A brief history of the Alleycat in Toronto


The photo above is an article by one of the originators of Alley Cat races, Leo Slonetsky that appeared in Navid’s Guidebook for CMWC 2008. Leo notes that the Alley Cat name comes from the group of Toronto cyclists that explored the city at night.  Johnny “Jet Fuel” Englar and Lance Latrullo were members of this group.

In 1989 Gary Michael Dault wrote an article called “Midnight’s Children” for Toronto Life about the “Alley Cats”, he recalled:

My introduction to the urban pastoralism of the laneway began 15 years ago, when I wrote an article for Toronto Life magazine called “Midnight’s Children” about a gaggle of hectic young bicyclists who called themselves the Back Alley Boys (later changed to the Alley Cats) who insisted I travel with them on one of their typical nocturnal rounds. “We ride at night because the city is emptier then and lonelier,” the leader of these romantic, two-wheeled Peter Pans explained to me. And as puerile as all this night-riding seemed to me at the time, it did offer a kind of fragrance of the urban literary: “…people sitting out at three in the morning and guys fixing their cars, their flashlights glowing inside upraised hoods, and lovers embracing and the smell of next day’s bread baking….”

What kind of city did the Back Alley Boys show me? “A pastoral one, certainly,” I wrote, “almost a 19th-century city, a gothic, chiaroscuro city like Batman’s Gotham City, full of sleep and shadows and anarchy, put together in an age of iron; a city of bridges and looming towers and speaking not at all of the daytime city made of webs of circuitry and the mounting-up of information.”

In the early days Toronto had two major annual Alley Cats, run by the originators, the Halloween Alleycat and the Valentine’s Day Alleycat (St. Valentine’s Day Massacre). The Halloween Alleycat would be transformed into the “Dunhill Alleycats Scramble” which is more commonly referred to as the Human Powered Roller Coaster, a wooden figure-eight velodrome that was transported between Toronto and Vancouver in the nineties. In 1997, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre also became a figure-eight race as it was held on the Toronto Islands on the ice of the frozen harbour.  The Valentine’s ice race would be forced to relocate due to global warming as the Toronto Harbour’s waters froze less often. The race is still held today on the ice rinks of Dufferin Grove Park. It is now, The Toronto Ice Race run by Derek Chadbourne to raise money for local charities or a cause in need of funds that year.


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