David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/20/17 2:52 p.m.

A little while back, I raced a bicycle through a shopping mall. No, it wasn’t a dream, nor revenge against holiday shoppers. And no, despite my chops, I wasn’t recreating the infamous Blues Brothers car chase scene. I was a last-minute entrant and, I admit, initially unwilling participant in something called the Tough Biker’s Race for Time, a time-trial bike race through Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall.

Yes, a bicycle race. Through a shopping mall.

I was just going to watch. My wife had something going on that evening and I was looking for something to do, so I pinged my friend Chelsea—pictured in the photo above. She was entered in the bike race. I’ll be your cheering section, I offered. Chelsea is a bike mechanic by day, and while we were grabbing dinner the owners of her shop happened to drop by.

“You’re riding, right?” they asked me.

“No, I didn’t bring a bike,” I replied, explaining that my bike racing days are so, so far behind me now. “Let’s go around the corner to shop and get you something to ride,” they countered. A few minutes later we were at Kyle’s Bike Shop finding a set of wheels for me.

Of course, at this point I still didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. A mall bike race? I figured it was a race around the mall’s buildings–like through the parking lot or something.

I was familiar with the Tough Biker races and knew they weren’t exactly for me. Headed by an Orlando police officer, these events are known for a fast pace and tough competition. I had seen their videos: up and down through parking garages, across fields, through construction sites, down stairs and over curbs. It sounds fun, but the pace, at least up front, isn’t relaxed. It’s a half-hour sprint with no quarter given.

We got to the mall, went through a quick tech inspection–hey, just like car racing–and paid the entry fee. The money raised by this program helps at-risk youths by involving them in mountain biking, so if I were to die, I figured, at least it would be for a good cause.

The race started after the bulk of the mall had closed, although the movie theater and game room were still open. Ribbons marked the course.

Riders assembled in a group at the base of the escalators and were sent off at 40-second intervals. Chelsea was first. Less than 3 minutes later, she returned. Okay, I reasoned, maybe it would only be a few minutes of hell.

While waiting my turn, I nervously chatted with some others. No, not my bike, I told them. Not my purple helmet, either. I have no idea what I’m doing here.

Then the starter came to me: You, you’re next!

I’m next? I have no idea where the course goes. Or what I’m doing here.

I left on his signal.

And that’s when the smile kicked in. This was easily the silliest thing I had done in recent memory. We started at the base of an escalator, between Lids and Pacsun. From there we raced past some of shopping’s greatest hits: Foot Locker, Hot Topic, Vans, Game Stop and even a Radio Shack. The course then made a hard right at Macy’s before racing toward Panera.

Hey, they weren’t kidding: We had to ride down some stairs. Maybe it was just four or five steps, but when I found myself still upright afterward, I laughed and kept on pedaling.

After passing Zales the course ventured outside, where we rode to the top of the parking deck before descending back to ground level. After hopping a curb, we rode through some double doors and reentered the mall itself. Someone passed me on that home stretch, which I guess is like being lapped. Whatever, I was having fun.

After the race we hung out, made new friends, saw old ones. Turns out I wasn’t the slowest one there. Chelsea, meanwhile, set the second-fastest time of the evening.

In the end I paid $30 for exactly 4 minutes of race time, but the event was more than that. Some complain that Solo Nats offers just 6 minutes of track time, but I counter that it’s a week of fun and a lifetime of memories.

The season is just starting. Find an event and make plans to go. I challenge you to go out and make your own memories, even if they involve racing your bike through a mall.


This story was published in the May 2017 issue of Grassroots Motorsports.

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Lof8 GRM+ Memberand Dork
6/20/17 2:58 p.m.

That sounds pretty fun! There is a nearly abandoned mall near me and I've been contemplating how to rip my motorcycle from one end of the interior to the other and then ride away, but thats sort of a different idea :)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/20/17 3:03 p.m.

Yeah, similar but different. This was 100% legit. In fact, the race series is organized by the Orlando police.

ultraclyde GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/20/17 3:04 p.m.

I've seen the videos of those races. Looks like a hell of a lot of fun!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/20/17 3:10 p.m.

For future events, keep an eye on their Facebook page.

car39 HalfDork
6/20/17 4:12 p.m.

