In recent years the fixed gear bike race scene has come a long way. From humble beginnings as impromptu “alley cat” races organised by working bike messengers in cities across the globe, from London to Tokyo via SF & NYC, fixed crit racing has grown into arguably the most exciting, accessible and fresh form of cycle sport in the world today.
What are Fixed Gear Bikes?
Track-style fixed gear bikes, often called ‘fixies’ are bikes with a single gear and no brakes. Instead of a gear that can rotate freely when the rider stops pedalling, it is fixed to the hub so the bike can be pedalled forwards or backwards, and speed in either direction moderated by simply resisting the motion of the pedals.
For racing on these stripped back machines, wheel choice is all important, with many of the top racers choosing custom built wide profile aero wheels from specialist makers like Spin Industries. Their super wide Fat Boy road and track wheels may look like Monster Truck wheels fitted to a bike, but they’re the key to maintaining high speeds and to generating huge grip levels through the corners. And given the rough and tumble of racing, they’re made to a level of strenght and toughness that belies their superlight weight.
Now that we’ve got the basics of the bike out of the way, we can move on to the racing…
What are Fixed Gear Crits?
Fixed gear criterium races work along similar lines to traditional road crit racing, incorporating short, technical courses with bunch racing over a specific amount of time. For the larger events, F1-style qualification adds to the excitement in the build-up to the main race.
The addition of innovations like Superpole, with the top 20 riders competing for their final race grid position in a single, do-or-die timed lap shootout is certainly helping to get the fixed crit scene noticed, and there’s a distinct pull among trendy people who sport the ‘hipster look’ and all that is associated with it.
Crits are regularly advertised with eye-catching posters and colourful campaigns to enhance their reputation. Modern posters entice would-be racers and spectators to get on board and enjoy these exciting, fast-paced races!
Locations are selected purposely to tie in with the urban feel, and therefore are hosted in city centres or equally populated urban centres. The crowds are largely made up of cool people, and there’s certain to be well-groomed beards and tattooed riders and spectators aplenty!
So, what about the Red Hook Criterium?
Red Hook Criterium has nailed on everything that we touched on earlier, and more! Because they have brought together such a strong following of supporters who enjoy the events, whether racing or spectating, they remain the largest and best-known fixed gear criteriums currently being run.
From the humble beginnings of the Red Hook races set up by a group of friends in 2008 in the Red Hook neighbourhood of Brooklyn, they have since grown exponentially into a prevalent and widely-admired international event. With title sponsorship in 2015 coming from Rockstar Games (the company that makes Grand Theft Auto) fixed gear crit racing found some solid foundations and built up effectively, finding a niche audience that is separate from the more traditional and insular competitive cycling circles.
2015 saw the first Red Hook event held in London, as part of the Red Hook Criterium Series. The event managed to pull in nothing short of 250 racers from across the globe, with 95 successful entrants eventually qualifying for the main event. As expected with fixed crit racing, the heats and the main event were fast and tightly contested, and the event boasted some large crowds of dedicated race fans as well as curious passers-by.
It’s safe to say that Red Hook events have taken the scene by the scruff of the neck, led the way and never looked back!
You can watch the official video for the Red Hook Crit in London (2015), here: