Photo: Sam Milianta
“Is drinking the best thing about cycling, or is cycling the best thing about drinking?” ponders the Cutthroat Racing Team’s founder, Ryan Miller, over a stein of IPA at Brewvies Cinema Pub. “Cycling is the best thing about drinking,” says current Team Captain Joe Wiggins with conviction.
Whatever your preference, it can’t be denied that bicycles and booze make quite the pairing, and it just so happens that this salty city of ours knows how to keep the beer brewing and the pedals pumping in harmony. Whether you’re a hard-core pedal pusher or just a fun-lover looking to add a little endorphin rush to your weekend boozing, read on.
Watching those sleek, spandex-clad cyclists with the fancy helmets and rippling calf muscles race by as you huff and puff up a slight incline (that cigarette hanging off your lips probably isn’t helping much) is pretty fucking intimidating. Miller wanted to take that edge off when he started a chapter of Arizona’s Missing Link Racing here in Salt Lake in 2003, a popular beer-drinking and bicycle-racing team known for having a keg at every race. Joining up with Uinta vice president of sales Steve Kuftinec due to the brand’s eco-friendly brewing methods and all-around tasty beer, the team changed their name to Cutthroat Racing in 2003 and became the mountain-biking, cyclocross, road-racing and beer-drinking team they are now. “The [name] that floated to the top on bubbles of beer was Cutthroat. We liked it ’cause it fit everything: Uinta’s flagship beer is the Cutthroat, the state fish is the cutthroat, and we’re kind of like pirates, and they’re cutthroat,” says Miller. “It’s funny because we are not at all cutthroat racers. There’s nothing cutthroat about us when it comes to racing—we’re much more of a laid-back drinking group.”
Though you’re probably imagining the Cutthroat Racing Team as the hopeless “Heavyweights” of Camp Hope or the raggedy group of “Little Rascals” at the derby race, the team is far from being a group of outcasts at the local and regional events. First and foremost, it should be made clear that the riders aren’t racing intoxicated. ... Well, most of them, anyway. “We have some amazing riders that, when they drink, they seem to perform better, which is counterintuitive to all reasonable thoughts,” says Wiggins. “I think a lot of it is they don’t have that initial common sense; ‘I should probably get off and walk.’ They see something and say, ‘I can do it.’” Getting drunk while on a bicycle isn’t something the team condones, but post-race drinking is very much encouraged. “Beer is the perfect hydrating post-race drink. It has water, which hydrates you; it has carbs, which re-energize you; and then it has alcohol to numb the pain,” says Miller. According to Wiggins, many of the racers actually do better simply because the beer becomes a “light at the end of the tunnel,” pushing them to finish the race and grab a cold one. The 50-or-so members are cyclists ranging from all levels of experience, supporting each other and representing the team at events, handing out the minimum of two cases to other racers as well. “Other teams can be very exclusionary—they’re just there for themselves and their team alone, and they don’t like to mingle,” says Miller. “Whereas Cutthroat is the ultimate inclusionary because everybody at the race knows they can come to the Cutthroat tent, sit down and relax, talk about bikes, talk about the race and have a cold beer.”
Aside from races, the team also hosts weekly meetings: an official one held the first Wednesday of the month, 6 p.m. at Uinta, and a more informal get-together the remaining Wednesdays at Brewvies, also at 6 p.m. Becoming a member is as easy as paying the $95 annual fee, which gets you a sweet Cutthroat jersey, access to their many sponsors and of course, the privilege of calling yourself a Cutthroat racer and mingling with some fun-loving cyclists. “I’m going to drink anyway,” says Miller. “Cycling allows me to get away with it and still stay in shape to a certain degree. Who doesn’t like a free beer?” Join the Cutthroat Team in their efforts to raise the funds for a team van this month, when you will get the chance to live life as a Cutthroat racer for a day and help them bring more fun and booze to the
For those of us who prefer to ride sans the lycra and in a more urban setting, local cycling enthusiast Duane Vigil has the perfect alternative to the Cutthroat crew: bike pub crawls. For those who have been suffocating behind the Zion Curtain and are just now opening your eyes to the world around you, a pub crawl consists of a group of people moving together from one bar to the next, usually with the intent of guzzling as many drinks as possible during the short amount of time at each establishment.
Though pub crawls aren’t anything original or exclusive to our city, Vigil has taken it upon himself to organize Salt Lake’s pedaling masses out on the roads on Saturday nights. “I kind of just wanted to see if people would be into it,” says Vigil. “[My friends and I] have done it ourselves just hanging out and stuff, but this time, we thought we’d invite more people to bring people together that normally wouldn’t hang but have biking in common.” With about five people attending the first one held mid-winter, the bike pub crawls have begun to grow considerably as the weather warms, and Vigil expects attendance to keep increasing. “People come that aren’t even drinkers because it’s such a fun time,” he says.
A typical bike pub crawl begins at a well-known meeting place, such as Liberty Park or Gallivan, after which the cyclists cruise on over to local establishments such as X-Wifes, Johnny’s, Twilite Lounge, Cheers To You and Junior’s. “We try to pick bars that we can easily get to without having to ride a terrible long time in between,” says Vigil. “We also try to pick bars that cater to bikers … so it makes it a little easier for a large crew to go to a place like that.” Twilite Lounge has actually put a bike corral out front, most likely due to the many bicycles that decorate the fence along its parking lot throughout the summer, and the bars along Main Street also feature convenient bicycle racks. “It’s nice to know people are actually taking notice that people are getting on bikes,” says Vigil.
Of course, since a bicycle is considered a vehicle by state law, riding under the influence can get you a DUI, which is why Vigil is very vehement about bicycle safety. Front and back lights are strongly suggested, and the group is careful not to break any traffic laws. “I think that people are stoked on the idea because they don’t have to spend money on a cab or drive themselves, or have a friend come pick them up at a place. Unless they get tanked, in which case they should probably stay where they’re at,” says Vigil. “We’ll get off the bikes and walk for a bit, or use the buddy system to ride home together to make things safer. Driving intoxicated is never really a good idea, but a few beers I don’t think ever hurt anybody.”
So what’s the best bicycle to ride on a booze cruise to keep from eating an asphalt sandwich? Vigil prefers his road bike for its gears, but suggests a cruiser for those more likely to get tipsy, as they are easier to keep your balance with their large wheels and wide handlebars. What it really comes down to, though, is genuine fun. “I think the main focus is trying to promote a good time amongst a large group of people,” says Vigil with a smile. “I’m a whiskey guy, honestly. A Jack Daniels suits me fine, but I can spend a few more bucks if I have to, and then Cutthroat is a good beer for me, typically a pale ale guy. A fallback on Pabst never hurt anybody.”
Vigil’s next bike pub crawl is Saturday, June 25, meeting at 8:30 p.m. at the center flagpole in Liberty Park. A suggested $5 donation will go to the Ching Animal Sanctuary so you can get that warm, fuzzy feeling from more than just the booze and biking. For more information on the Cutthroat Racing Team, go to cutthroatracing.org or join in on any of their Wednesday “meetings” and be sure to attend their fundraising event later this month.