cycling · fitness

Halloween cycling fun at Orchard Cross

Last Sunday was a highlight of my cycling/social fall schedule:  it was the day of the annual Orchard Cross Costume Race (along with all the other regular races for those not in costume).  For those of you not familiar with cyclocross racing, it is a timed race on a closed course of 1–2 miles, combining dirt, grass, sometimes pavement, and a variety of challenges:  barriers that require getting off the bike and jumping over them, hills too steep for most to ride up (called run-ups), stairs, mud, sand pits, and lots of twisty-turny maneuvering at speed.

Women bike racers riding around a very muddy corner.
photo by Jonathan Nable
Male cross racers riding over a pump track muddy bump.
photo by Jonathan Nable

This race took place at Applecrest Farm, winding through their apple orchard.  This makes it one of the most scenic cross races ever.

Male cross racers biking through an orchard course with apple trees on the side.
photo by Jonathan Nable
A group of female cross racers biking through an orchard of small apple trees.
photo by Jonathan Nable

The real appeal of this event, though, is the costume race.  It takes place on the cross course itself, although it’s modified to take out some (but not all) of the most challenging bits.  And they treat it in many ways like the other races.  You have to go register:

Registration tent at race; T. rex and banana in line

I am the yellow banana costumed person, and my friend Steph is the inflated T. rex.

Then it’s time to pin numbers on your jersey, or in my case, banana costume:

My banana costume with its race number, and black cycling gloves on a wall.

Before lining up, there was time to observe others in their festive costumes:

Cyclist in tutu costume and rainbow wig on helmet.

Elmo masked and banana-costumed cross racers
My friend Karin as alien Elmo with the author as banana

Cyclist in gorilla suit with racing kit over the suit. With yellow helmet and shoes.

Banana and T. rex in costume on bikes
The author and friend Steph
dragon bike with papier-mache ghoul on back, rider absent.
tricked out dragon bike with ghoul

Before long, though, it was time to head to the start line.  There were at least 60 people registered for the race, so there was some jockeying to find an optimal spot.  For my friend Steph (the T. rex), her spot was on the side, because she could hardly see; she was limited to a clear plastic window (in the T rex. neck).  A bunch of us were fairly sight-impaired, but that added to the energy level.

Costumed cross racers at the start line.

The countdown began:  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…  and we were off!  And, doing our best to get around the course without a) falling over; b) running into someone else; and of course c) expiring from all the laughter and joking on the course.  A speedy bunny passed me, yelling “your costume is very a-peeeeling!”  hahahahahahahaha.  A racer in a very elaborate skeleton costume for him and his bike passed me, calling out “I’m on your right.”  I replied, “thanks, I can’t see anything either left or right”.  He said, “yeah, me too.  I wonder why I create such an elaborate costume when I can’t see a thing”.  We both chuckled, and he went ahead.

Racer in skelton costume with black hood and skeleton cardboard outline on bike, riding course

The fact that we had this much time for a conversation during a race suggests that it was a rather mellow and lighthearted affair.  Here are a few more examples of riders having fun:

Medieval costumed riders on a tandem bike

group of riders on course with T. rex

rider in peanut-butter poncho on cross course

group of riders on cross course, led by T. rex

It was almost as fun watching the race as riding it; at least this group’s attitude seems to suggest so.

A group of fans at the cross race, with signs
photo by Jonathan Nable

Confession:  the above photo is actually a group of fans during another race.  Several of these folks in fact rode in the costume race (I know them).  But it conveys the fun and frivolity, so please permit me some literary latitude…

For me, riding in the costume race was a great way to reconnect with some of my racing friends who I don’t see so often.  It was fun (and a reality check!) to ride my cross bike on an actual course again.  I forgot how important good bike handling was in order to navigate mud, bumps, berms, barriers, and tight turns.  Even though I was enjoying myself, I was pushing very hard (you can’t really pedal in a leisurely way on a race course).

I also reconnected with my (former) racing self.  It’s been very motivating to remind myself that I enjoy active and organized group cycling environments.  It’s heartening to realize that I actually remember how to ride a bike in more demanding conditions.  This doesn’t mean I’ll return to racing, but it does mean that I can and want to return to more ambitious rides– group rides with faster folks, off-road rides on my cross bike and mountain bike, and some winter riding too.  Not a bad return on a total investment of $15 for the banana costume and $25 for the registration.

4 thoughts on “Halloween cycling fun at Orchard Cross

  1. There was a race just like this in Midtown, Georgia. Or maybe they just blocked off the area for bikers and skaters. Whatever the occasion, it looked like a lot of fun!

  2. Brilliant – made my morning which was otherwise damper than expected. As soon as I was suited up for a bike ride, the heavens opened prompting a swift change of jacket. But we didn’t have half as much fun on damp and muddy (ploughing season) roads as you look to be having.

  3. OMG. So much fun! Maybe I’ll come visit with my cx bike next Halloween. Looks like a great event.

  4. Great write up! I definitely need to get there next year, hopefully with all limbs working…

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