There were two malls in my hometown, one torn down before the other was built. I got to drive in both of them for new car shows they would have there. One of my favorite stories was an older lady asked me how we got the cars inside. I told her they were special cars built for display. They disassembled into 4 parts, each one with it's own wheel so we could roll them in thru the regular doors. I told her if she looked closely, you could see the seams in the car where it went back together. She bought it so completely, she brought a friend over and showed her the "seams". I still don't know how I kept a straight face.

mndsm MegaDork
6/20/17 4:15 p.m.

That's not far from me.

Also, I ran a 1995 rockhopper through Burnsville mall...once. no it was not a race. Yes, it was open. I continued to have conflict with that mall my entire tenure.

bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/20/17 6:08 p.m.

Man....I keep seeing you post this stuff David and I'm bummed there isn't something like that close. Looks like a ton of fun.

ssswitch Dork
6/20/17 6:56 p.m.

That's a huge mall. Racing is a good use of floor space that would otherwise be wasted.

jere HalfDork
6/20/17 9:05 p.m.

That looks like a blast!

But it would really get interesting if it was during store hours

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/20/17 10:07 p.m.

And I gotta give a plug for Chelsea. You can find her on social media at @fietsgodin.

92dxman SuperDork
6/20/17 10:58 p.m.

They need something like that up here in the northeast

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/20/17 11:08 p.m.
92dxman wrote: They need something like that up here in the northeast

Organize it!! That's the way these things happen. True story: This evening I put together another local skatepark get-together. It's not quite the same as racing through a mall, but hopefully it will be a fun time.

Streetwiseguy UltimaDork
6/21/17 7:59 a.m.

I can't believe nobody has said "The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year."

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/21/17 12:21 p.m.
Streetwiseguy wrote: I can't believe nobody has said "The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year."

Oh, believe me, it was going through my head just about the entire time.

dropstep SuperDork
6/21/17 12:26 p.m.

I always wanted to ride through my old highschool before they tore it down. That had to be a blast.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/21/17 12:32 p.m.

I knew that I had a photo somewhere. Here I am at the start. And, no, that's not my helmet.

phaze1todd Dork
7/5/17 10:24 p.m.

Wrong tool for the job... here's the right tool for the job doing... well... the wrong job. [/URL]

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/13/17 5:31 p.m.
phaze1todd wrote: Wrong tool for the job... here's the right tool for the job doing... well... the wrong job. [/URL]

And crap, now I'll never know what the right tool is!

ncjay SuperDork
7/14/17 6:00 a.m.

As much fun as riding a bicycle in a mall sounds like, I think about the average bicycle tire on a highly polished floor and my body already hurts from the crash.

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
7/14/17 8:49 a.m.

Man, that's some straight "Tony Hawk Pro Skater wish-fulfillment" E36 M3 right there!!!

4cylndrfury MegaDork
7/14/17 9:08 a.m.

3 things I take away from this video:
1. After seeing so many dashcam videos of auto racing, bike racing seems reaaalllly slow lol (no offense intended)
2. Apparently, all American malls look the same. You could easily convince me that mall was Tri-County mall here in Cincinnati, about 15 years ago (sadly, its now mostly a shell of its former self, with more ghetto DVD swap and airbrush shirt stores than legit chains).

I always had an itch to ride my BMX bike thru the mall after hours. I think this race needs to happen at a local to me mall, and soon. I saw you roll down the stair gap, and thought I could easily hop 6 steps on a 20" and save some time. Then I saw you grind out those climbs in the garage, and thought that maybe gears arent such a bad thing after all lol....

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/14/17 9:14 a.m.

Yeah, there was some debate as to the hot bike setup--more like a fun discussion as no one was taking this too seriously. I rode the mountain bike since that's what was offered to me.

Chelsea banked on her freestyle bike and was first after the initial runs. She was there just to have fun. Afterward, she wondered how she could have done on her race BMX--or her cyclocross bike, since that's what the eventual winner rode.

If I have the chance to do it again, I'd likely do it on my 22-inch BMX. It's just the bike that I'm most comfortable on. I have a cyclocross bike, too. Maybe that. I dunno. It was really fun, though, so that was the big thing.

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