The 2018 season began with a ride to South Wales, to compete in a 250km Audax which started in Cardiff and headed up to the Brecon Beacons before rolling back down south to Cardiff again. This was the second time I’d ridden from London to Cardiff, but this time with gears and brakes, so only 600km in 3 days... satisfying but brutal, a clear sign of the year to come. Meeting Matt from Clash Racing on the ride I knew this would be something epic! We battled every element; mountains, gravel, and three flat tyres... fuck it was hard!
With the Audax done it was now time to start the fixed gear season. I had this wonderful idea to kick it off by riding From London to Rotterdam to compete in the first race of the year, the NL Crit Rotterdam. Getting there wasn’t easy, mostly because I’d decided that we’d ride there. Theo the new recruit and an eager cat, was all down for this. We did some training, including epic Regents laps, which helped to get his head around race distance and sitting on wheels. Then we did a fixed and brakeless Ride to Cambridge, to make sure we had the legs to get us to Rotterdam. All of this a couple of weeks before the actual race…
The day before the race we arrived in Harwich Port, track standing and skidding our way through the queues and onto the ferry. We boarded and slept overnight, waking bright eyed at 7am ready to ride the short journey to the race location. We rocked up fully loaded, with all our bike-packing gear still on our track bikes, ready to degrease chains, swap some sprockets and change tyres. Theo went off to do the crit induction while I silently went for my second “toilet visit” of the day (pre race ritual). The race was tough, mainly because our legs were tired, as we’d both ridden 100 miles the day before to get there! We had fun though, made new friends and enjoyed an epic city.
The next day we had breakfast in the town centre before our ferry back home. We ate then looked at the clock and realised we were stuffed for time. With race ratio still on and fully loaded again with bike-packing gear, we had to make our way to the port. We rode like hell, taking gravel paths, and drafting whatever we could. Bombing through Rotterdam we only just made it back to the port in time.
RADE RACE FIXED 42
Now comes the serious shit… Fixed42 (Unofficial Fixed Gear World Championships) for us this is the race of the year, our highlight. 42km fixed and brakeless, a race where Berlin becomes your playground. After last year Berlin naturally became the place we gravitate to mainly because of this race but also because of the beer. Fuck I love this city, if you have a read of the blog posts from this year and last you'll get what I mean. Dare I say, I gave it my all this year, there were a few moments in the race where I played it safe, but this year I wanted to finish fast and finish strong. I don't think I have ever been that nervous before a race. Normally I can give my team mates advice and crack jokes but no, this time I just really wanted to race as hard as I could.
I thought registering for the fast group this year was what everyone would do, as I learnt the previous year, starting near the back would keep you at the back. Well, starting with the big boys I quickly realised I had no fucking clue what I was doing. All I could do was just hold on, stay safe and keep telling myself I would be fine. It was an experience to say the least, I had to ride my bike, hold my own and not take any shit. When the nerves settled and I found some familiar faces on the autobahn I realised that we were cruising at 60 km/h. So what better thing to do to stay chilled than start cracking jokes so my brain would keep firing and keep my mind off the stupid speed we were going at. The best vid on YouTube I have found, is me trying to keep a gel shoved up my shorts without loosing concentration, incidentally I threw that gel up, a bit later on… such a waste. Right, with the big boy teams controlling shit at the front I got my arse dropped to the second bunch and then third. Here I started to make friends, chatting with people from all over the world, all with different mentalities, all just trying to ride their bikes fast, all trying to stay safe and enjoy the moment!
With the highlight of the season now over, it was time for a race on home turf, Thundercrit 3, hosted at the Lee Valley Velopark by London based team NLTCBMBC. With no Red Hook Crit in London this year, it would surely make for one of the biggest races in the UK. With the team qualifying for the finals the nerves were there. With the Berlin blues still lingering we saddled up and raced our bikes. The team finished strong, finally establishing ourselves as a regular fixture in the racing scene. Theo pulled a dick move though and passed me on the finishing line after sitting on my wheel all race, ha, but it’s all jokes, you gotta smile!
