WHOOSH: Red Hook Crit Barcelona
Speaking of Skateboarding, what is it about that sport that I think is so relevant to cycling? In a word, culture.
I Race Report
I should start by admitting that I know very little about fixed gear bicycles. Here are my (very limited and unremarkable) accolades/palmarès/bona fides:
- I was a bike messenger in Portland twice. Both stints were in the summer, both stints lasted for a couple of months max. So I never rode through a Portland winter. I never lived in a house with six other messengers. I never really paid my dues, whatever that means.
- I’ve raced two alleycats.
- I rode, exclusively, a fixed-gear Davidson cross bike for two years. Every ride. Road rides. All the rides. It had brakes.
- And that’s it, that’s all I got.
- Oh yeah, and I’m aware that at one point in time, five or six or seven years ago, Fixed Gear Enthusiasts attempted to make Fixed Gear Riding the new Roller Blading which was the new BMX which was the new-but-still-not-as-cool Skateboarding. Fixed Gear Enthusiasts tried to do cool tricks on their bikes, to make that a “thing”. And I know that at best it was ridiculous and at worst it was pathetic and that either way it was embarrassing for everyone.
Speaking of Skateboarding, what is it about that sport that I think is so relevant to cycling? In a word, culture. In a list:
- Non-trick-based exchange of opinions and ideas.
- A Passport. Wherever you are and whenever you are, you can just show-up and you immediately have beta, friends, compatriots, a place to sleep, some gas money, a date, drugs, fashion advice, access, plans for the evening, etc.
I wish cycling was super great at culture, since I just checked and it’s clear that apparently I’m dedicating my entire adult life to cycling, and while I just made peace with that reality over this past weekend (trust me, this was not a no-brainer for me, I’ve been struggling with it for years), I personally have a range of interests beyond a literal 1:1 relationship with bicycles. Yes, I like riding them and racing them and coveting them, but I also like all kinds of other shit. For example, have you listened to House of Feeling’s Last Chance EP? There are no bikes in it. Like, none. There are no watts or podiums or bikepacking sunsets in it; buuuuuut, if you listen to it while you train you will train better and smarter and you will be more successful at life.
The purpose of this article (???) is to convince you that Red Hook Criteriums are a unique, integral and substantial part of The Future of Cycling. Give me a second, I promise I’m headed somewhere with this. I don’t know if my reality is an accurate reality, but this is what I saw in Barcelona. (Side note, it’s a little bit kismet that this vision came to me in Barcelona, because Barcelona is one of the best places to skate in the world.)
- While I saw amazing architecture basically everywhere I looked, I saw a super concentrated amount of it immediately proximal to the course. In fact, the course was in an architectural theme park called Parque del Forum.
- I saw people from around the world arrive at the Parque del Forum to race and watch people race bikes on a technically challenging course.
- It seemed like you could just kinda show-up with only the desire to race a fixed gear bike. If you made it through qualifiers cool, and if not, whatever—cause you could just watch the race and eat whatever and and talk to whomever you want from that point on.
- In some cases people were already friends with everyone there, but if not it was cool because if they had one of those bikes, or knew somebody that had one of those bikes, or just liked those bikes, they could be friends with anyone there, no sweat. Like, “Thanks for coming, this is fun right? Let’s hang out.”
- It all happens in a parking lot.
- So many crashes in corner two during the first three qualifiers. STACK AFTER STACK AFTER STACK.
- After the race there was a house party in a Yacht Club that included—but was not limited to—Vegas Show Girls, 18 dollar hamburgers, a surprised/bewildered/titillated/confused contingent of Yacht Club regulars wondering the whole night why dudes in sandals with Xtreme tan lines were river dancing on their dance floor and generally lite-Viking on their Saturday night Night Club, a dude with his dick out doing push-ups and pull-ups in a pool, a pool party around that dude, etc.
- Beach time, sand time, swim time, blanket time, towel time, stunt time, illegal massage time, drinks purchased from a dude carrying a plastic bag of drinks on Platja de la Barceloneta or Platja del Bogatell (or any of the Platjas, really) time.
- A 48-hour exchange of eating proclivities, camera techniques, music interests, prevailing stereotypes and attitudes about gingers, swim shorts length and more. Point is, LOTS OF TALKING AND VISITING AND EXCHANGING OF THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WHOLE WORLD. What I’m getting at is that in addition to the race I witnessed a pop-up Salon of sorts. It was like a Mountain Man Rendezvous minus the muzzle-loading rifles, syphilis (I’m assuming?), human trafficking and knife fights.
- Keep in mind this is a Professional (???) Bike Race. I’m describing what I saw happening a professional bike race.
In short I saw a very small, yet ever-growing, scene of professional and amateur athletes (modern day gladiators of a sort) gather, flash mob-style, around a dangerous and difficult and exciting to watch competition in the middle of a Yacht Club House Party and beach time-equipped Art & Architecture city.
II Side Note
My camera was stolen from inside the Specialized booth, in like the VIP area. (Subsequently I learned, from a security guard and local, all about how the system works and how it comes down to teamwork: you got your snatchers, your runners, and your fencers.) More importantly I Iost a card full of my all-time favorite Red Hook Crit photographs. And I’m out 8k-ish to replace my rig. Also, I will never not have good insurance ever again. But listen, I still had a wonderful experience even though I never got my illegal beach massage.