Athletes, messengers, and even some professional cyclists will come pouring into the Mission District this Saturday for the fourth annual Mission Crit, a 40-minute fixed-gear bike race.
The crit (short for “criterion”) sends riders around and around a triangular course from 16th to 17th streets along Treat Avenue and Harrison Street, no small feat at the speeds these cyclists reach. The race isn’t sanctioned by USA Cycling, which governs competitive cycling events – Fixie racing, while popular, is relatively new. So far there aren’t any sanctioned races on the brakeless bikes, which have just one gear and no freewheel that would allow the rider to stop cranking the pedals even for a moment.
The city of San Francisco, however, has permitted the event as of 2015, when it drew riders of all abilities and plenty of curious onlookers:
But it wasn’t just about the bikes or the course. The race was a gathering, a cultural event for bike messengers and their kin. At least it was to Nick Hedlund, a city native and former bicycle messenger, whose main mode of transportation is still cycling even though he’s “retired” from being a messenger. To him, the race meant bringing some visibility to the popular and diverse cycling and bike messenger communities, which often overlap with other subcultures like punk and skateboarding.
“Just hearing about something like this is a very positive thing for the neighborhood, especially for messengers themselves and for cycling culture,” said Hedlund. “It’s very important to have things of this nature happening,” he added.
And though it was athletically challenging, the race brought out all levels of competitors, including 16-year-old Michael Dorman, who followed his brother into the cycling world.
“So fun it’s like, unreal,” Michael said. “It’s probably the funnest bike experience I’ve ever witnessed…Riding with a whole bunch of other dudes who love doing the same thing you do.”
This year, organizers expect 2,500 people to attend, including athletes from South Korea, Australia and the UK. Anyone who wants to participate can register up until April 21 for $45. More information is available here. The races take place Saturday, April 22 from 7-10 p.m.