The one thing I rate about this race, is the support. It’s not just for our team but Fixed Beers as a whole, we had ride regulars there, but also people who had just heard about us and wanted to be involved. There are always friendly and welcoming faces around our bike group. That week Fraser lead social rides through London as a way to give those from out of town, a taste of the way we explore the city. This lead us to Dijon and the friends me made there, more about that later.
With the race season now in full swing it was time for another London race, The Nocturne. If you want sketchy surfaces, tight corners and wet drain-covers, this is the one. With all honesty this race was not my finest, sometimes you just wake up and you’re not feeling it at all. Well this was that kind of day. For once I was quiet and stuck in my head. My team mates though, they were well up for this race and Aaron let it show! He smashed it, hammering the corners and when he came up behind me, I knew I was struggling. He took the front and tried to give me his wheel but I was fucked!
NATIONAL MOUTARDE CRIT 6
Now time for mustard! As I mentioned during the Thundercrit week we made friends with the organisers of the French National Moutarde Crit and they invited us to Dijon to race. So Stephen, Mitch and myself decide to go, but how the fuck do we get to Dijon? Thankfully one of our kind friends at NLTCBMBC, namely Charlie, said we could borrow his van and drive out there. We had two free seats and put the message out - first takers Sam and Has. And with that we were heading to Dijon. With an early start, loaded and fuelled, we hit the ferry. I have to say Europe has a lot of bullshit when it comes to driving. Asking questions about what paraphernalia we needed to drive there wasn't half as bad as us trying to put fucking safety stickers on the lights. After the rolling hills, and endless toll roads we hit Dijon, scoped out the hostel and built our bikes. First we headed to the pre party/registration, the setting was awesome; little river, beer tent, food, and all the riders catching up from all over the world. This is the best thing about fixed gear racing and what makes it so special to me. A few beers later and we headed back to the hostel, ate some food and hit the sac.
It's now midday and I haven’t had my balls baked that much since I was sitting next to a pool in Africa. It was fucking HOT! The French, their hospitality at this race was amazing though. They had lunch (proper food) and water for all the racers, that's a sweet ass thing to do. We were restless though and hanging out at an airfield in such baking heat with little shelter was pretty tiring.
We line up for the A Final, that’s 24 laps in the brutal heat. I go back to my plan of just holding on and seeing what plays out. 10 laps in and Matt from One Life Cycle is stood on the side encouraging me every lap. I was done, left the front group and stopped looking at the lap counter, “lets just get through this”, I said, calmly pacing myself and holding wheels. I end up riding with another dude and we just take turns leading each other around the course, making friends and racing smart. Shit gets a bit hairy when someone unclips around a hairpin but he holds it and I end the race in one piece. This is the most brutal race I have ever done. We hit the after-party and dance the night away, on a stage, in an airfield, in the warm glow of a beautiful evening in Dijon. That was fucking awesome, thank you Max!
MINET CRIT 3
Minet crit, another great day racing bikes in London, Hosted by White City Track. This year we had the whole team including Jan over for the race. This race is always fun with a wide open course there’s little chance for a breakaway, but you still gotta fucking race. It was a sweet day where we had the newly formed Fixed Beers London Missions sorting the social ride over to the track and bringing a whole crew along with them. This year the qualifying was pretty tough and I end up fighting to sit in the bunch so I can make it to the final, as everyone is gunning it for good starting positions.
The finals hit off and I don’t do my usual of fighting for the front. As I knew the bunch wouldn't allow any attack, although a few tried (George + Sam), I decide to just sit in and stay safe. I went in to this race with the idea of finishing and enjoying every moment, and now I’m sitting in the bunch probably the worst place to be, but fuck it, it’s my last race of the year, let’s enjoy this shit.
I love racing and seeing it all unfold in front of me. But cruising was a pretty new experience and I struggled with it in my head. But we finished and we finished strong!! Proud of my Fixed Beers team mates throughout the whole year. I believe everyone has grown as racers and I can't wait to race again. This fixed gear thing really is something special.