Babes in Bikeland riders line up at the start. Photo by Bjorn Christianson.
Why should I participate?
Because you can meet other phenomenal women who bike. Because, if you’re new to biking, the entire cycling community wants to show you that you are welcome and supported. Because you will be surprised by how fast and far you’ll go. Because a ton of companies in the bike industry want to give you a bunch of free shit to show you that they support female cyclists. Because it’s a damn good time. The reasons are endless.
In its sixth year, Babes in Bikeland, an alleycat race/ride for women and trans bikers in Minneapolis, drew its largest turnout to date with 378 riders. This awesome display of cycling community got our attention in a big way, and now it’s got yours.
These are the stories of 16 participants from ‘Babes VI’, in their own words.
Kayla Dotson, race founder
This is the story of how Babes in Bikeland came to be. Chelsea and Kayla met on a group bike ride, and a beautiful friendship was born. They went to other group rides, races, and events and met other amazing women who biked. Beautiful friendships were growing at an exponential rate! Chelsea and Kayla grew faster and stronger and more confident on their bikes because they had great women to ride with. And then they thought, “what if there was an event where we got a whole bunch of women together to ride bikes, create friendships at exponential rates, and get faster and stronger and more confident on their bikes?!” And then Babes in Bikeland was born.
Kat McCarthy, racer (2007-2010), organizer (2011-2012)
Babes in Bikeland aims to be a bike event that specifically welcomes women and transgendered cyclists to participate in an activity that is traditionally male dominated. While we admittedly have work to do on ensuring it truly is a welcoming space for all, the spirit of the race strives to be a fun event on bikes. It’s a speed race for some and an adventure around Minneapolis for most. We want participants to meet new people, challenge themselves, fall in love with their bikes, and celebrate each other.
Unlike any other sports competition I’ve participated in, ‘Babes’ created a space for us rookies to feel comfortable and supported enough to try something we had never attempted before.
I was a rookie this year, and chose to ride Babes in Bikeland for two reasons—to connect with women riders up for occasional hijinx, and an excuse to ride as fast as I could and be rather dare-devilish (for me). I’m 48, and have found myself lacking in friends up for adventures that leave you sweating and sucking wind. Oddly perhaps, this is still piles o‘ fun for me. I ride MTB primarily, all by myself, so I wanted to widen my social circle to include more female riders. Mission accomplished!
I had heard about Babes in Bikeland a couple of years ago but dismissed the idea of riding because I don’t race. I’m not sure what prompted me to convince my friend (also a rookie) to join me this year, but it didn’t take much convincing. Neither of us knew what to expect, but I knew the minute the race started I was going to love it and would come back for more next year. I smiled the entire week following ‘BIB!’
Laura “Low” Kling
This was my fourth Babes in Bikeland! I know it was my fourth because I remember riding my first with Buzo and Corinne, my second with Buzo, third with Jennifer and Emily, and this year I rode with Sue, Buzo, Corinne and Jennifer. For me, ‘Babes’ is all about the people I ride with. I’m perfectly happy to cool my heels and ride slower because high-fives and hollers and bell dinging are where it’s at—my hand is still stinging from some of those 40mph high fives on the Greenway! And it is always an honor and a privilege to usher in rookies, too!
I am a non-native species in the urban environment of Minneapolis, and biking has never been a competitive enterprise for me. But I had also never finagled my trusty Specialized steed over a seven-foot chain link fence. Or knocked a mechanic’s beer out of his hands with a bike tire-turned-frisbee. Or consumed a beer/radish combo purely for sport. Or stood on a medal stand while being doused with champagne.
Ever since I participated in Babes 6, I’ve had “What About Your Friends” stuck in my head. Perhaps it’s because of the epic post-race dance party, but I have a hunch the reason I’m still singing TLC’s hit single is this event helped me realize there are incredible friends all around me. I rode with a group of friends dressed as brides. Brides who are voting “NO” on the upcoming Minnesota marriage amendment. As we rode, I felt, for the first time since moving here from NYC, that there are people here who understand my passion for riding bicycles & building community. As long as I’ve got women like this around me—women who may not ride all of the time but support the fact that I do—just maybe I can make Minneapolis my home. ‘Babes’ brought out the best in my friends, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been a bride-on-a-bike with them.
