Fixed Gear Biking the New Way to Race on Wheels

Elmo Rey Arciaga

Amanda Zepeda

Competitors at the Red Bull Ride + Style, a fixed gear biking competition, battled for the top prize in two categories: track and freestyle

Fixed-gear bicycles have become the ultimate item in urban culture.

“Fixie” bikes are simple and elegant stripped to the bare requirements of pedaling, steering and rolling.

They are becoming more popular as more people discover the joy of riding single speed and fixed gear.

Single speed riding requires a different kind of approach.

The fixed gear does not allow you to coast where even going downhill can be hard work. The cog on the rear wheel is bolted directly to the hub so that your pedals must go at the same speed as your rear wheel. This also means your pedals can be used to slow down the bike.

In San Francisco last month, fixed gear and contemporary art came together in the Red Bull Ride + Style Event where more than 5,000 people headed to Justin Herman Plaza to witness “messengers” (as the riders of fixed gear bicycles are called), show their talents.

The event was a collision of fixed gear biking and urban contemporary art, as the competition was held on a course featuring artwork created by various California artists.

Red Bull Ride + Style brought together 60 riders from all over, including riders from the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, New York and even Japan.

The riders participating tin the event competed in one of two categories: track or freestyle.

The track competition was along the lines of a traditional race, with two riders going head-to-head and the one with the best time advancing to the next round.

The track included a custom art installation by Los Angeles-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector that served as the starting point.

The competition saw riders elbowing each other for position in the narrow track, and multiple riders crashing into the guardrails.

In the end, the final showdown occurred between two Bay Area riders; Jason Clary and Kell McKenzie who both went into the event as alternatives filling in for dropouts of the event.

At the end of the race, Clary took home the first place honor.

The freestyle portion of the competition gave riders the chance to showcase their style and best tricks on several one-of-a-kind ramps built by Jeremy Witek.

The custom features included artwork by urban contemporary artists Aaron De La Cruz, Erik Otto, N8 Van Dyke and Arlo Eisenberg.

The freestyle competition grouped the participating riders into five different heats, six riders in each.

The talent featured a groundbreaking back flip performed by rider Kohei “Kozo” Fuji from Osaka, Japan.

The trick had never been landed in an international competition, and the ecstatic crowd stormed the course to congratulate Fuji on the amazing feat.

But in the end, it was Matt Reyes from Gilroy, Calif. whose consistent and stylish riding ultimately earned him first place, followed by Josh Boothby from Castro Valley, Calif. in second and Tyler Johnson from Seattle in third.

As competitions like these continue to take place all over the world, fixed hear bicycles are continuing to grow in popularity and entertainment.

Many have labeled the bike as “dangerous” and “risk-taking” while others including those at hand of the competition consider these bikes a self of expression.