Fixed gear racing & cycling in Singapore

by Jo Fischer

Three years ago I was travelling with my fixed gear bike around Asia. In 7 months I discovered 9 different countries and started at 10 races. One of them was HolyCrit.

HolyCrit was invented by Zul and Eric in 2013. They were both full in love with fixed gear bikes. Eric actually owned a fixed gear shop. And Zul, who is working as an event coordinator, knows how to kick things of. Together they started to organise the first illegal fixed gear races in Singpore. Of course with no big advertisement, just word to mouth in the scene. The kids loved it and the event itself grew. Unluckily in 2015 the police heard about the races and arrested both of them. The Singaporean law is very strikt. It’s forbidden to chew gum, fines for infractions are extremely high. The government opened a law suit. The charges: unauthorised event and unauthorised road closure. They ended up for 14 days in prison and 2.500 $ fine for each of them. 

During the law suit they didn’t want to stop organising races. Therefore they teamed up with a few guys in Malaysia to organise a HolyCrit in Kuala Lumpur. It was at the same time, when I was travelling around south east Asia, so of course I started at this race. Of course it was illegal. No official advertisement, no blocked roads, no side events. We just met in a quiet area, raced and afterwards everyone disappeared in the dark. 

After the law suit Zul tried to organise a legal HolyCrit. And it worked. He got permission and support from the cycling federation and the government. 

So he thought: Let’s bring more people in. He implemented races for road riders, mountain bikers and even for kids. So nowadays HolyCrit is a race not just for fixed gear riders, but for the whole cycling community. Last weekend there were so many different people at the race. teenagers, grown ups, people with incredible expensive road bikes, people with self made fixed gear bikes and tons of spectators who cheer for their friends and enjoy the atmosphere. I think already that history and the struggle the guys went through made HolyCrit to an remarkable event. This year Canyon opened a service center in Singapore and at the same time they started to sposnor HolyCrit. My chance to travel again to Singapore and to race HolyCrit.

Friday night I went with the Canyon & Holycrit guys to the track. While they started to build up the track, I decided to check the track on my fixed gear bike. It is much wider and with more and longer straights than the one at RAD RACE Last Man Standing in Berlin. Fast but still technical. 

Saturday was race day. The guys told me I should also race the road bike race. Crit racing on a road bike is not my favourite, but whatever. So the first race was the road race. I knew the start is the same as at a fixed gear race. Klick in fast and be in one of the top positions. This worked pretty well and I came around the first corners on position two. However, one big difference to fixed gear races is, you have to stop pedaling in the turns. When I was coming out of one narrow turn I pushed the pedal to early, hit the ground ans slipped away. I jumped up again and followed the guys, but I couldn’t make it to the top anymore. Whatever, I wasn’t in Singapore for road racing. I was there for fixed gear racing! Two weeks earlier I was racing at RAD RACE Last Man Standing in Berlin. An elimination race on a go-kart track. I made it to the finals but crashed, due to my own fault.

So at the fixed gear race I was on fire. I wanted to show everybody how much I love to race on go-kart tracks and why I’m in Singapore. I wanted to win! 

3-2-1-go! Klick in, sprint right from the starting line and go. I came around the first corner on position one and I never let anyone pass me anymore. I was on fire, enjoyed the flow around the corners. No need to use breaks. Pedal a bit slower, push your body and your bike in the corner and accelerate again. I enjoyed that a lot! I even cheered up the crowd in the last lap to go louder. Damn good feeling to finally win on a go-kart track. 

Luckily I had a few more days to do some proper rides in Singapore. I did a fixed night ride with some guys I’ve already met three years ago. I also wanted to ride once around Singapore, because it’s a tiny country.

Three years ago I discovered that fixed gear riders in Singapore love to own exclusive bikes. Limited frames, self made paint job, collared screw, expensive parts… Nowadays some of them have developed to road riders and it’s still the same. Not just amongst the „ex“ fixed gear riders, but actually amongst many of them. Bikes which are special and maybe just available in a limited edition are famous here. However, you’ll also find a super expensive Pinarello Dogma with saddle bags and a bell. ;-)

But the difference is not just the equipment. Cycling is becoming the new golf for managers and business men. It’s getting more and more common not just for people who are into competitive cycling. Actually most of them don’t compete in races. They ride, because they like it. Therefore you don’t have to talk about pros all the time on the bike.

Definatelly a big difference is the time of the rides. During the week everybody starts riding at 5am. Some even earlier. Of course one reason is, because they have to go to work afterwards. But mostly because at that time it’s around 25-28  degrees, the sun is not burning  but you also don’t need long and thick clothes, as you do in Europe. 

Amongst the fixed gear riders night rides are pretty common. They start to ride late night, crush around town, feeling free. Mostly in pants instead of bib shorts. After 30-40km they probably stop for a late night dinner and hang out for a while. These rides are my highlight of community rides, because it’s about the time with friends  and not about the training effect.