Over 75 bike riders sprinted around Manhattan’s supermarkets in the cold rain on Saturday for New York City’s 19th annual Cranksgiving charity bike ride. The informal “alleycat” race, held in cities across the world, was described by this year’s organizer, Austin Horse, as “a sudoku board manifest of supermarkets where certain foods have to be bought in specific places with both long and short versions that riders of all levels can follow.” The food went to The Bowery Mission.
Horse, a full-time bike messenger who is also a Red Bull-sponsored racer, took over the ride after longtime organizer Ken Stanek bowed out to care for his new family. Stanek, who inherited the Cranksgiving from fellow messenger Tone Rodriguez in 1998 and has seen turnouts in the hundreds, not only attended but also took part in his local Cranksgiving in Maplewood, NJ.
As I spent time with Horse during registration at Hudson Yards Park, he commented on its stressfulness and admitted to being as cold and wet as the participants he signed in with the help of NYC Bike Polo’s Kayleigh Jankowski. NYC Bike Polo holds matches every Sunday in Chinatown’s Sara D. Roosevelt Park and many of its players came out to show support. After the two or three hours that it took the riders to complete their manifests, they made their way to the finish line at Penn Plaza’s Upstairs at The Pennsy Food Hall, where two kegs of beer had been donated by Rockaway Brewing Company.
Though the ride produced over two dozen turkeys and three long tablefuls of food, the donation pantries of New York still face shortages this holiday season, which has inspired other Cranksgivings in both the Bronx and Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s ride, founded last year by bike advocate Cassandra B., is coming up on December 2nd at Restoration Plaza in Bed-Stuy. For those in the gift-giving spirit, messenger and former Team Puma member Kevin “Squid” Bolger will be holding his annual Toys For Tots Alleycat on December 16th at Tompkins Square Park.
After all the racers left, I helped Austin and his friend Daniel Wendlek load their cargo trike in the loading bay under Madison Square Garden with the turkeys, perishables and kegs, one of which still had plenty of beer. Wendlek, co-founder of Upcycles, which made the cargo trike, wasn’t going to let the enormous weight coupled with rainfall deter him from riding their food to the Bowery Mission before bringing the kegs over the East River, toward his shop Greenpoint. At the last minute, Austin said that he wanted to leave his bike locked in midtown and asked Wendlek if he could hitch a ride on the trike’s rear running board. He said sure and Austin took a seat as Wendlek pedaled away slowly up the ramp and into the street.