Friday, December 21, 2012

2012 Bilenky Junkyard Cross - Its a wrap

What started a company party has transformed into one of the première and unique regional cyclocross races. No longer a local Philadelphia event; there were cars, vans, and SUV's with license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Indiana parked at Bilenky Cycle Works. This race attracts everyone from competitive racers to people who come out to try their luck; as one racer put it, “I just want to finish”. While not everyone can win their were some crowd favorites; the guy who rode all of his heats in a unicorn mask and the young lady in the women’s division wearing black Uggs.
The Mighty Unicorn

Nothing about the Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross can be described as standard or regulation. The barriers include cars as hurdles, a mini van as a tunnel, and the narrow pathways where parts are stored become a maze. The surface of the course includes dirt, concrete, and gravel with a mix of oil, transmission fluid, metal fragments, and pebbles of safety glass. 
A tight squeeze  
What Hurdle?

The spectators often have as much fun as the riders and in some small ways influence the race. In two incidents at the car hurdles riders experienced major mechanical failures, spontaneous pit crews from the spectators got them back into the race. They also redesign the course by adding ramps at the car hurdles in time for the bmx/alternate bikes and men’s finals. In one instance when a racer squeezed between the edge of the course and a car hurdle, only to find on the next lap that tires barricaded the hole.

Spontaneous Pit Crew

Catching big air
They don't look like soccer mom's.

There were plenty of cyclocross and mountain bikes and every year there is a growing mount of BMX and single speed bikes. Along with tandems, and modified beach cruisers. This year one rider brought a Pugsley, with tires close to 4 inches wide tires this bicycle was like a steamroller on the course. Some of the fastest and most aggressive riding came in the BMX/alternate bike heats, were the two car hurdles were bunny hopped instead of being hurdled. One BMX racer was a big crowd pleaser as he did wheelies through the start/finish zone during each lap. 
Pugsley in the pit 

King of the Wheelies

Another factor that makes the Bilenky Junkyard Cyclocross are the prizes for the winner each category. This year crowns for the men and tiaras for the women were designed by Bilenky Cycle Works employee Isis Shiffer. With their unique design and Steam Punk esthetic these are the type awards that will make this memorable to the winners more so than any trophy. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

2012 Philly Cranksgiving - The results

Cranksgiving was back in 2012 bigger and better than ever. More riders, improved routing, and plenty of donations. This year Tattooed Mom's stepped up by matching the total amount of money spent by riders purchasing donated food. What makes Philly Cranksgiving unique is not the event itself; it’s the people who organize it. This ride is not planned by a for-profit or a non for-profit which have the resources and funding to make this type of event run smoothly. But by two individuals who commit their own time and energy outside of their normal schedules. CJ and Gary took some time to answer some questions about this years ride.

1. With 46 riders, how many pounds of food were collected. (not including the amount Tattooed Mom's added)?
CJ: We actually had 62/63 starters, so I am hoping that most of those people finished and added their donations, and just didn't hand in a manifest. But when the day was over, we had 798lbs!

Gary: CJ is correct, we had 62 riders sign up and most of them were recorded as finished and I'm pretty sure the rest trickled in after the time limit.  We ended up collecting just shy of 800lbs of food.  In addition to the food, we had $1250 in donations ($1,000 of which came from Tattooed Moms in place of their food matching).  The cash donations were just as significant of a help, and according to Philabundance, were able to assist in feeding well over 2,000 people!

2. What was the time for the 1st place rider?
CJ: The first and second place riders (a couple) had actually gotten to Tattooed Mom a second or two before I did, around 1:30. Gary and I were trying to decide when to leave Whole Foods at 10th and South for the finish....he decided to stay for stragglers while I headed down to Tattooed Mom. Glad I left when I did! We started at maybe 12:05 or 12:10, so their time was around 1:20 or so?

Gary: I totally forgot to keep track of time, but around an hour and a half finishing time seemed about right.  We tried to mix things up by adding a mandatory 3rd stop on the manifest, where we introduced a mystery stop to keep riders on their toes.

3. This year you moved the starting point out of Center City; did this help avoid any issues with the Philadelphia Marathon?
CJ: I don't know explicitly if it helped or not, but since the riders were starting further from the Marathon course, I suppose it gave us more of a time 'buffer' between the Marathon and our event. I know last year we had some people not being able to take the Spring Garden bridge; not sure if it was the same case this year or not. The scene at the finish was too hectic to mingle and get race reports, hah. In any case, I did like our Penn Treaty start more because it gave us a bit more room to have everyone hang around and chat while waiting for manifests, and not be in anyone's way or raise any suspicion. I couldn't imagine 60+ people standing around LOVE right across from City Hall, where we started last year.

