Want to see something you’ve never seen before? Head down to Crystal City on Saturday, Sept. 29, for the second running of the Crystal City Diamond Derby. One part art, one part bikes, and two parts spectacle, it’s a crazy mash of people who come together for a great evening in a unusual setting. You want to see this.
I should admit that earlier this year, when I encouraged people to check out the first Crystal City Diamond Derby, I didn’t really understand what the event was. I recommended it mostly on the strength of my experience with the promoters as people who put on fun and interesting events. And then I went to check it out for myself.
My time there included lots of gawking at decorated bikes, racing on my own bike through a parking garage, and trying to understand how a nattily dressed couple on a tandem that I’d passed repeatedly still beat everyone in the race. But most of it was spent standing around and appreciating the company of others who shared my interest in enjoying an event that pushed at the edges of the usual cultural events in Arlington.
So what is it, exactly? First, it’s a chance for anyone to come to 2345 Crystal Drive and watch a bunch of amusing bike races for free. No charge to just come hang out and watch. There will be a pop-up bar that also serves snacks to get you through the evening.
The activities actually start earlier in the day, with the arrival of the “D&Q River Ride,” a fashion-fueled casual ride originating in Washington. As those riders arrive, a free kids race will be held along the same course that will used throughout the evening.
That course is a circuit that runs through the parking garage at 2345 Crytal Drive, and then up and around the property. Vornado/Charles E. Smith owns the property and — along with the Crystal City Business Improvement District — deserves a lot of credit for making this event possible.
Once the kids have finished, the course will host a series of races. The “Open Course Challenge” will have riders competing for points by dodging obstacles, completing tasks and collecting as many laps as they can. Clever riders, like the aforementioned tandem team, have an advantage over the riders who don’t understand that simply collecting the most laps — like me — won’t be enough. It’s the sort of race anyone can do. Registration is $20.
For the more ambitious among us, there’s a “Team Competition” and “4X Comps.” Both reward speed more than anything else, but bonus points are awarded for costumes and everlasting respect for those crazy enough to bunny-hop the hay bales. Racing through concrete columns at speed? These races were definitely one of the highlights of the night at the inaugural event.
Bottom line, the Crystal City Diamond Derby is the kind of fun you don’t often see in Arlington. Still not convinced? Check out the video above. Don’t pass up this chance to be a part of it.
Check out diamond-derby.com to register and find additional information.
The Kids Derby is open to children under 15. All other races are open to those 15 and older. Participants younger than 18 require their parents' permission.
Also, three points of credit to Arlington County for some positive moves lately. The green lanes project, the buffered bike lanes coming to Clarendon Boulevard, and the removal of many of the dangerous bollards are all steps in the right direction. I look forward to examining them in more detail in future columns.
Mark Blacknell is a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and a League Cycling Instructor.