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Although it’s common to see bicyclists navigating the streets of Richmond dodging potholes, traffic and pedestrians, it’s relatively uncommon to see bicyclists on vehicle guzzling 6-packs of beer, dodging stuffed animal-tipped lances and competing Ben-Hurr-style in chariot races.
Well, tomorrow the unorthodox competition of biker vs. beer vs. biker returns for the seventh year in a row in the form of Slaughterama.
This event, started by local bike club the Cutthroats in April of 2004, has expanded in subsequent years to an extended 4-day weekend of concerts, scavenger hunts and cinema -- with the main event matching up bike cliques from around Richmond and the nation under the cover of a Belle Isle pavilion near the Robert E. Lee Bridge.
Last night Slaughterama kicked off at 101 S. Addison with a performance by locals The Nervous Ticks.
Tonight, the celebration continues with The Byrd’s midnight showing of Bike Porn 3.
Saturday features the main event at 2 pm where bike crews from around America match up to duke it out on the island we call Belle. A secret show featuring No BS! Brass Band will be held following the competition.
And for those not participating in the spiritual side of Easter, there’s a beer hunt held at an undisclosed location put on by The Riders of the Apocalypse.
Cutthroats member Jesse Kelley said that the origin of the 'Throats and Slaughterama began after witnessing a bike event in Brooklyn.
"We formed in Brooklyn, New York. We went up for an event held by the Black Label Bike Club, it was called the Bike Kill. And we were so impressed by their fun and energy and their use of the bicycle that we came home and formed a bicycle club to began with which was the Cutthroats and since we had a bicycle club we had to do something, so we came up with Slaughterama."
After forming in 2003 the Cutthroats introduced their bike event, Slaughterama, to an Oregon Hill cul-de-sac. To get the word out and promote the formation of new local bike clubs, the Cutthroats heavily fliered the event -- a tangible publicity Kelley says Slaughterama hasn’t relied on since.
"The first year we did so much promotion that we never really had to promote again. We don't put up fliers, we don't post it on the internet -- someone else made a Facebook page for us, you know. I feel like Slaughterama has its own name for itself, or the people who are involved are so excited about it that we don't really have to promote it any more than we need to."
The first gathering included events like the Bike Kill-influenced Six-Pack-Attack, where competitors faced off in killing a six-pack of brew; Tall Bike Jousting, which matched members of opposing teams adorned with a stuffed-animal-tipped lances atop two bike frames stacked high and welded together; Frogger, where obstacles were thrown in front of the paths of oncoming bikes; and Richmond’s own Mini Hell Track, which paired opposing clubs on 16-inch bikes in a two-on-two track race enclosed by a moat and surrounding a pit of fire.
"Hell Track is a bicycle track in the movie Rad and we built a small one in our backyard for 16 inch bicycles. So we had a two-on-two race head-to-head and there were different heats. I think there were probably about 15 different races and the track just went around our backyard. There was a fire pit in the center and there were two moats on either side so you could fall into the water. And that was Slaughterama One."
Kelley said that tomorrow you’ll see a lot of the same events plus a spin on the Richmond-popularized bike chariot race. BMX bikes will join the race sporting a sidehack.
"We are also adding sidehacks which are for BMX bikes. It's like this tiny little trend that's going on and you have a bike and connected to the head tube there's an extension that comes off to the side and it moves with the bike. So, you and the partner really have to be in sync to go through a maze or up a ramp or something like that. So we're going to have chariots and side hacks head-to-head. And we're going to do a big race on the island with those."
Amongst other events, The Gauntlet will also be held for riders to battle through a maze of debris, projectiles and flour to the exit.
And being that this is competition and not all beer bath, there are tallied points and ranks at the end of the day. According to Kelley, first prize gets more than just bragging rights.
"Yeah, there's a point system! Event by event you're competing as a club. And you get a rad trophy that we've made. And you get bragging rights for an entire year and maybe a patch or something."
Belle Isle is actually the third home to Slaughterama. After the inaugural cul-de-sac bike n’ beer, the competition moved to Holly Street Park in Oregon Hill. According to Kelley, this was unfavorable to the authorities and future events were encouraged to be moved to Belle Isle.
"The second year we were doing the event in Holly Street Park. And the police came and they were like 'this is really awesome and we're really into it but you're in a neighborhood and people are urinating in the alleys and there's nowhere to go. And all these people are drinking, you just cannot have this. We had always thought if we needed a second alternative, we would go to the island and the police actually suggested that we go over to the island."
Despite the guise, Slaughterama may have developed over the majority of the last decade. Kelley said that event's intentions are positive and respectful, not illicit.
"I just want everybody to have fun on their bikes and that's why we do this. And if you want to have fun on your bikes, come to Slaughterama."