Cyclists are an interesting type. Blame it on the extra dose of endorphins or those wicked tight, spandex getups restricting blood flow to the brain, but if you’ve ever been in a room full of cyclists you’ll agree that they’re a peculiar, passionate bunch. And don’t you dare call them bikers.
Many of their quirks, such as guys shaving their legs and the use of goofy terminology like “flippers” (riders donning flip flops) and “gerbils” (cycling like mad in a low gear on a flat surface), are just baffling for us non-bikers. Yet, there is one trend with cyclists happening this weekend that anyone can relate to – helping a charity.
Cranksgiving, though it may sound like just another weird cyclist term, is actually a beautiful tradition stemming back to a group of bike messengers in New York City.
Antonio Rodrigues organized the first Cranksgiving in 1999 as a way for the cyclist community to give back during the holiday season. He crafted the event to be like an “alleycat” race, which is an informal competition typically amongst city bike couriers.
The course goes from checkpoint to checkpoint, weaving throughout challenging intersections of a bustling downtown to test the skills and grit of cyclists. The winner usually gets a small prize, but bragging rights are the true inspiration amongst the messenger community.
Using an alleycat as his template, Rodrigues swapped the checkpoints for grocery stores where participants would spend $10 to $20 on food items for those in need. The event was wildly successful and provided hundreds of meals for local soup kitchens while simultaneously inspiring non-cyclists to consider the advantages of a car-free lifestyle.
Rodrigues quickly realized that a gang of a hundred cyclists storming the canned food aisle for the sake of a charity caught people’s attention. Witnessing Cranksgiving proved to many that grocery shopping was feasible without an automobile. Especially in a city, hopping off a bike and parking is much easier than stalking the streets for a spot to parallel park. Plus the cyclists were getting exercise and saving money on things like gas, insurance and maintenance. Talk about a win-win-win situation.
Rodrigues continued the tradition of Cranksgiving in New York, with the number of participants increasing each year. Thus, it was no surprise when Cranksgivings began popping up in various cities, with nearly 30 races scheduled for this holiday season in North America.
Thanks to St. Louis Bicycle Works in Soulard and other local sponsors, such as Schlafly and Great Rivers Greenway, Cranksgiving came to town in 2005. Since then, hundreds of St. Louisans have made the annual event apart of their holiday tradition.
All proceeds go to Food Outreach, where the hand-delivered nonperishable food items will help provide hundreds of those in need with a warm meal. Last year nearly 700 people participated in a day that brought together the local cyclist community.
On Sunday, Nov. 3, Cranksgiving will be kicking off at 10 a.m. from Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood. All skill levels are accommodated with five, 10, 25 or 50-mile routes offered in this year’s event.
Registration begins at 9 a.m. and is free, though each participant is asked to spend $10 – $20 on the food donation.
For the non-cyclists out there, this is a wonderful opportunity to meet a few of the nice folks in the St. Louis cycling community and to do a little good for those in need.
Go borrow a bike, strap on a helmet and join the eighth-annual Cranksgiving to kick of the holiday season.