Like rams to the slaughter

Rich Griset

Contributing Writer

Many Richmonders consider a day at Belle Isle a break from the hectic day-to-day grind synonymous with city living. Saturday was an exception, as the screams of thousands arose from the once peaceful island. Two young men, half-drunk and pumping adrenaline, slammed makeshift lances straight into each other.

But this was no Roman gladiator duel in Carthage. This was the tall-bike jousting event this past weekend in Richmond. This was Slaughterama.

For the seventh year running, the quintessential Richmond holiday known as Slaughterama hit the River City, and brought with it bicycles, madness and its own case of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Slaughterama participants included different bike crews such as Cutthroats, Guild, Riders of the Apocalypse, Vomit Squad, Team Biscuit and Saddle Sores.

The holiday began Thursday, or “Evil Fools Day,” as it’s known to some Richmonders, with Lamplighter Roasting Company hosting a block party on South Addison Street.

Friday brought on the legendary Slaughterama scavenger hunt. This year’s scavenger list included getting a ticket for jaywalking, catching a stinging animal, and getting a permanent tattoo reading “Slaughterama 7.”

At midnight on Friday, the Byrd Theatre in Carytown opened its doors to “bike porn,” which is exactly what it sounds like; people having sex on, around and with bicycles.

But these were just warm-ups for the real event on Saturday at Belle Isle. Thousands of adults, young and old, descended upon that island in the middle of the James River to take part in the drunken revelry.

Passing bewildered parents, children and other normal citizens gawked or fled from the throbbing bacchanal that took place under the rusted-out former factory shed, as participants proceeded to get drunk, rowdy, high, and in some cases, naked.

On one end of the shed was an inflated kiddy pool for spaghetti wrestling. When people weren’t busy pulling off each other’s bathing suits, some wresting actually took place. On the edges of the area were trick ramps for cyclists, one of which read “F*** YOU PLEASE DIE.” Other events included a chicken fight, tug of war and a six-pack chug race.

Finally, the event that everyone came to see arrived—the tall bike joust. For those not in the know, a tall bike is a bicycle that has at least one additional bike frame welded on top of it, essentially creating a double-decker bike. Drunken participants mounted these steel contraptions, and were handed makeshift lances with which to engage in battle. The lances were made out of long PVC pipes with teddy bears duct-taped to the ends.

As if staying balanced atop a tall bike whilst riding through a group of people wasn’t hard enough, the audience hurled flour, tomatoes and half-empty beer cans at the riders.

“This year was kind of a disappointment,” said Ron Rogers, a manager at Strange Matter on West Grace Street. Rogers has a lot of friends in Cutthroats and Riders of the Apocalypse. Rogers said he felt many college kids turned out, not understanding the nature of the event.

Rogers said that he has heard rumors that this will be the last Slaughterama, at least as far as the size and date of the event.

Dan Sides, a member of the Wind-Up Bird Ruff Ryders crew, dismisses rumors that this is the last Slaughterama, but agrees that the event is becoming less exclusive.

“It’s getting more commercial,” Sides said. “It’s like the Bonnaroo of Richmond. It’s more about the ‘rama,’ and less about the ‘slaughter.’ ”


  1. Dear Mr/Ms Editor,

    This article is a disgrace and the editorial, reporting, and fact-checking staff should be ashamed of themselves At best this article is inaccurate and at worst it’s insulting.

    First and foremost the Cutthroats weren’t just participants in the events. The Cutthroat Bicycle Club were and have been the primary organizers of the events and to not credit them as such is a slight to their hard work, dedication, and strong ties to both the business and social communities of Richmond. These are the guys (and girls) who keep the gears running smoothly and they’ve been doing so for 7 years.

    Second, you seem to claim that the majority of the events which occur involve, or are based around drinking. You use the words “drunk” or “drunken” 4 times in this article and imply that the participants as nothing more than a bunch of drunken goons and the event itself is nothing more than a crazed bacchanal. Even more so you make these implications based only on observing one day (out of four) of events. This is a horrible misrepresentation of both the substance and spirit of Slaughterama and I’m surprised that you’d so badmouth a community who invited you in with open arms.

    It seems to me like the problem here is that your staff didn’t come to the event to participate or to cheer on your friends who were participating. Nor does it seem like you came to talk to the participants or the organizers, because many of the problems with this article could have been fixed after only a short talk with either. It seems to me like you showed up for the same reason that an unfortunately large number of people showed up this year. You heard there was going to be a big party on Belle Island and incidentally there would be kids on bikes there. It was this attitude which lead the the disappointment you mentioned at the end of the article and the same attitude that lead to a lot of disrespectful and in some cases dangerous behavior, much of which was perpetrated by people entirely uninvolved in the actual events of the day.

    Certainly if one happens to drink a beer or twelve at Slaughterama it’s not a big deal, hey, it happens. Same with if you get hit with / throw an empty beer can at one of the opposing teams. However, at it’s very heart Slaughterama has always been about getting together with friends and having fun on bikes. It seemed to me and a lot of others that a lot of people who came to Belle Island on this year didn’t understand that.

    A Concerned Denizen

    P.S. How can your seriously print material like what you got from Dan Sides. “Wind-Up Bird Ruff Ryders Crew”? Really? The whole thing is so drenched in sarcasm that it practically drips off the page. On top of that the quote barely makes any sense.

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there were no events at Belle Island next year.

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