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Red Bull Bay Climb: .32 Miles, 24% Grade, Grueling-Good Fun

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“The open class is a good fit for me,” Johnson says. “It’s challenging, but in the XC racing world, we do fast, punchy climbs all the time.”

When asked whether he would do it on a fixed gear bike, Johnson didn’t mince words.

“That looks…that looks fucking hard.”

And yet, here were dozens of casual riders from the local fixie scene, charging up the hill with wild abandon three or even four times throughout the day, and clearly having a blast doing it. I couldn’t square my own near-death experience with what I was seeing.

“The fixed gear people come out here just to have a good time and participate,” Grady says. “Fixed gear culture is so much different from the roadie scene. It’s people hanging out, drinking beer, and cheering each other on. If road racing is classical music, fixed gear is punk rock. It’s a middle finger to the establishment, and in this case, road racing is the establishment.”

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That being said, Red Bull Bay Climb is about as laid back, diverse, and come-as-you-are as you could ask for, and for me, it was an important experience. Against all odds, I made it up that damn hill, and I had the fixed gear community at my back cheering me on the entire time. Coming across that finish line in last place was an accomplishment, and while I was nearly unconscious and ready to puke, the community’s enthusiasm was infectious.

I spent the rest of the day recovering, which is my way of saying “tracking down beer and ibuprofen.” Luckily both were in abundance, and both were shared freely in the spirit of community. These are my kind of people, and they can be yours, too.

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