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Fast Kitty: Underground bike racing goes mainstream

“We sponsor a race in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,” says Hanson, who also works for suspension company Hold Fast. “There aren’t a lot of messengers in Oshkosh, but the race is well attended. Alley cats are everywhere right now.”

There’s at least one informal alley cat in Asheville, a dedicated scene in Charlottesville, and an entire alley cat season in Atlanta. Richmond claims the longest-running alley cat in the East: The Ides of March. For 2011, Greenville has a brand new monthly alley cat series during the summer. The series follows the guiding principles of alley cats, but cuts out the messenger hipster vibe.

“I’d never done an alley cat before, but they seemed so cool,” says Jeff Pappenfus, the promoter of the Greenville alley cat series. “I wanted to give everyone a chance to get out and ride their bike, and the alley cat format is so accessible. At our races, you’ve got guys in the front of the race that are hammering, then you’ve got guys in the back taking it easy. People came out on cruisers, mountain bikes, whatever.”

As with any hip trend that gets adopted by mainstream America, there’s some nostalgia among messengers for when the alley cat was an courier-only event, but most messengers are stoked so many bikers are enjoying their favorite pastime.

“You could say the alley cat has lost its roots and no longer is a way to find the fastest messenger. But so what,” Hanson says. “Nobody owns the alley cat. The more people involved, the better. Why not spread the thing you love?”

Stu Louder, current King of the Bike Messengers, agrees. “Everybody likes to have fun, so of course the alley cat is gonna grow beyond couriers. It’s inevitable. I’m proud of being a courier, but alley cat racing is bigger than just us, and I think that’s cool.”

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