After oogling Tampa's Swelter Cycling all winter, when they announced Tampa Bike Olympics, I decided to hop on a plane and head down.
I came in early to observe the locals in their natural habitat. Thursday Swelter co-leader Steve Ayers took me on a personalized tour of the city along wit
h his friend Matt who had also flown in from San Deigo, which included a Thursday morning "Slonuts" ride from Spaddy's Coffee to Supernatural Foods (where I would end up eating about 60% of my meals, it was so good). A quick pop over to City Bike Tampa where I got to meet more IG people in real life and scope what a solid Surly Intergalactic dealer is like in person. After a pit stop to pick up a frame (which Matt would ride around with on him the rest of the afternoon) we swung by Black Radish all vegan grocery store and they make a dang good vegan cuban sandwich. More scoochin' and scoping and over to Blacklist, which was one of the highlights of the trip, they make their own brake pads and shoes and in general had a veritable treasure trove of new and vintage bikes. Ended the night at a local watering hole c.1949 where I met the other half of Swelter cycling Jon Sedor, and others in their core group like Allie and Micah.
Friday before the scavenger hunt started we took a drive over to St. Pete to check out some more shops like The Bikery. I am amazed that Tampa bike shops are so well stocked. I'm fairly used to shops only having the bear essentials and having to order anything else, but these shops were all filled to the rafters with cool and interesting parts, accessories and a general non-douchey vibe exuded all shops in town.
At 4pm, the festivities officially began with a 20 hour Scavenger hunt. Luckily I was able to team up with Jorge, proprietor of Bike Haus that I had met the previous day at Slonuts, and I was able to tag along with him, Austin and Josh for the next few hours as we went on a whirlwind tour across the city including getting a tattoo, stair rides and "dropping" into the old famous Tampa landmark the Bro Bowl. As the sun was setting we made our way to Davis Island for picaresque PBR's on the beach as the amber hues swirled beyond backlit
sailboats and it was at that moment that I realized I had gotten every penny I spent on this trip back just to catch that view. As we tore back through the city we added Justin, Sarah and Karina to the pack, holding lanes and dodging cars, it was a great night to be on a bike. The evening was rounded out knocking out more items on the hunt and wound up at a funky VFW karaoke night which is really not something I expected to be on the itinerary for the evening, but leaned in.
Saturday was mainly focused on the "olympic" events after everyone in various states of sobriety picked up what remaining scavenger hunt points they could and met up at The Hub, a downtown Tampa institution. Jorge was a good person to start following considering he wont the Scavenger hunt "by a country mile" finding over 70 murals around Tampa in addition to hitting all the challenges. Technically I came in third but due to an accounting error it was not made official. But I still know the score....
A quick ride to a nearby park and the limbo was underway which was a great way to start since it was something everyone could participate in. After a few rounds of stuntin' with the bar well above our heads, shit got real as within two rounds all but a few of the best bike handlers were removed. I'll be honest, the podiums are a little fuzzy, but I know that Taylor from New Orleans, Corina and Kierstyn took home some alloy and sponsor prizes.
Speaking of sponsors they had some great ones including Chrome, State, Rush, Cat Eye, Kryptonite (thanks Sully), Supernatural Food and Wine, Spaddy's Coffee, QBP, The Pocket Gnome, PBR, Ombraz and Hold Fast.
The lock up contest was up next. People severely underestimated the challenge with the low street signs preventing a clean lock up and it led to a lot of cursing and keys being dropped.
The tug o war was the event I was most excited for. With my size I thought I'd be a shoe in, but as with most of these events, the way things actually played out was very different than in the mind. I thought it was going to be more of a track start that would take it, but turns out it was more of a track stand that was the right strategy. I ended up way too far forward and without knobby's kept losing traction and was out in the second round. Congrats to Spaddy, who would also win the log pull which followed.
To end the day, we rode across town for hangs and to watch Bike Polo. Jorge took me over to see the building that was Scott Burns' studio which put out most of my Death Metal favorites as well as his shop Bike Haus. Finally, a relaxing evening at the Corner Club.
I missed out because I had to fly out the next day, but Sunday featured a traclocross race that looked like tons o fun and was dominated by the Nola crew taking 2 of the top 3 spots.
I can't say thank you enough to this community for letting me feel like I was a part of ya'll when I was down there! I had a blast and we need to bring down a NJ team next year :).