A few years back, some of our northern Iowa gnome fest cousins started a klunker race, called the Mayday Mayhem. For one reason or another, I hadn’t been able to attend. In the meantime, I urged pretty much anybody that would listen to go in my stead, because, in addition to my obvious fat bike fetish, I’m also into the klunkedelic singlespeed dirt-bag scene. Maday Mayhem is for more than just Klunker bikes. It embraces all sorts of cycles in a true ‘run what you brung’ sort of ethos.
The two main characters that run the event, both ride, old steel, Schwinn bikes that have been converted into single-speed mountain bikes. Derek and Joe also seem to be involved with building the trails that the event traverses along the Cedar River valley, near Osage, Iowa. I’ve known Joe for close to 20 years and had met Derek more recently at other fun bike events like the Sweaty Yeti, Summer, Squatch, and singlspeed USA in Decorah. This dynamic duo hail from Osage, Iowa, which is nestled between Decorah and Mason City. I had taken a trip to the area a few years back and found it to be beautiful. I can find beauty and bountiful bicycle recreation and almost any rural habitat. Over the last little bit, Joe, Derek, and the Mitchell County Mountain Goats have been steadily building clusters of fun, single track along the margins of wooded river valley topography that is all connected by the gravel multiuse Harry Cook Trail. I’m lucky enough to know and follow several Iowa bike crazies and over the time that the previous Mayday Mayhem(s) has taken place, I started to see photos from the Junkyard Goat Trail and Limestone Brewing that began to further captivate my rather vivid imagination about visiting Osage.
When it became clear that my schedule was all clear for the first weekend of May this spring, I invited a couple of old friends to join in the fun and my brother from another mother Adam Blake said that he could meet me in Osage for the MDM 2023. About a week before the event I pinged Joe and asked where the best camping spot was and he pointed us to Spring Park. Joe explained that the park was part of the area that included the trails and just an easy 2-mile ride from Limestone Brewing, which was acting as the headquarters for MDM. I like it when I can go away for a weekend and park the truck and then ride my bike everywhere. Osage was starting to live up to my vivid imagination. Adam ended up getting to Osage before me so he met up with Joe and Derek for a tour of their trails. I showed up and found a riverside campsite with a carpet of wildflowers. In less than a jiffy, the Osage welcome wagon showed up, and we took a quick spin on the bikes. The trails really reminded me of Deer Grove back in the suburbs of Chicago. (But in a rural setting) I felt at home and felt welcomed. Iowa hospitality is legendary. It’s a real privilege to get to hang out with the race directors the night before an event. We learned what was planned and we got to see Derek’s dope Schwinn crate collection, followed by moonlight tacos, back at camp.
Race day dawned with a few rain showers so we took a slow start to the day. Derek and Joe came by and we made some wings. Before we knew what hit us, it was time to ride into town and meet at Limestone Brewers to register for the race. Maday Mayhem race day registration was only $10 and there was even a swag bag. That’s what grassroots racing brings to the table! You can trust that a good time is about to happen when your number plates are made from cheap paper plates. Derek, let everybody know that we’d leave the brewery together and ride casually out to the Billy Bar where folks that wanted to race would line up and everyone else could hang out and party.
By my best guesstimate, there were about 35 riders (all together) and nine of us lined up at the starting line to race three laps of the Junkyard Goat Loop. I hadn’t planned to do the official race, but when the time came, I decided to line up at the start, I hung back a bit to let the truly motivated racers take the lead. Kind of to my surprise, I saw Adam take the hole shot into the single track. The Junkyard Goat Loop is a really fun twisty single track that winds its way around the old town junkyard. Each lap was punctuated with the rowdy cheering section at the Billy bar. It was an entertaining and short race…and in the end, Adam won! After the race, we rode party laps and blew up some firecrackers for Zito while most of the field hung out and partied. Eventually, we all rode parade style back to the brewery for the awards and Rockabilly from Mercury Three. We ended up the day with a night ride back to camp for tall tails around the campfire under the full moon along the flowered banks of the cedar river.
Mayday Mayhem was just the sort of event that I really dig. It was like Joe and Derek planned a bike party just for my odd sensibilities. It’s probably not the sort of event that many of the hard chargers out there would find worthy but it was ideal for my way of living. It’s the kind of event that I feel bad about writing about and making more popular because I’ve seen what happens to incredibly chill bike events once they grow to around 100 or more humans. They begin to lose that home-spun grassroots vibe. I’m grateful that I got to attend the MDM before that happens. Long live $10 races with paper plate numbers! Thanks to Derek and Joe, and all of the Mitchell County Mountain Goats for the bike love and hospitality!