RadRace last Wo/Man standing is held on a small go-kart track in central Berlin. Riders fight each other and the elimination bell every 2 laps, the last rider is pulled out to get down to the remaining 4 who progress to the next heat.
Until, eventually, there is only one 'Last Woman or Man Standing'. With the now three time RadRace champion, Alec Briggs, as her mentor, Amy really threw herself in at the deep end for her first fixed gear criterium. Just missing the podium to come away with 4th woman standing.
Considering it’s one of the most popular fixed gear events, it's only just being put on the world map with a few competitors travelling from across continents to race. With the heats starting at 7 PM and continuing through the night; it’s well known for its tight racing, loud crowds, good tunes and being one of the coolest events in Europe.
She’s laid out her top 5 tips: From fixed gear newbie to fixed gear expert…
1. Having a good start means EVERYTHING.
You need to be in the top 3 into that first corner. Moving up through the bunch is tricky and requires some ballsy moves, not ideal for your first fixed crit. Position on the grid doesn't matter that much, as long as you’re front row and have a strong kick you've got nothing to worry about.
Key thing to note here is: Use double sided cleats such as SPD’s, Wahoo Speed Plays or Crankbrothers Egg-beater cleats. Being able to clip in straight away makes all the difference on starting fast. If we’re talking the details, work out which is your strongest leg and start clipped in with the weaker leg.
Why? The first pedal clipped in stroke is only half a stroke, use your strong leg to push off hard, clip in and make that first full revolution strong with your good leg.
As a CX rider, I raced in SPDs and on the start line out of habit will always make sure that the pedal I'm going to clip into is flat so that when the pedal comes round on that first revolution, I can clip in without fumbling around with the pedal.
We’re talking really minor gains but they all add up!!
2. Get some in car park corner practice.
Don’t do what I did and not practise!! My version of practice was riding my fixed gear bike around town as a town bike. Useful to get used to the pedals constantly turning but not useful in terms of finding the racing line and “sending it!”.
I’d suggest enlisting a friend with a bike (fixed or not) and drag them to the local carpark or sports court to set up a few bottles as cornering cones. Take your fixed gear and repeatedly ride these corners again and again, building entrance speed as confidence builds. Your friend can help by being another rider for you to practise overtaking, dive bombing or simply filming any crashes!
3. If you can… try to crash in practice!
This is something I've taken from my years racing Cyclocross. I know it sounds silly and depending on how your confidence levels are, it could be a great plan or a terrible plan. I find that for me, I need to know the limits of my bike, tires and brain.
Sometimes crashing helps to find the limit I can push to. As long as I can get back on, ride a few more laps to get into the swing again, usually I find myself riding smoother, faster and consistently pushing to that limit but never over.
Not only this but crashing minorly once often removes that unnerving feeling of “ahh, what if I crash?!”, because you can trust that it won't be as bad as you imagine, as a result improving your cornering confidence.
4. YOU HAVE TO trust your own bike handling skills and your bike.
You are the only person that will get you round that go kart track in one piece. If you go in with little confidence in your abilities, it’ll show through in your riding.
Trust that your tires will hold you up right and that you can whack “the brakes” (aka backpedalling ability) on hard without the cranks falling off! It’s a simple case of self confidence, easy to say… very hard to implicate.
5. Don’t take it too seriously.
The more you panic about not making the eliminations the more likely you are to get eliminated. This isn't the national championships, this is the sort of race where you rock up to the start line feeling stoked, not stressed. Being serious and locking into the zone are two very different mindsets, avoid mixing them up.
Focus on startline execution, locking into riding smoothly and don’t forget to breathe; relax those shoulders. I found that each lap I chose one section, where I would forcibly wiggle my fingers and shrug my shoulders.
Being relaxed in the upper body allows the head/shoulders to move to look round the next corner, I find riding fixed gear automatically causes body tension as you are required to lock up the legs and body to brake.
So, did I really go from fixed gear newbie to fixed gear expert in one day?
No, certainly not, there’s so many more untapped skills and tactics I'm yet to unlock, things that come with years of experience. As primarily a Cyclocross racer, I instantly felt out of my depth racing on the tarmac; completely underestimating how transferable the skill sets really are and actually surprising myself with my fixed gear abilities. However, one thing for sure is that I’ve got unfinished business here. Maybe by listening to my own advice, next year I can return with a win on the cards?!
Have an Instagram stalk here: @amyperryman_
…and check out my website here for more cycling ramblings!
Cover photo: Daniel Wittewattendorff
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