With September fast approaching, training races are popping up everywhere. In the Bay Area, training often involves a little twist if you know where to go. No training series near by? Consider starting your own. (This article originally appeared in Issue 1 of our print magazine.)
When September rolls in, just like in many other parts of the world, cyclocross racers in Northern California become giddy with excitement. They tune-up their bikes, re-glue their tubulars, and bust out their running shoes and cold weather gear, readying for “the season.” But in this part of the country, many racers add one additional task to their season preparations: dress shopping.
September 5 2007, 5:50 p.m., at an urban park in San Francisco. Cyclists on ‘cross bikes start appearing from all directions. In what seems like a poorly coordinated flash mob, they gather, chatter, and many of the men start slipping into skirts and dresses, sometimes helping each other with dress straps, clasps, and buttons. The men admire each other’s attire; the ones with spaghetti straps and sequins attract the most attention. Women are seen putting on pants, button down shirts, and even fake mustaches. Numbers are pinned on, a little shouting can be heard, and the riders quickly gather at the top of the hill. Just as quickly they take off, chasing after each other on a roughly marked course.
There weren’t any race flyers, pre-registration, race permits, insurance paperwork, or postings of race locations or start times, yet this year’s 13th Annual Urban Outlaw Cyclocross Dress Series (also called The dfL Series) boasted some of its biggest crowds ever. You found out via word of mouth – from someone who knows someone in the dfL club, or via a cryptic email circulated among the ‘cross community. The vibe is super chill but the racing can be serious – riders came from as far as two hours away to race, and local pros toe the line next to first-timers in these non-categorized races. Without categories, sandbagging here takes a different form, and the baggers are the ones who don’t wear dresses. Thankfully, at these races, there’s a price for bagging – they buy drinks for everyone with their $5 entry fee.
We chatted with “Rev D,” one of the leaders of the church group of organizers of this underground ‘cross series to see if we can learn more about the series nobody is supposed to talk about.
CXM: Why cross-dressing? Were dresses always part of the races?
Rev D: You’d have to ask Coach. I came into this world about three years into it. Once you get to know Coach, you begin to understand the cross-dress element.
CXM: How did you get involved in the series? What’s the story behind Church of Bike and your Rev D name?
Rev D: Like a born-again, I saw the events and joined the family. Church of Bike is many things. It’s a theory. It’s a spirit and a lifestyle. Like people who worship at the Church of Coltrane. Look at people who go to your average church. They all show up at 10 a.m.; most of them know each other. No one really knows what’s going to happen, but you go. God? What’s that? We worship the bike.But the website? Churchofbike.com is just a stupid website that doesn’t get updated much.Rev D is just the alter ego of Rev S.
CXM: What’s the funniest thing that happened at a dfL race?
Rev D: Hard to say. Bum fights? Or the time I was pinning on a chick’s number at the registration booth and she suddenly squats and starts pissing. Coach’s elaborate lies to cops, and many more, but, really, the outfits take the cake. And this year we got an email from a UC Professor asking if he could pre-reg online.
CXM: When spectator folks at one of these “rides” ask you what’s going on, what do you tell them?
Rev D: I read them before they have a chance to ask me. Then I either play dumb or make up an elaborate lie for my personal entertainment.
CXM: Uptight dudes and dudettes pay $5 so they don’t have to dress in drag. Why not just require everyone to do the dress? Where does the $5 go?
Rev D: As far as I know the $5 option has been there since the beginning. If we required everyone to wear a dress, unfortunately the races would be quite small (but something to think about since our races are at peak attendance).
$5…just look around. Where do you get all that for $5? Five kegs, most of them from local brewers who participated in the event. Thirty gourmet pizzas from another participant, along with many other scrumptious dishes. Yo, and did you see the trophies? Or you could take that same $5 and get a happy meal.
CXM: With the growing popularity of ‘cross and the $5 option, are some people taking the races too seriously?
Rev D: I have yet to see anybody take this too seriously. That’s not to say that they don’t care, The Kid cares about this series more than any mountain or road race, and he went home with the trophy, again.
CXM: What would you do if racer boys started showing up with wind trainers and pit bikes?
Rev D: I have yet to see a wind trainer at one of our events, and I don’t know what a pit bike is.
CXM: Would you let Bart Wellens race for free without a dress?
Rev D: Only race promoters, gardeners and bartenders are comped.
CXM: You used to list the times and locations on your site…. Were they getting too big? Would you welcome similar series in other areas, like South Bay or East Bay, even if they made your events smaller?
Rev D: There is concern about the size of the events. At some point you kind of have to go legit, and that’s not really our style. We at the church participate as much as possible while staying out of the politics. This year we were asked not to post the 411. Last year it was the same till the last week cuz the promoters were getting too many phone calls. We at the church do answer about 90% of the emails that come to the church about the events. We would definitely welcome more local events. I wouldn’t think they would make our events smaller, and I would think we could all support each other.
CXM: At the first race I started the race literally dfl and stayed back there for a while. I asked a dude how he was doing and he said “egg salad!” What’s that mean?
Rev D: Dudes say all kinds of things. Don’t listen to any of it. Like when someone says, “only two more laps.”
CXM: Any tips for newbies on racing in a dress? How should someone choose one that combines the best of speed and style?
Rev D: Yeah, I got tips – I won best dressed three years in a row, and got robbed the fourth year as Coach forgot to give out the award. Show some originality, stand out in a crowd, don’t just wear any old dress, step up. Have a theme. Look at the consistency of this year’s winner. If you’re going to wear makeup, put it on neatly. Don’t put it on like a drunk clown unless you’re going for a really slutty look. Wear a different outfit each race; they’re like jokes.
CXM: I’ve hosted small, early-season underground races in the Boston area, and some friends and I do weekly races at a local park. Any tips to readers on how best to start underground races or a race series?
Rev D: Join the crowd, get the crowd’s cred, and they will come. Most of us can’t get enough.
CXM: dfL races have had some brushes with the law in certain parks. What’s the worst that has happened? Do the cops have a sense of humor in dealing with the guys in dresses?
Rev D: Cops don’t really have a sense of humor and don’t really seem to care. The usual scenario is where a local gets his panties in a bunch, calls the cops, the cops are obligated to check it out, they show up with puzzled looks on their faces, ask some questions, conclude no laws are being broken, and they drive off . . . the race goes on. We’ve only had to stop one race early, when a roadie chick stacked and knocked herself out (15 minutes on hold with 911).
CXM: Ever thought about having a few races throughout the year? Help spread ‘cross joy throughout the year?
Rev D: We promote other races during the year but our ‘cross series is strategically placed. Our series is designed to get riders ready for the “official” series. It’s a warm-up series, which also avoids other conflicts.
CXM: How does word spread? Are a few dfLs tasked with spreading the word?
Rev D: We used to put posters in bike stores around the Bay, hand out flyers and do group emails. Now it’s just word of mouth, and again, record turnout. No one here is tasked. There are power struggles and volunteers, but it’s mainly a mix between anarchy and a free-for-all.
CXM: Folks that deserve some props for making the series successful? Last words?
Rev D: So many deserve thanks. Duck, Dilligan, Kid, Boozely are at the heart of it, along with a few who might wish anonymity of which I don’t know a clever nickname, and some I might be forgetting. Ride free or die!