I did the Babes in Bikeland Alleycat for the first time this year, and traveled all the way from Milwaukee to do so! The race totally gave me the motivation to finally get one started in Milwaukee because of all the WTF (women, trans, femme) folks who made us feel at home. I had a great time exploring Minneapolis and rode with another racer but eventually just ended up riding alone. Note to self: find a partner next year closer to my pace.
Babes in Bikeland came at a time when I was frustrated with where my life in Minneapolis was going. I had all about “Minnesota Nice,” but having moved from St. Paul in search of a more cohesive community, especially in biking, I still felt excluded. Babes in Bikeland changed all of that. From the constant encouragement during the race to the casual and easy conversations after, I finally found that community I had so desperately been searching for. The scaling of fences and burning legs were just a bonus!
I’ve ridden my bike across Nebraska three times, completed two centuries and gone on numerous bike bar crawls. But, hands down, Babes in Bikeland 6 was the most fun I’ve EVER had on a bike. I showed up to Powderhorn Park without a clue as to how to tackle the race. At the lineup, I ran into a few classmates from MCTC who graciously invited me to tag along. We ended up with an amazing team, but more importantly, we had an absolute blast. Can’t wait for next year!
I’ve raced in four ‘Babes:’ II, IV, V and VI. ‘Babes’ was my first race, and it continues to be my favorite. Placing third last year and second this year was such an honor. And to podium with my best friend made it even better. Kayla and Kat (and Chelsea back in the day) put on such a great event. The route, stops, volunteers and all the ladies that come out to race and party make it unforgettable each and every year.
The first year I participated in Babes in Bikeland, in 2007, I had never done a bike race. When a friend invited me to the race, I was so excited! At the start, I ran into a few girls that I knew that thankfully allowed me to ride with them, as I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. At the awards, I won 3rd place Rookie! I was so shocked. And hooked…
Over the past five years, I’ve raced ‘Babes’ with increased confidence, made the best friends a girl could ask for, met many others who have the same interest that I do and won some amazing prizes. Winning ‘Babes’ this year was a thrill, to say the least, and to have done so with two great friends, the three of us riding together, makes the win even more sweet! I couldn’t have done it without Beth or Christina, and I am so thankful for this amazing community of likeminded ladies—and for all of the awesome dudes that support us!
Also, a big, huge thank you to Kayla, Kat and Chelsea for putting in countless hours to put on Babes in Bikeland over the past six years and for all of the previous winners of Babes who have inspired me so much!
For my babe and me, ‘Babes 6’ was our second race together. It’s a totally different experience when you’re toting two extra tails on your bike! I love my “minivan” longtail, but I’ll certainly never win a race on it. This year’s ‘Babes’ was a challenge for us—we had already put in 8 miles just to get to the start! I chugged along to repeated shouts of “It’s too windy, mama!” and “Where’s my ‘nother stamp?”
I got in some great riding, and my lil’ babe got six stamps, and some pizza downtown before the trek home.
I woke up at 6:45 AM because I was such a mix of excitement and nerves. This was my first ever alleycat race. Top that with only two hours to plot and complete the course—with mystery stops along the way! My team, “Team White Wine,” started as three women who kind of knew each other, and ended with three women who had become great friends. I will do this alleycat every year it’s around. The power and energy that you feel being with all these amazing women is euphoric.
The quote I heard the most from rookies pre-race: “I ride my bike everyday but don’t have friends that ride.” Post-race: “I had no idea this community existed. I’m going to ride everywhere!” Mpls biking community! Ride your bike, do group rides, say “howdy” on the Greenway, be kind & have a good time, all the time!
More Babes in Bikeland photos by Bjorn Christianson.