Any driven Sunday
Super Bowl Sunday meant body odor, colliding bodies and spilled blood. There was also a football game. Welcome to Stupor Bowl XI.
The Stupor Bowl is an annual exhibition of mutant bike culture and extreme- skills contests put on by the Reno chapter of the international Black Label Bike Club. It’s a critical mass composed of music, barrels of beer, massive metal-on-metal collisions, tall-bike jousting, fat-kid pulling, revolutionary recreation and enough engineering travesties to make Enzo Ferrari ruin his coffin. And the all-important $1 Pabst Blue Ribbon.
This year’s Stupor Bowl took place outside of the Chapel Tavern at the corner of South Virginia and Mount Rose streets.
Black Label members are often conspicuous by appearance alone, covered as they are with aggressive tattooing. They seem to show a disregard for hygiene and enjoy a cheerful willingness to suffer physical pain for the enjoyment of the crowd.
They love work pants, military surplus jackets and sew-on patches that say stuff like “Chupacabra Policia.”
The bikers sport a highly disproportionate number of homeless-quality beards and some bravely recycle suicidal hairstyles like the rat-tail. There is priceless wisdom to be gleaned from some, like the little- known fact that “Fat Tire [beer] does something to the smell and leak resistance of your anal sphincter if you drink it for more than a couple days solid.”
Their raison d’etre—modified bicycles—means members build tall bikes made with two or even three frames stacked atop each other, welded or fastened together with bolts and braces—bicycles with bumper car-style skirts around them, combination bicycle/shopping carts and completely useless exercise bikes with hinges put in the middle of the frame.
From a practical standpoint, the tall bikes are hard to get onto and a great way to tear ligaments getting off, but even they are more sensible than the hinge bikes. Hinge bikes swivel in the middle and, judging by the number of crashes, are pretty much impossible to corner. Usually the victim of a hinge-bike crash ends up eating blacktop as the frame wraps around him. That said, they do look like a great way to exercise your hips and abs.
Taking it to the streets
The first Black Label activity started around 3:30 p.m., well before the Big Game.
Missy Keller, a short woman with a blonde ponytail and grungy jacket proclaiming her Black Label membership, says Black Label’s Reno chapter has 12 members and that you can only join if you are invited to join. It’s a testament to the general goodwill of the event organizers and Keller’s patience that she continued smiling and said, “You should ask the president when he gets here.”
When Gyro Mike, club president and wearer of the world’s trashiest rat-tail, did show up, he explained the machinations of Black Label.
“We take the bikes that would be wasting away,” he said. “And then we alter shit. Mostly cutting and welding. Then there’s a lot of drinking, and we smell, too.”
An especially rich source of abandoned bikes, Mike said, was Burning Man. If you ever wondered what happened to that Schwinn you left out on the playa, it probably faced a torturous new life at the hands of Black Label’s amateur welders.
The Black Label bikes tend to feature a lot of sharp edges and rust.
“You’ve gotta keep your tetanus shots up if you want to be in this club,” Gyro Mike said.
Combined with club sports like bike jousting, the Stupor Bowl provides the spectator with more potential for gruesome injury than the football game.
In addition to the Reno members, Black Label had members come in from as far away as Austin and Minneapolis.
“We’re like brothers and sisters,” Gyro Mike said. “We travel around all the time together.”
Minnesotan Luke Houley is a Black Label member who comes from the frozen north every year for the event. Wearing highwater pants and sporting an impressive beer belly, Houley wears Mike Tyson-style facial tattoos. He’s got parallel lines running over each ear, across his cheeks and over his nose that make a Maori warrior look like a piker.
Limited employment prospects aside, Houley has dominated the “beer-chugging-while-riding-a-bike competition” for three years running. The object of this contest is to down a six pack as quickly as possible without falling off your bike.
“You’ve got to shotgun ’em to win,” Houley says, talking strategy. “Many people drink too slowly.”
So slowly, in fact, they didn’t spend five minutes puking in the parking lot, unlike the champ.
While Tom Petty dragged his ass around the stage during halftime of the football game, the Black Label Bikers staged a drag race where two competitors on similarly ridiculous machines raced toward a beer keg, plucked a doll off the top and raced back to the starting line. The audience was encouraged to throw nasty, duct-tape-encased pillows, stuffed animals and sweaters at the contestants as they passed.
The bikers had managed to dismember the doll by race two. By race three, not only did Houley ink his face, but he also had heavily marked up his butt cheeks. In race four, the loser stole the keg, and race six turned into a giggling, drunk version of UFC Fight Night after both riders crashed.
Lest anyone think it was all “man crack,” no, the ladies in attendance put on an unparalled display of plumberette crack. At one point, a young woman dressed like she stole both Grizzly Adams’ and Marilyn Manson’s wardrobes achieved at least 70 percent crack exposure.
The next game was “the fat kid pull.” A contestant would tie one end of about 30 feet of rope to his bicycle and the other end to an obese gentleman sitting on a metal skid. The first contestant was a blue-haired young woman with lots of facial piercings. She whipped out at full speed, yanked the fat guy about three feet and then made like a birdie straight into the asphalt. Another guy with a sort of greasy, un-gelled Mohawk flipped straight onto his protruding chin. The eventual winners won by doubling up on a two-story bike.
Then Houley vomited.
As the football game got to the final few minutes, mostly everybody went inside the Chapel Bar to watch the outcome.
When the turf battle was over, Black Label and Gyro Mike treated the crowd to one last spectacle: Bike jousting.
Using an aluminum pole covered with duct tape at one end, Gyro Mike plowed into several luckless volunteers on his two-story bike. The contestants started their runs about 20 feet apart. As they got going, they attempted to tag each other with the poles and then pull off a “flying face-on-face midair hug crash.” If you’ve ever seen Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott’s fight in Mission Impossible II, it was exactly like that, but with real blood.
While the Giants shocked the Patriots on the field in Arizona, nobody went home a loser at Stupor Bowl XI. Well …