Getting hooked on a new form of cycle racing

Everyone has heard of the Tour de France and is familiar with cycling stars such as Chris Hoy and Laura Trott. But away from the media focus on elite cycling, another form of bike racing is taking off – fixed gear street racing.

The Red Hook Criterium, the biggest fixed gear race in the world, made its way across the Atlantic to the Greenwich Peninsula in London for the first time this summer, and London’s thriving fixie scene welcomed it with open arms.

It began in the streets of Brooklyn, New York, and has now grown and stretched its wings to Europe, with races this year also being held in Barcelona and Milan. Competitors ranging from urban cyclists and bike messengers to professional road racers and track specialists.

On July 11, 250 men and 39 women all rushed to Greenwich on their fixed gear bikes in an attempt to impress the folks at Red Hook, taking track bikes off the velodrome and onto the streets.

Red Hook challenges its male riders to race 30km and its female riders to race 22.5km around a fast and technically challenging circuit. The riders must possess street-tuned handling skills and high levels of fitness. Aside from the fitness challenge of the race, riders must stay aware of other racers. With a narrow track and racing at high speeds, one person’s slip-up can take out multiple others.

Artefact spoke to Marek Ufnal who rode with the Fixed Gear London team in Greenwich. We found out what all the hype around Red Hook is about, and how the race challenges the common perceptions of cycle racing.

Featured image by Danielle Agtani