The Little 500 is coolest bike race you’ve never been to

Niche yet popular, this Midwest bike race was once attended by President Obama and Lance Armstrong

Fans at the 2023 Little 500
(Image credit: Elisabeth Reinkordt)

It’s a balmy Thursday in April in Bloomington, Indiana (population 79,968), and the campus at Indiana University (student population 45,328) is buzzing with activity. The dogwood and redbud trees are blooming, the planters have been filled with red and white flowers, and students are taking photos in advance of graduation just a few weeks away. But unlike any other college campus in the United States, this one is on the eve of hosting the largest collegiate cycling event in the world, one that has been running annually since 1951, and whose participants are all undergraduate students from IU. Made famous by the 1979 film Breaking Away – a cult favorite among cycling fans – the Little 500 is a relay race like no other, held on a cinder track, featuring standard-issue singlespeed coaster brake bikes, chaotic and beautiful bike exchanges, and a raucous crowd of students filling the grandstands behind their team’s pit in matching shirts, chanting for their riders. 

Scenes from the 2023 Little 500 race in Indiana

(Image credit: Elisabeth Reinkordt)

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