After our second year of hosting the “Fixed Gear Revolution” event there was a nice article in the Global Times newspaper. Here is the link to the original article.
Fixed gear fanatic Ines Brunn showing a few tricks. Photo: Guo Yingguang
The countdown began from 10, by the time they’d hit two, 100 people were already sprinting full speed across the car park heading for the sea of bikes. They tore out into the street splitting off left and right, stopping traffic and causing gasps from bystanders. Nothing over the last weekend stood in the way of the Fixed Gear Revolution 2, as riders from around Beijing and the rest of China took to the streets to create the ultimate bike lovers’ paradise.
There was a lot of lounging around waiting for events to happen, but with youngsters popping tins of energy drinks every few minutes and the odd trick performance in between races, the atmosphere was more like a music festival than a bike race. Only the sweaty looks on the faces of hard ridden fanatics betrayed the fact that they’d been putting their skills to the test.
Starting off at the Olympic forest park on Friday night, about 50 of Beijing’s finest arrived for a scratch [speed race] around the forest park. With gawkers in cars wobbling along the fifth ring road every time they passed, and the first corner disappearing into an abyss of darkness, it was clear from the warm-up lap that this was going to be a test for the normally chilled city riders. Not everyone there was a purist for “fixies”, with members of the local Beijing peloton taking along their other ride, along with bike enthusiasts of all types and nationalities.
The grueling 45 minutes began to show on the faces of some of the unprepared, and the casualties sprawled on the roadside afterwards. Those who had been running a pool on who would win were not disappointed to see some of Beijing’s hardcore street cyclists take the lead with super fit hero Czech Misha Pekarek coming first after three laps of the 8-kilometer route.
“It was a fun race,” said Pekarek. “It was pretty stiff competition. But some people got together at last in Beijing and we need to have many more things like that.”
They enjoyed the punishment so much that when the Guangzhou and Shenzhen riders turned up a bit late after the journey another race was in order just after midnight.
Despite the early morning finish, about 100 riders, plus spectators turned up for the Beijing Alleycat 2010, an unauthorized race around eight checkpoints set up around the city. About 900 energy drinks later the cyclists made a dash for their bikes and took off to tackle the polluted chaotic capital. Close to the top of the list of worries for the organizers was the number of young brakeless riders. But there were only two relatively minor injuries caused by a bike collision, prompted by a particularly aggressive Mercedes driver, and a couple of stoppages by the unusually awake Sanlitun police watching out for Guoan fans.
At each checkpoint competitors were asked to take part in an activity in order to get a stamp which would prove their presence on site. As if the 40 or so km route wasn’t challenging enough, sweaty hipsters were then challenged to balance a peacock feather on their noses, flip a skateboard or on one occasion play a miniature round of beer pong. Each of the riders agreed that the Beijing’s traffic was “pretty hairy,” and thanks to the city’s pleasant breeze, most looked like sand (or possibly construction dust) monsters by the end of the day.
An alleycat race is dependent on each racer’s knowledge of the city, its back alleys and possible routes in order to hit the checkpoints and get back to the finish first. Although riders were just taking part for fun native Beijingers might have been a bit miffed that first place went to American Anthony Paglino. Paglino has previously cycled between Yunnan and Sichuan crosscountry, probably a lot safer than navigating Beijing’s brain damaged drivers.
Taking first place for the few competing women was Ellen Genetello from Belgium, who had also won the speed race for the girls the night before. “I never use the fixed gear, even now, except for long journeys,” she said. “There was competition for every level, everybody had someone to compete with, I’m happy that there were also a few girls.”
The evening was rounded off with a crowd of locals temporarily mildly offended that their normal dancing and play space was taken over outside the Workers’ Gymnasium, before they realized they had a free show from the trick riders from Guangzhou and Shenzhen who dominated the competition. The after-party at the MGM garden bar worked out the last of the competitiveness on the bike simulators, and drinking.
The post weekend trauma had proven too much for some, and it was a reluctant few who persevered through to bike polo the day after for a few friendly games. After three days combing the city, it wasn’t surprising that most people were knackered, and everyone was reflecting on Beijing’s second major bicycle event.
“I can’t say too much because I don’t do tricks, they’re pretty fashionable but I’m a real biker. I come just for fun,” said Ricky Wong, a Hong Konger who’s been cycling Beijing for the last couple of years. He was at the competition last year and had seen a couple of changes. “It should be better! Hopefully they can find more sponsors and more promoters. The trick competition is better during the daytime, and the skid competition was really fun last year,” he added, finding it a shame that they hadn’t included it again.
The competition has set a precedent, with more and more event popping up around China since last year, and they seem set for a repeat performance in future. Though the traffic on Beijing’s roads maybe getting worse, it’s not going to stop the revolution.