This weekend fellow Think Lafayette thinker, John Fry, and I, along with our cycle loving friend Matt Magurany attended the Indy Crit Fest at University Park in Downtown Indianapolis. This was the third year for the festival. All proceeds for this awesome community bicycling event went to FreeWheelin’ Community Bikes. FreeWheelin’ Community Bikes work with at-risk youths in the greater Indianapolis area teaching them bicycle repair skills and providing them bikes to ride. I have to say that this event was one of the most diverse and enjoyable cycling events I have ever attended. John and I have plans to help get our own cycling awareness group going in the GLC and would love to hold an event like this locally. Here is a short recap of our day at the races!
The criterium races were the focus of the day, but there was a wide variety of activities and other fun for the entire family. For those that aren’t aware, criterium races are high-paced, timed bicycle races, typically held around tracks with tight turns that take place over short distances. The races lend themselves perfectly to closed-off city streets, which is precisely where the Indy Crit Fest races took place. John is currently testing his feet as a mountain bike racer and next month I am going to be trying my hand at road racing. We were both eager to take a look at some of my competition and experience what the world of road racing could teach us (mainly we wanted to see how bad I would wreck and guess at the duration of my baby-like crying after losing miserably). I made the mistake of watching some races on YouTube a while back and have been rather scared ever since… however, after Saturday I feel pretty good about my chances for staying on the bike and crossing the finish line.
In my mind, the real success of the day wasn’t the multi-tiered races sponsored by big cycling names like Zipp, Specialized, the UCI, and USACycling. All of that was fun, and the reason I went, but the most impressive thing to me was the community representation and family fun for all ages. University Park is a small park near the circle in downtown Indianapolis. It was not a location you would imagine would be good for a large gathering, but it fit the event perfectly. The festival featured a vendor area where local bike shops and other local companies had booths right next to the big names like Zipp. While the local shops were selling a few wares, mostly t-shirts, the bigger companies were there purely as educational resources, helping people like me understand how they can help aspiring racers improve. Rarely do you see the mixing of bigger corporations with local shops at small events like this without them over-shadowing the whole premise of the event. Indy Crit Fest did a fantastic job of making sure that no one vendor overpowered any others.
In addition to the fast paced racing, there was also a fixed gear race, a tandem bike race, and even a little kids family race that was incredibly adorable. There were a couple of youngsters out there that couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 on little road bikes that probably cost more than mine mashing away at the pedals like champs. Hot on their trail were a handful of little girls on pink bikes with sparkling tassels and training wheels… it was pretty much the cutest thing ever. While the bigger races were taking place there was a tent towards the back where kids could get their faces painted or enjoy a variety of other fun activities. The center of the park had even been turned into a small obstacle course for the kids to test their bike handling skills on.
Of course, all these people needed to eat, so Indy sent its finest food trucks to the rescue. Offering a variety of choices from Indian, to tacos, to Chicago-style dogs, to nachos with pulled pork on top, there was plenty of delicious, fairly reasonably priced food to go around. Naturally after a quick lunch you need a drink to wash it all down, and who better to provide you with that than Indianapolis’s own Sun King Brewery who were on hand with their own beer garden… which we enjoyed quite a bit. After grabbing a beer we headed over to the Bike Polo court where we discovered some of Lafayette’s own Bike Polo players teaching new people about this crazy sport. If you have never witnessed the sport of bike polo, you are truly missing out. The GLC has a rather large bike polo squad which John and I hope to soon join in a game or two. Hopefully we can get some fun video of what will surely be a hilarious event. The bike polo squad tried to get us to sign some wavers and mount up on Saturday, but we were a little too nervous to take on the challenge at the away court.
The Purdue Cycling Team holds a large criterium event every August. I think this would provide an awesome opportunity for us to create a little event like the Indy Crit Fest of our own. We have our own breweries to bring the beer gardens, we have local bike shops to come talk about awareness, and we even have a bike polo squad to teach aspiring young hipsters like myself how to swing a mallet. I think combining some of the Mosey Down Mainstreet activities and sponsors with a cycling themed event could provide a new twist on a fun day that several other cities are already having success hosting. All the pieces are there, we just need to take what we have learned and try to apply it to our own fair city.