AlleyCats are more usually associated with Bike Messengers riding either fixed gear, or single speed bicycles as they race around a city passing through several checkpoints where a task may also have to be accomplished.

Here in Norwich in the United Kingdom, we do things slightly differently, having adopted the casual, open to all, social type treasure hunt.

For the last five months I have been responsible for the organisation and running of the Norwich Alleycat, and have found this casual, social approach is proving very popular with cyclists from all walks of life, and all age groups. I am very proud of the fact that entrants into the Norwich AlleyCats have ranged from 16-67 years of age, even a couple in their mid 20's riding a tandem and towing a toddler behind them in a child carrying trailer, and a young disabled lady undertaking the route and tasks in her electric assist wheelchair.

Entrants have turned up on; Fixies, Single Speeds, MTBs, Shoppers, Dutch, Hybrids, Commuters, Folders, Roadies, Tricross, Tandems, Recumbents, Tadpole Trikes, and even the world famous Bicycle designer; Mike Burrows on one of his small wheeled mono fork racing bikes.

When setting out your Alleycat, you need to consider the people who may be taking part, the kinds of bicycles they are going to turn up on, the route you are going to utilise, and how you are going to control the checkpoints. A Sociable AlleyCat needs to be about 90 minutes long for an average rider and I have found that a mixture of 10 clues to solve, 8 checkpoints to pass through, and 2 simple tasks to complete are more than sufficient to keep them interested and their competitive spirits engaged; especially if you are running the AlleyCats during the dark winter nights.

You need a nice public place to start your AlleyCat from, and a nice welcoming place to finish your AlleyCat at.

The Norwich AlleyCat begins at the Norwich Forum; a large public library in a car free zone. In front of the Forum is Millennium Plain; a paved area of approximately 1 acre, so there is plenty of room for the cyclists and pedestrians using the area. The finishing point is usually a welcoming café/bar with plenty of bicycle parking stands which the AlleyCat entrants can use to secure their bicycles to, whilst enjoying the social, as the results are collated.

Step 1: Planning the Alleycat.

Many AlleyCat entrants have asked me why I do not sit back and let others organise an AlleyCat. There are two main reasons for this:

1) If I don't do it, no one else will.

2) I get a great deal of pleasure exploring the city on my bicycle looking for the unusual, and thinking how I am going to incorporate a particular place or feature into either the treasure hunt questions, or the card punch control points

With an AlleyCat each month (and I am proud of the fact that since I took over, Norwich is now the only city in Europe that has a regular monthly Alleycat) careful planning is key. I have found that I need to be out on my Bicycle for two sessions. One session taking me 4 or 5 hours covering a distance of about 20 miles. The second session taking me about 90 minutes to 2 hours as I cycle my planned route and modify it accordingly. I also need to go out and cycle the route to the control points just prior to the AlleyCat to place the control card punches, and then again after the Alleycat to collect up the punches. This usually means that I am out on my bicycle for about 8 hours of pleasurable riding each month doing what is necessary for an AlleyCat, and not just the 90 minutes that an average rider will take to cover the course.

There are several things that are essential to organising a successful treasure hunt style Alleycat: A well maintained bicycle, a road map of the local area, a digital camera, a pair of pocket binoculars, a note book and pen, and I like to take a compass with me; I have a wrist mounted Suunto divers compass that I tend to wear when out on my Bicycle. Being a devious person with a sense of humor is also essential to ensure that the entrants have a good time. 

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Bio: I live in the UK, and own a small business designing and building: Cargo Carrying Bicycles, Bike Trailers, Pedal Powered Utility Trucks & Vans, Pedal Racing ... More »
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