Maybe you have already spotted them. Small groups of cyclists on colorful bikes with little cards in their wheels dashing through streets, sneaking in between car lanes and ignoring red lights. Most likely you have seen an Alleycat. It is a race around town, bicyclists playing a not completely legal game. All in all it is a new expression of urban life. Every now and then fixed gear and singlespeed bike riders come together and compete in a modern kind of paper chase that simulates the life of a bike messenger. Per Urban Dictionary:
A type of race that bike messengers partake in for fun that simulates the average messenger’s work day.
Most often, alley cat races are designed as a “checkpoint” race, meaning that racers must pass through certain points on the pre-defined route in succession before completing the race. Some check points require actually dropping off/picking up items or even completely silly games (like spinning around in circles and pinning a tail on a donkey) before receiving clearance to proceed to the next checkpoint.
Some races mimic “sprints” or “time trials” like those commonly found in professional bicycle races.
Cheating, taking alternative routes, or otherwise “breaking the rules” are generally acceptable as that bike messenger culture can be highly competitive and require messengers to “do what it takes” to get the job done.
The goal is to find the fastest route while reaching different checkpoints and fulfilling different tasks. We checked out the last race, the „Photographers Alleycat“ and found places in Berlin that we have never seen before. A journey through Berlin in the eyes of a bike messenger.