Gary: The marathon was certainly a part of the decision to move the starting point, however the minimal interference we had last year also played into the decision.  Mostly, it was that we were expecting a significantly larger crowd this year with the increased promotion and awareness, and having the extra room for people to hang out before the race certainly helped.

4. When are you are not working non-stop on Cranksgiving, what do you do for fun and work?

CJ: Fun: road rides in the suburbs, DIY basement shows, poker with high school friends, and drinking bottomless coffee at Grindcore House.
Not Fun: I'm a second-year Master's student at Towson University, in Towson, MD. Experimental Psychology. Graduating in May, hoping to be able to get into bicycle transportation research. Until then, it's a lot of driving back and forth just so I can ride my bike and see my girlfriend/friends/family.

Gary: Outside of the wonderful world of Cranksgiving, I lead a fairly busy life (at least I think so...).  During the week, I work a 9-5 as a web designer/developer for a company just outside of Philadelphia.  I'm also an avid cyclist, racing cyclocross on the weekends, riding (as much as possible) otherwise, and riding around the city!  

More info (results/summary/photos) are/will be available on our website (   

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2012 Bilenky Junkyard Cross

On Sunday, December 16, 2012 the Bilenky Cycle Works Junkyard Cross will start at 10:00am.

Before I go into details about this race there are some very important questions to be answered.

Will there be beer?  $1 beers to help pay for renting the junkyard.
Will there be food? Sold by Chewy's Food Truck.

This annual event first started as company open house it has evolved into one of the most competitive unofficial cyclocross races in the region. Held in a junkyard the course is a classic example of a cyclocross held in an urban setting.  The course features a wealth of man made and unforgiving barriers and obstacles. Add Stephen Bilenky and his crew of ingenious bicycle gremlins and you never know from one year to the next what to expect from the course.

In the past the course has included steep flyovers (bridges) hurdles from wheel rims, a pit filled with sofa cushions, tunnels using a van and a semi trailer, narrow alleys turned into a leaf filled tunnel, and a seesaw.  The surface of the course is dirt, gravel, and pavement covered with debris and various oily fluids. This year there may even be explosions, according to a recent Facebook post on the Bilenky Cycle Works page. 

The easiest way to get to this event is to bicycle there, as parking is very limited. A group ride is departing from Bicycle Revolutions. The Junkyard Cross opens at 10:00am with the first heats by 11:00am and should conclude by 3:00pm

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Olley, olley, oxen free

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia has finally revealed the details of the Safe Streets bill they were negotiating just in time to have it summarily rushed through committee and city council to make sure there was the illusion of public discourse and approval.

There are some aspects of the bill that in small ways will provide protection for bicyclists; two existing laws have been amended. The first now allows cyclists to ride two abreast instead of single file and the second does not require cyclists to ride in a bicycle lane if one is available. While these may seem minor, almost petty changes it does protect the bicycling community from potential retaliatory ticketing by the police. Which a cyclist in New York City was subjected to when he asked a police officer to stop blocking a bicycle lane with his squad car.

It also raises the fines for cyclists who run red lights, stop signs, and riding on the sidewalk. Holds drivers responsible for dooring and most importantly parking in bicycle lanes. This will not resolve the problems of church parking on Spruce and Pine St. as this is a long standing deal with the city and it is not going to change.

Councilman Mark Squilla has made statements that lead me to wonder if this bill is the tip of the iceberg. That may lead to more restrictive actions to come, since he has described it as “a good start”. He has concerns that “the bill doesn't specifically address enforcement, a bone of contention” The problem is that you can not mandate the Philadelphia Police Department enforce these new traffic laws any more than any other.

While this bill does address some of the long standing issues regarding bicycle infrastructure in Philadelphia it has come at great cost. The Philadelphia City Council passed a bill this spring that gives them the final decision about bicycle lane placement. Leaving infrastructure in the hands of a group of people whose decisions will be swayed by populist opinion instead of experienced professionals like traffic engineers. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia signed off on that bill as “A Bill We Could Live With”. Lets hope that this doesn’t become something that comes back to haunt us.