By Peter Lundgren
On Sunday, January 1st I had the opportunity to compete in the 69th Annual I-Cycle Derby in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
What is it?
The I-Cycle Derby is essentially a Time-Trials event held on the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul. In it’s current format it is divided into 6 segments with a lunch break to warm up in the middle.
Time to Derby!
I woke up early Sunday morning and loaded the Corazzo S2 Lambretta into the back of my truck for the trip to Minneapolis. I unloaded my scooter at my buddy Dan’s house and departed from there with a few friends. Temps when we left that morning were a tropical 18°F and sunny.
The street outside of Roy’s Repair in Minneapolis was packed full of activity. People came from all different backgrounds to participate, which is clearly a sign of a good event. Everything from vintage Honda Passports all the way up to a Victory Vision, which I think was the largest vehicle that participated this year. There were a few sidecars as well but the majority were motorcycles and scooters.
At 10am they held a riders meeting inside to explain the I-Cycle Derby and draw numbers for our starting positions. According to the organizers we had 49 competitors this year which they all felt was due to the warmer weather.
The basic idea is you get a card with directions on it. You follow the directions on the card until you reach the next checkpoint, where you will receive the next card. Riders depart in 1 minute intervals from the starting line with the goal of reaching the checkpoint as close as they can to the specified average speed listed on the card. There are a lot of variables that affect your ability to do that like traffic, time spent at stop lights and your ability to navigate the route accurately. Riders get 1 point for every minute they arrive late and 2 points for every minute they arrive early with the goal of finishing with the least amount of points possible. It’s similar to golf in the regard that points are not a good thing although unlike golf, you cannot earn negative points. Once you get a point, that is yours until the end of the event.
Seeing as I have not lived in Minneapolis in 14 years I figured that I could just follow the rider in front of me and hope they knew where they are going. That was definitely not the case for me as I drew the number one starting position! I was quick to tell everyone NOT to follow me since I was a first-timer AND had no clue where I was going. In the end those were words to live by!
After receiving the first card and taping it to my arm I was at the starting line and at 10:31AM I was on my way:
The first 3 turns went just fine although I had hit all green lights on Lake street so I was worried I was running fast even if I was trying my hardest to hold the speed limit. It all fell apart for me after that as I didn’t look over the card well enough beforehand and just assumed the mileage on the left column was the distance between the turns and not a running total of miles traveled since the start. This turned out fatal for me as it showed 7 miles in the left column so I went ahead and blasted 7 miles down Lake Street before I even started looking for the next turn. After not being able to find it I eventually just pulled over and checked my phone. After realizing I had essentially blown the turn by over 6 miles, I hot tailed it back to where I should have turned and found myself well into the mix of riders competing this year.
At the first checkpoint I got my new card and quickly reused the tape from my first card to attach my second card. I had no clue where I was in the mix of riders but I did know I needed to drop the hammer and pass as many people as I could to make up all the time I lost on my little excursion.
With the hammer dropped, I was motoring past rider after rider on Penn Avenue until I passed 50th street. About 50 feet past that intersection my 2nd card flew off my arm and right into the middle of the street. I quickly stopped and turned around to get my card but Penn was so busy with traffic that I got to watch a grip of riders I had just passed motor along down the road while I waited for my chance to grab my card. Eventually I was able to rescue my route card from the street and resume the hammer dropping.
Thankfully the remaining first half of the Derby came without issue. I was able to pass a few riders and eventually came in as the 22nd rider at Roy’s Repair for lunch. Since the idea is to come within a target average time/speed, I should have ended in the same position I started in but at least now I know how the cards work. 😉
Lunch was included in the entry fee with hot coffee and tea provided by the fine folks at Diamonds Coffee Shoppe in Northeast Minneapolis. After lunch and a quick gas up, we reconvened for another rider meeting before I once again took the pole position to start the afternoon leg of the derby.
The afternoon leg ended up taking us into St. Paul and I have to say, I really thought I was finally in my groove for this leg. I kept an eye on my speedometer to make sure I wasn’t speeding and also making sure I wasn’t hammering it off the line. Overall I performed all 3 of the legs on this half flawlessly. I never missed a single turn and never got passed by anyone so at least I wasn’t dragging my heals or messing up my navigation.
It was not totally without issue though as when I got to St. Paul, my Speedometer starting making some seriously ill noises. The needle starting bouncing pretty fierce but the odometer was still working until I reached Shepard Road, when the whole thing made one last long and labored squawk and that was the end of it.
Rest in Peace dear Veglia speedometer. You can now sleep at zero knowing that you have spent most of your life committed to being 60% accurate. Thanks Veglia speedo for your 55 years of subpar performance.
I arrived at Roy’s Repair a little after 2pm to no fanfare. In fact nobody was even outside since apparently the 2nd half of the Derby should have taken me about 1 1/2 hours and I did it in a little over 1 hour. Remember when I said that you get 2 points for each minute you arrive early? Whoops!
Once all the riders had returned we all hung around and drank more coffee and ate Christmas Cookies until the final points could be tallied and trophies awarded. As a first timer, seeing the point totals it takes to win an event like this was a real eye opener. The 5th place trophy started at 6 points with this year’s winner coming in at an incredible 0 points! That means they came within 59 seconds of the exact time specified for each of the 6 legs of the Derby, which is a pretty incredible feat and as one of the volunteers noted, the first time he ever has seen that happen.
Since clearly I was playing by my own rules on Sunday (those being only to start and finish the I-Cycle Derby), I ended with a whopping 109 points! Apparently that was not the worst score this year so I can only imagine that whoever got more points than I did has probably got a pretty good story to tell…
Overall I had a really great time on Sunday. Everyone that participated and volunteered on Sunday were super friendly and helpful. It definitely was a great experience and now even a cream puff like me is starting to seriously consider making another go of it. Thanks to Team Strange Airheads and all the sponsors for putting together such a great event.