Crit racing reignited my fixed gear love affair
It all happened on that fateful day, when my borrowed road bike was stripped of parts. As I stood outside my Dalston flat in the weak autumn sunshine gazing at the destruction some lowlifes had wreaked, I realised something had to change. My next bike would have no gears at all I decided; no shifters, no cassette, no cabling. I’d build a fixed gear bike so those bike thieves would have little to pinch.
Fast-forward ten years and that chance occurrence has given me a passion, a job and an enormous amount of happiness. I loved the fixed gear bike that I built so very much that I dropped nearly all other activities in order to ride it. Riding it was like nothing else on earth, a whole difference experience to my usual commute on a ‘regular’ bike. I was consumed with a burning desire to cycle more and more, to ride further and faster. My life was briefly all about that bike. But almost as quickly as I fell in love, I began desiring other kinds of thrills.
I enjoyed doing bunny hops, bar spins and wheelies on my fixed gear bike so the next logical step was to get a BMX. But I also liked to go fast so I began investigating road and touring bikes, trying all manner of steel framed machine. A move to the countryside ensured my next bike was for riding off-road and I progressed from a hard tail to a full susser and from my local forest park to the Downhill tracks at Gawton Gravity Hub.
In the meantime, away from city life, my love of fixed gear bikes began to wane. Where in London, a fixed gear bike made perfect sense, out on Dartmoor I preferred freewheeling my way down from Haytor and shifting gears on the way up. After riding a series of borrowed bikes, I was lucky enough to win my first ever carbon road bike in a competition on the website Road.cc. That was just about the final nail in the coffin as far as riding fixed gear was concerned and from then on, it was pretty much only brought out for the occasional jaunt to the beach or visit to the capital. Which was a shame really, as fixed gear riding was my first true love.
But like all good love stories, we found our way back to each other. One hot summer day, laying on the beach in Torquay whilst my husband was at work, I impulsively entered the first ever Red Hook Crit to be held in London.
The Red Hook Crit events are a series of fixed gear circuit races held in cities around the world, attracting a diverse mix of amateur and professional cyclists, from ex-bike couriers to road and track racers. With a youthful exuberance and fun-filled atmosphere that can sometimes be missing in traditional cycle races, the Red Hook Crit appealed to me. I’d watched the women’s race in Milan the year before and it just looked awesome – I was inspired by the women I saw testing themselves in the race and I wanted to be one of them too, sprinting round and round on a track bike whilst the crowd drummed on the barriers in support. Seeing them, I’d wondered, ‘could I do that too?’
It turned out I could! Two years on and I’ve fallen deeply in love with my fixed gear bike again thanks to these fixed gear criterium and just like the first time, my life has been totally changed. I now train six days a week on my bike and in the gym and I’ve never felt stronger or happier. I travel all around the world to criterium, racing an international group of cyclists who I now call my friends.
Getting into fixed gear crit racing was one of the best decisions I ever made. Could it be the same for you? If you’d like to get into racing fixed gear crits, check out my video guide below. Or if you’re still wondering ‘what on earth is a fixed gear crit…?’ click here.