario.

Valentineís Day '96 and the race's first checkpoint was a surprise figureof eight track built of chainsaw-sculpted 800 lb, ice blocks, Valentine'sDay '97 attracted 35 racers in studded and non- studded tyre categories,featured fire sculptures, torches for late night light and barrels of fireto warm the 350 spectators.

All of this eventually brought about major sponsorship in the form ofDunhill Cigarettes looking to splash some loonies around. John Jet Fuel('im again'?) sketched a figure-of-eight track on a brawn paper bag, JohnConsolatti of the University of Toronto did the design proper, and GregMoore headed the team of constructors. Dunhill threw in a perverse transcontinentallorry ride for the timber, and the first Alleycat Scramble took place inVancouver, Hellowe'en '96. The 150 rider, two day event now alternatesbetween the two coasts and can next be seen April 23rd and 24th in Toronto.

Pete Lord has designed and perpetrated more Alleycat races than you'vehad hot dinners. In 1993 at the first Cycle Messenger World Championshipsin Berlin, he brought the idea to Europe.

Derek Chadbourne is the editor Hideousewhitenoise,the messenger zine all the others wish they were.

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