After a pandemic-induced slumber, bike weirdos, tricksters, and punks descended on a dead-end street in Red Hook to reignite the embers of Bike Kill, New York City’s long-running gathering of “mutant bikes.”

Now in its 17th year, the blaze of hard-to-wield bicycles took place between two rubble-filled empty lots on the waterfront, with Lady Liberty standing a horrified watch from the harbor. Early weather reports indicated that this would be another soggy affair — but the dark lord smiled upon Bike Kill, granting it sunshine and a cooling breeze, making sure the only torrent was of dumpster-dived hard pita bread, chucked at the hellion riders navigating the treacherous and narrow course.

“It feels so, so good to be back, just getting to see everyone after so long,” said Caledonia Curry (a.k.a. Swoon), dressed in full clown regalia. Curry says she’s attended each iteration of the Bike Kill and worked with a group of friends to put up skeleton-themed paste-ups in the neighborhood, to welcome riders to the Halloween-eve festivities.

“Sometimes [it] feels like the apocalypse, and you’re about to watch someone die, and other times it’s like ‘people should bring their kids to this,’” Curry said.

While Bike Kill has tended to be more “child-friendly” in recent years, little demons must still navigate a course filled with runaway couches, souped-up tall bikes, and cement rollers run amok.

“My kids are just wide-eyed, they’re having fun but they really don’t know what to make of it,” said Katie Lincoln, a jeweler who has lived in Red Hook for sixteen years, and brought her four-year-old and six-year-old to the rally. “But this is the land of misfits, and this is where it should be.”

Bike Kill has shifted locations in recent years, after crackdowns by the NYPD in previous locations. In Red Hook, where the event has returned for a second consecutive time, it has found a narrow parcel of land to, albeit briefly, liberate from prescribed post-industrial uses.

“So much has been cleaned up in the city, gentrified, fortified — it’s just nice to see something without a home, something people have to come together to create,” said Denise Oswald, who also wandered over from the surrounding neighborhood.

Oswald admitted she was “bike-curious,” at the event, trying to figure out which of the chaotic assemblages she’d attempt to ride.

From double-decker tall bikes to conjoined-triplet scooters, riders could hazard the course, taking morbid glee in wipeouts or injury-defying near-misses. Ghouls, witches, ax-murderers, skeletons, and a group dressed as the full cast of the Sopranos, weaved through the increasingly crowded lanes, as dusk set in. Tents serving drinks and warm soup kept attendees fed and pleasantly numb to the myriad danger surrounding them, while a DJ matched the frenetic pace of the riders.

“Bike Kill is a chaotic and creative energy that inspires us to work on our own cool shit,” said Matt Porr, who drove up from Richmond, VA to be a part of it. Porr helps organize Richmond’s Bike Kill-offshoot “Burning Van.”

“They’ve taught us how to get away with something like this, how not to step on toes, and to make art. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of something like this?” he said.

Porr was seen later careening on an especially off-kilter bike, only to have his ride ended by a large foam boulder, which rolled out from the mass of people gathered along the side of the track.

“He challenged the boulder, and the boulder won,” said one unnamed observer nearby, covered in fake(?) blood.

While a contingent of NYPD officers made an appearance later in the afternoon, they seemed most disturbed by attendees setting off fireworks, and after a brief warning about pyrotechnics, consigned themselves to lingering at the far end of the dead-end street.

The culmination of Bike Kill, the annual joust, took place as a pink evening sky gave way to a low and threatening cloud cover, with helmeted riders scaling tall bikes to do battle. While some connected on their blows, many just collided, howling as they descended into the battle-hungry crowd.

After an impressive clean-up effort and some trash-pit s’mores, the riders peaceably shuffled into the shadows of Halloween eve, having completed their deviant and exhausting rite, a “Bike Kill” delayed, but not diminished.