It was a fluke (or destiny!) that I heard about the Brompton US Championship. I’m only on Twitter sporadically, and it just so happened that I signed in at the exact moment @BromptonBicycles tweeted about this year’s event in Washington, DC. I started reading about the fun little race that’s as much about style as winning.
Best yet, it took place in the AFTERNOON.
Pier and I are not morning people. We love cycling and going fast, but enter a race that starts at the crack of dawn? Hell no! But this, the Brompton US Championships, with its quirky event schedule in the PM hours, fit our style. We wanted to enter!
But we didn’t. We’d just finished a renovation, and I’m only working part-time in order to follow my artist’s dream, so money is tight. We couldn’t just take off to Washington for a bike race. Then one of Pier’s clients scheduled a business meeting in Washington the day before the Brompton US Championships began. Destiny. We had to do this!
So I emailed the event organizers and asked if a couple Canadians could participate (after all, there’s no Brompton Championships in Canada) and they said sure! And a week later we were on a plane to Washington.
Bicycle Space was the bike store hosting the event. It’s an awesome little shop on 7th Ave just north of Mt Vernon Square. And when I rolled in there after my flight, grumpy and sweaty and dragging my still-folded bike because I’d forgotten my air pump at home, they were friendly and gracious and didn’t seem to mind at all when I unpacked, inflated my tires, and assembled my Brompton/luggage for “cycle mode” in the middle of their store.
Besides just being a super nice bike shop, they also organized the weekend festivities. Because the Brompton US Championship isn’t just a race, it’s a whole weekend of Brompton-themed good times.
It started Friday night at the British Embassy. Pier was especially excited about this. When else would we ever get invited to a real embassy! With valet bike parking! And an iconic phone booth!
It was a fun evening of eating British cheese and sammies, drinking British scotch and ginger beer, and folding British bikes.
The Brompton Urban Challenge
Saturday was the Brompton Urban Challenge. This is a photo scavenger hunt on Bromptons.
We formed teams that had at least one Washington local, then cycled around the city checking things off the list. Our team had people from Nashville, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Toronto.
A selection of our BUC pics…
Sunday was race day, and it was a hot and humid 34 degrees Celsius! The Brompton World Championships have a dress code—business casual, mandatory tie and blazers. So I found the one button-up shirt I own, bought a cheap $10 polyester blazer, and paired it with a polyester skirt that’s too short to wear without leggings.
Obviously this was a ridiculous outfit designed for a themed costume race, not for riding in the heat. I was going to ROAST if they didn’t waive the blazer requirement. Pier felt the same, since his blazer was part wool—we’re from Canada, after all!
Other amazing outfits:
Luckily, because of the excessive heat, they waived the blazer requirement. Everyone could race just in their shirt and ties. Whew!
The race has a Le Mans-style start where everyone puts their folded bikes out front, and when the starting gun fires, we all run to our Bromptons, unfold, and ride away.
Pier and I were not there to win the race, so we put our bikes near the back of the pack. There were some serious hardcore riders with tricked-out Bromptons—slick tires, clipless pedals, giant chainrings, titanium parts, the works! Pier deduced that no matter how fast we were, our steel workhorse S6R Bromptons with their rugged Marathon tires just couldn’t compete with the made-for-speed racing Bromptons. So we decided just to have a fun ride.
But despite our start behind most everyone, we soon pulled ahead of the main pack! The only people in front of us (and admittedly, they were far in front) were riding the speedy Bromptons, all of which were ridden by men. That’s when Pier turned to me and said, “I think you’re in the lead for the women!” Suddenly winning seemed possible. And winning meant a free ticket to the Brompton World Championship race in England! So we picked up the pace a bit…
It was an exciting race down by the river and through the cemetery. Photographers lined the course, some shouting words of encouragement as we cycled past. I don’t have any pics from the actual race since I was in it, but check out this Washington Post article — Video: Cyclists Compete in D.C. for shot at Brompton Championship title.
And here’s a photo someone took of the guys on their made-for-speed steeds crossing the finish line—and that’s me in the background coming around the bend for the final half lap.
I crossed the finish line to the cheers of spectators in fancy dress and noisemakers. It was pretty exciting! But I soon learned that I wasn’t first, I was second—the rider a hundred metres ahead of me was a woman! She was dressed in men’s shorts and shirt and had short hair, so from behind I thought she was a man, which meant I never tried to catch up to her. Oh well, I couldn’t afford to go to England for the Brompton World Championships anyway, and she was super excited to go, so it all worked out. And I won a fancy Brooks seat for my efforts.
Overall, this was such a fantastic event! Everyone was so friendly and fun. Thanks, Washington, for letting us participate in the Brompton US Championship 2014!
Finally, here’s a wonderful video Bicycle Space made about the whole event: