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Reno’s Scalley Cat bike event celebrates 15 years

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Make out with a stranger at Scalley Cat bike event: 250 points

By Ky Plaskon

The 24-hour bicycle challenge Scalley Cat drew more than 200 participants to Reno the first weekend in April. The annual event has been celebrated for 15 years and now draws people from California, Washington, Montana, Utah, Colorado, New York and as far away as Sweden. 

Inspired by bike messenger races called Alley Cat races, the Reno event takes it to the next level, inspiring red-hot ass branding, milk baptism-wrestling, and Scalley Cat tattoos. 

Despite the national and international draw, Scalley Cat has remained shrouded in mystery with no central year-to-year organizer. Little has been published about it. 

Participants follow a living document known as “The Bible.” It includes hundreds of challenges including “Hit the beach” in which people swim to an island in Virginia Lake. The “See the sights” category includes crawling through the hole in the wall (a dark and dangerous ditch tunnel) and hiking Hunter Creek Trail. 

More than two dozen other categories include sandcastles, healthcare, motels, survival skills, sex tourist, the Steeze, world cuisine, booze cruise, souvenir collector, “x-treme tourism,” art, personal care, general chaos and more.

This year started with a “TSA” checkpoint where participants had to remove their shoes before being scanned by a metal detector and frisked near their private parts. 

Tiger Tom’s Sports Bar on Gentry Way was one lucky local business to land a spot in “The Bible” and was flooded with hundreds of customers on bikes. The owner enthusiastically went person-to-person in the bar while smoking her cigarette and telling the cyclists to go to her other bar too, for Jell-O shots.

Later, there was a race on kiddie bikes at Sierra Vista Mountain Bike Park which ended with some very dusty crashes, a bike pyramid and a chicken fight. 

Scalley Cat participants gather at a park for a sunset technical obstacle course as part of the 2022 event in Reno, Nev.
Scalley Cat participants gather at a park for a sunset technical obstacle course as part of the 2022 event in Reno, Nev. Image: Ky Plaskon

At sunset, riders converged on another park to ride in a technical obstacle course while DJ music was pumping. They rode over a homemade teeter-totter. If they made it over that, they faced being whacked with a massive “ball sack” on a bungee cord that bystanders slung-shot at cyclists followed by a scary janky wooden plank to navigate. 

The midnight bar-top twerk-off, complete with whipped cream, took place at Ferino Distillery with standing room only. Then there was the tradition of a sunrise get-together in the mountains above Caughlin Ranch and a final ceremony at Reno Public House.

Teams of mischievous people fanning out across the region to be silly in funny costumes on bikes have sometimes inconvenienced drivers who can’t get to where they are going as fast as usual because there are cyclists they have to watch out for. Other antics in the name of the event have been frowned upon by cycling purists who say they want to maintain a positive perception of cyclists. 

Long-time Scalley Cat-er Austin Wallace said the activities are harmless and critics need to re-evaluate their position.

“Those idiots need to go home!” Wallace said. “If anything, Scalley Cat provides so much joy and creativity and spice to the cycling community in Reno. This event is unlike any other.”

She also points out that many of the participants are serious riders trying to cut loose from their purist cycling chains. She recalls that one year a woman and a partner rode 150 miles in 24 hours.

It invites a different crowd to start using bikes, Emily Miner, another long-time Scalley Cat-er, said. “If anything, it gets people on bikes.” 

She said the event is evolving with more “young tight butts,” implying that looser butts were prevalent among Scalley Cat-ers previously.

Some participants were observed driving their cars to the tops of hills with their bikes in the back of their cars and then pretending to have ridden the entire distance to events. That is against “The Bible.” However, there are point subtractions for secretly using a motorized vehicle. 

People who saw someone using an e-bike called that “cheating.” 

Point subtractions occur for only five things: wearing a thong bikini with a mammal toe, being caught by police, becoming a vegan, “sand to face” and throwing out your back.

Among the highest point-getting activities were taking the train to Truckee and riding back and getting Bill Nye the Science Guy to ride your bike. The highest points were for re-arranging the giant “N” on the side of Peavine mountain into the letters “SC.” At last check, no one achieved the 15,000 points for that category. 

The lowest points: 2 points for riding your bike. 

Bike Life Radio on KWNK 97.7 FM interviewed an enthusiastic participant for nearly an hour. It is available on Spotify here.

Editor’s note: This video contains language some may find offensive.

Ky Plaskon is the producer and host of Bike Life Radio which airs on the first Sunday of every month at noon on KWNK 97.7FM in Reno. He is also president of the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance which has produced a bike calendar which strives to include all bicycle events in Washoe County.

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