Let's be honest: Miami isn't exactly known for its particularly good drivers. You could drop somebody in the middle of a school of 400 famished hammerheads in the Galapagos, naked and marinated in warm fish blood, and they might actually be safer than most drivers on the Palmetto.
So it takes a pretty hardcore cat to go balls out on a bicycle in a six-mile race through the streets of Miami. These are the riders who come out for the Cañones Sueltos Race and have a blast barreling through the city like champs on two wheels.
Every month, Jonathan Sauceda chooses a park for the starting line, a bar for the finish line, and at 9 p.m., what he describes as "One of South Florida's gnarliest, ball-busting bike race/rides through the unforgiving brutal streets of Miami" begins.
"Loose Cannons started off about six years ago with Joel Meinholtz, but it was a different ride," Sauceda explained. "I've made it more of a race that also rewards the racers more for going through all the crazy shit they go through. I'm including checkpoints and different prizes from really good companies. We're making videos and just trying to get it out there for aggressive riding in Miami, 'cause it's pretty flat-out here, it's pretty crazy, it's pretty fun."
What does he mean by "flat-out" and "crazy", you ask? Have you ridden your bike along a few inches of shoddy Midtown asphalt at top speed between a flatbed truck and a telephone pole? Ever considered riding onto I-95 amidst the sea of stray swerving crazies to take a shortcut on a dark night? Do you roll with mace and a mean ass attitude to keep drivers who want to try you in check? According to Sauceda and fellow Loose Cannon riders, Ignacio and Francisco, these are the kinds of things you just have to be prepared for when you want ride hard in this town.
In the details of the event's Facebook page, it boldly (and maybe somewhat ominously) states that "This is an 'ANYTHING' goes race..." That begat a conversation about the definition of the term "anything," the classic Sega Genesis video game Road Rash, and whether or not Sauceda's ever had anybody show up with chain whips, BB guns, or cattle prods. To our great surprise and minor disappointment, he has not, but he reiterated the point: "Anything goes with the drivers or with other riders. You know, the streets here are a fucking warzone." ANYTHING can apparently mean all forms of madness, from hanging onto cars to dashing through red lights to taking whatever streets, avenues, alleys, or highways you damn-well please.
"I always change the routes. I start it at different parks around the city, whether north or south or on the beach, and I end it at different bars. I try to mix it up for people. As long as you can get to the checkpoint and to the bar on your own two wheels, however you want to get there is cool," he said.
To be perfectly clear, Cañones Sueltos is not Critical Mass. It's not like Critical Mass and it has no interest in becoming Critical Mass. This race is a completely different animal.
"A lot of the bike culture down here is kind of only a culture when it's convenient," Sauceda noted. "I see a lot of people who are just seasonal riders. There are a lot of casual rides in Miami, like Critical Mass and the Beer Crawl, but those are really lounging rides. I want to bring out more competitive racing rides here."
And since Cañones Sueltos is more grueling, more dangerous, and more intense, there's a higher degree of skill and comfort on a bicycle among the riders in this race. More skill and more risk typically means fewer people, especially if you want to try and make sure nobody gets hurt. The crowd is certainly a lot thinner than Critical Mass, but Sauceda says the race has fewer injuries and a more genuine feeling to the ride.
According to him, "The number of people changes month to month. Sometimes we get the roadies, sometimes we only get the fixed gears. Recently, we've been getting a lot more of a younger crowd. The most I think we've ever had in the race was 20 riders, which is a lot of people hauling ass and dodging traffic.... It's a crazy ride, and we haven't had anybody get hurt, and I'm happy with that."
As far as winning incentives go, the prizes usually range from a $35 dollar bar tab for first place to a free tune-up at Magic City Bicycle Collective for dead last, as well as commemorative spoke cards and, most importantly, bragging rights. Big ticket items are a bit more rarified -- this is an outlaw's race, and in a world utterly concerned with the fearful prospects of liability and litigation, that hasn't exactly been an easy sell.
As Sauceda put it, "It's tough to get funding or support from local bike shops and companies for an underground, semi-illegal race, but it's been successful. We've had prizes from companies that are more knowledge about underground racing like Chrome and ODI Grips in the past."
In the end, what Sauceda's managed to do seems like a bit of a miracle. It's hard to keep any small, local event going once a month in Miami for six years, much less one that can be as perilous, exciting, and hardcore as Cañones Sueltos, and yet the race has survived and thrived among those in the know. And those in the know know that it's one of the best bicycle races in Miami.
Ignacio, who's ridden Loose Cannons since the beginning, said, "There's a definitely competitive attitude and a lot of people share a similar mindset, but there are so many different characters. And there's always a lot of potential out there, too -- some fast motherfuckers. It's really cool."
So kids, if you've got the requisite tonnage of cojones and if the idea of a tear-ass race through the vicious guts of our fine city sounds like your brand of pickles, next month's race is right around the corner.
Cañones Sueltos gets underway at 9 p.m. on Thursday, April 4, at Biscayne Heights Park (E Dixie Highway and 84th St., Miami) and will reach its thrilling conclusion at the finish line for many a Miami night, The Corner.
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