For seven years I've been somehow involved with Babes in Bikeland by either organizing, hosting Pre-Babe Wanderabout, supporting the race organizers, or racing. I have seen it morph and change and shift into what it is today, in its tenth year.
Babes start- photo by Sica
What is Babes in Bikeland?
Babes in Bikeland is a bike event where tons (about 670 this year) of women, trans, femme (WTF) folks on bikes get together to celebrate each other. And maybe race a little, too. It's an alley cat style race, and is likely the largest in North America. It is definitely the largest all WTF race in the universe!
Babes has a "race" component, but the experience is based on "you do you." You wanna hit a couple stops and then roll into the after party? Great! Want to try for a podium spot? Sure thing! The point of the event is community. Because there is nothing like rolling around town with 670 of your closest WTF pals.
Labor of love
Until this year, I have been on the sidelines, organizing supporting events or volunteering with the race. This is the first year I've taken on responsibilities where, if I messed up, the race would not be fun for you! Bike parking, food vendors, safer spaces, communication plans, artists, photographers, tables... these are not details! These are crucial components!
We started meeting in March, and met monthly until biweekly meetings started in July. In August we met weekly and were checking in daily the last few weeks. In all, I've dedicated over 100 hours to this race! Good thing I had a solid team supporting me every step of the way.
WHY would we do this to ourselves??? All of the emails, messages, texts, voicemails? Vendor questions, shirt sizes, social media, PayPal passwords? All of the reaching out, follow up, confirmation, notification, check ins, contingencies? Documenting, budgeting, hyping, educating? Decisions, decisions, and decisions??
We love you.
Pre-Babes Wanderabout group by Kat McKarthy (Kat organized Babes for FIVE YEARS!!)
We love the WTF community in Minneapolis so deeply, that the work is worth it. We know that this is important to so many people. It was my first race, and really showed me what being in community with hundreds of other WTFs could feel like. We are so proud and so happy to labor to present you with an affirming and welcoming event. Because we love you!
Every year we pick an unofficial "theme" to refer to as we make decisions about Babes. Last year was "Welcoming Rookies," and this year was "Celebration." (Cue Prince) This is our tenth year! Let's tone down the prize importance and ramp up the party atmosphere! I think this really resonated with you, because we had the biggest turnout ever.
The after party was held at First Avenue, with DJ Seven, and Sweetpea as our MC. The dance floor was WTF-only, the purple lights were hot, Missy Elliott and Beyonce were bumping, and Sweetpea lead 500+ WTFs in the wobble. As I was gyrating and shaking my ass with the beat, I found myself tearing up. It was that feeling of being far from the objectification and unwanted sexualization of the male gaze... we were free. It was beautiful.
We had so many prizes and giveaways, and THREE bikes were raffled off. Not everyone gets to go home with a bike, but hopefully everyone left feeling like a winner!
Your joyful, tearful, freaking-out faces as you were honored with sashes and crowns and bikes and wheels and caps and hugs and high fives!! You deserve it!
Opportunities for safer spaces
The reason why I decided to be a part of the organizing team for Babes this year was to push safer spaces further. I wrote a post about ways we addressed safer spaces (from volunteers to vendors), and also ways we tried to make it more inclusive, with a plea for help.
My goal is to make sure that people aren't showing up to Babes because "it's fun," and walk away still thinking it's a "ladies" race. No! My goal is to bring people into a safer space because once you experience it, you never want to go back. My goal is to educate people who come for the fun to stay for the community and solidarity. My goal is to create a space where I am welcome. (And that is certainly not a "ladies" event.)
I didn't get as far as I wanted, but I feel like we all took a big step forward together. Thank you!
Teamwork makes the dream work
My fellow organizers reflected after the event.
Karyn, Low, Jessica, Jessica- photo by Alex MacGillis
Just over 10 years ago, I quit my job, sold most of my possessions, and moved to Minneapolis for no real reason. Little did I know I'd fall face first into a lovely community that has blossomed into something that at times bears truly magical and sweet little fruits. Last night will go down as one of the best nights of my life. I'll be 90 years old attending Babes in Bikeland 56 talking about this one time back in my day. That's it. It doesn't get any better than this. You could see the soul and joy filling the room. Thank you to each and every Babe who attended, to our volunteers, and to my fellow organizers, Karyn, Laura, Jessica , to Elena , and to all the organizers of yore whose blood, sweat, and tears built the foundation of what we were able to accomplish last night.
I've been at a loss for words about Babes in Bikeland. We had a goal this year to throw a big party in honor of the 10th anniversary (!!!!) of the race.
It was bigger and better than I think any of us could have ever imagined. I had SO MUCH FUN. That after party is something I will never forget. I'm so grateful for the organizing crew Jessica, Karyn, Laura and Elena, and all the volunteers for making the day run super smoothly.
I was absolutely blown away by the turnout and have no idea how we'll ever top this one. 670 racers?! Amazing.
That's what Babes in Bikeland 10 was for me. So many playful souls racing around town and then dancing up a revolution at First Avenue. So humbled to be part of making this happen.
When I heard there was an opportunity to help the organizers of Babes for its tenth anniversary race I jumped on it. My part was small, but humbling and the fact that I was able to have even this small part was amazing. There were 670 babes!!!! It was so insane to see and I am so thankful to have been a part of it and am excited to see what the future holds for Babes, I bet it will be radical.
Elena- Photo by Morgan Lust
My favorite moments
- Coffee magically showing up at the start
- Coworker Friend Alex bringing a generator when one was badly needed
- How popular the Grease Rag tent was because we had bug spray
- How popular the Grease Rag tent was because we had snacks
- Seeing so many Wanderabout friends
- The hoarde of Pikachus
- Watching the volunteers being deployed
- Asking one of my co-organizers to deal with a problematic volunteer and they did it without hesitation- by back was GOT
- Getting 500 high fives!
- Watching Babe after Babe cross the finish line
- Getting to Vanna White prizes and sashes on over to Sweetpea
- When y'all freak out when you win stuff- keep that up!
- Sweetpea leading the wobble
- Hanging out in the First Ave main room green room
- Watching Sweetpea float in those heels all night #femmeskillz
- Eating BOTH Cafe Racer AND Foxy Falafel!
- Taking photos with the Fox Den
- WTF DANCE FLOOR WTF DANCE FLOOR WTF DANCE FLOOR & omg DJ Seven
- Slow dancing with my friends to Purple Rain before the lights came on
- Crying 10 times out of happiness
- Losing my voice a lil bit
- Going home, making Buzo a 2am meal, and then SLEEEEEP