Brake-less Races Getting Popular

CHARLES LEE | 29th Apr 2015 | NEWS

Does anyone still remember last December’s saga involving HolyCrit, the illegal street race in which fixed-gear road bikes, commonly known as fixies, raced against one another without any brake? While the HolyCrit is no longer found in street-safe Singapore, fixed-gear bike racing has been sweeping the cycling world by storm in recent months. Just last Saturday alone, in the streets of New York, over 300 cyclists from 29 countries participated in what was called the Red Hook Criterium or “The Crit” for short.

The Crit, which takes place at night, requires its participants to race around a three-quarter-mile lap for 24 times. Riders who fall behind would be booted out of the race. The bikes that the participants ride on are without brakes, and the only way to slow down is to pedal backwards. The race track in The Crit is often crowded with a large mix of participants and injuries as a result of crashes are commonplace. It is also the thrill of racing without brakes that draws thousands of spectators to The Crit to watch participants racing against each other from mere metres away.

Originated in 2008 from one David Trimble, who came up with the racing format to celebrate his then 26th birthday, the Crit has developed into an international phenomenon, which has spread to Milan, Barcelona and the streets of London.

The Crit is not an official race and because it is not sanctioned by any official cycling organisation, participants are required to sign a waiver that they would not hold The Crit responsible for injuries that are sustained during the race. In an official race, course layouts would be properly drawn by an official cycling organisation and insurance coverage would be provided. In 2013, a 15-year-old participant sustained fractures in his nose, eye sockets and jaw at a race in Brooklyn, USA. He received $1,200 from The Crit organisers, which were barely enough to cover his medical costs of over $100,000.

Despite the dangers involved in The Crit, many people are still drawn to the race. A participant named David said: “All bike racing is dangerous and pretty much any sport we are going fast is dangerous. I don’t think The Crit is more dangerous than even an amateur race in Central Park”. Another participant, Llyod, added, “It’s hardcore! It’s bad ass! It’s all of those things, you know. And people like to be a part of that, right?”