Bloomington, Indiana is the home of Indiana University weighing in with nearly 42,500 students, taking up almost 60% of the town’s population. Known extensively for their unparalleled sense of school pride, every spring students ready themselves for a cycling event of epic proportions: the Little 500. Modeled after the Indianapolis 500, the race began in 1951 with students putting together a track race in which fraternities and independent teams (University-affiliated, of course) could compete. A solid few weeks of events and partying built themselves around the main event of the men’s track race on a Saturday in April every year. The women’s race was added later which takes place the day before, along with ‘Miss-n-Out’ (taking place two weeks prior) which is an elimination-style track race dropping the last rider to cross the finish line every lap.

Little 500

A running of the race in the 70s.

One very famous aspect of this race (additionally what makes this the most interesting bike race in the country) is that every rider must use a Schwinn single-speed coaster-brake bicycle. Through the years the design and color scheme of the bikes have changed but the classic feel and uniformity of each bike remains the same. The idea is essentially that every rider uses equal equipment; there are no toe straps allowed, no different gearings, no different handle bars, and no upgraded parts. The entire race is based solely upon the riders and their ability to perform during the course of the race. This is also entirely a race for the glory of winning. There is no money involved, no scholarships awarded, and nothing more than a pat on the back and some cheering. This alone seems to be enough to captivate the minds and hearts of thousands every year which is why I find it to be (as the school self-proclaims) the world’s greatest college weekend. For a complete list of rules, qualifying criteria, and more I suggest you check out a very comprehensive Wiki article regarding the subject.

Pictured here is the 2010 Little 5 Schwinn (center) next to the 2011 version (left)

The reason I bring all this up, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is that my girlfriend who lives in Bloomington competed in this years race (and did very, very well). I was in Bloomington all weekend hanging out, taking in the festivities, and attending the races. The women’s race was fantastic and the men’s was close until the very end. All riders did very well and it was a pleasure to be a part of the celebration. It rained throughout the men’s race so photos there were cut short. Click to enlarge all recent photographs and credit to Little for all vintage photographs.

A pace lap from a 1950s race

The pace laps of the womens race

1950s mens race taking a corner

Sigma Nu (1st place qualifiers) warming up at the mens race

An exchange, or bike tradeoff between riders, from a 1950s race

An exchange in progress

A wreck at the mens race in the 50s

It rained too hard to continue photographing

Update: Forgot to post some general results. If you would like to see the men’s race results, click here. If you would like to see the women’s race results, click here.

Men’s Top 5:

  1. Cutters
  2. Phi Delta Theta
  3. Sigma Chi
  4. Delta Tau Delta
  5. Acacia
Women’s Top 5:
  1. Teter
  2. Pi Beta Phi
  3. Delta Gamma
  4. Army Women
  5. Wing it Cycling
Update: I also wanted to mention that according to The Indy Channel, 222 individuals were arrested this weekend. Most of which were alcohol related. Rock ‘n roll.