Monster Track 5
Editor's note: Rob is a newcomer to riding fixed, and new to riding as an adult. But he went for it, riding brakeless right away. He lives in a part of Brooklyn where it's in the air. There are lots of fixes and track bikes around his part of town, not to mention when he rides over the bridges into Manhattan's Lower East Side, which is one of NYC's track bike meccas. As soon as Rob was bitten by the track bug, he proceeded to scarf up all the knowledge he could find. Most of this stuff is still not written down, but he's doing a good job catching up.
Monster Track 5, February 28, 2004 - after about seven months on a fix, I decide to go for it, the first one since I've been riding anything, let alone a brakeless bike. The idea is to simulate messengering. You have a half dozen locations to hit up, and at each one, you pick up your package, so to speak, a mark of some sort indicating that you'd been to that spot. Brakeless fixies only. You do whatever it takes, and come in as fast as you can, and the winners get prizes, such as bike frames or messenger bags. Simple enough.
I get there at about four o'clock, when registration begins, and catch up with Peter. He's been there for a bit already, and hanging out. We chat a bit, then I head up a get registered, number 91. PeterĄ¯s lucky 23 on West 23rd St, the Frying Pan, Monster Track central. We talk about his planned route, heading downtown for the stops there, then uptown and swinging back down to finish up at the set-up spot, and we decide to stick together and take it pretty easy. We stick around, catching up with Vince and a little later Greg, and at about twenty after five, they start rounding folks up to take a big picture before the start.
The flash goes off and the next thing we know, we hear something like "NOW GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!!" And so everyone scrambles for their bike, Peter and I find each other and start going. Most people are going uptown, and I ask him if we wanna buck the trend and head down as per our plan, but he says, "Let's just follow the pack" and so we do, up the west side highway bike path against a pretty strong, though not overpowering headwind. After a few minutes of this, I'm wondering why the hell we didn't stick to plan. But we're going, and it's cool.
Folks start cutting off at the red light probably a mile or so up. Peter and I miss the first light that bunches of riders took off on, and decide to take the next one we can. Probably around 50th street, we see a red light for the cars, cut east across the street, and take the highway for a few blocks till we can scoot over further east, which we do at maybe 58th. We keep going, now with probably a handful of people along with us, and they take the red light and six lanes of traffic on West End Ave, Peter following a couple paces behind, and me a pace or two behind him, as I would be most of the race. The traffic starts moving, and I opt not to follow, instead hugging the kerb and riding against the traffic for a few blocks, onto the sidewalk for another one or two, and then luckily catching a green light to go east on 61st for the first checkpoint: 211 W 61st between West End and Amsterdam Aves. We slowed down, one of probably four folks came over to us to give us a motorcyle sticker on our manifest, our first checkpoint marker.
Then straight up Amsterdam for three miles. There was probably a pack of between seven and ten of us as we left, which dwindled a bit as we went forward, and people outsprinted us, or we them. Peter and I stayed pretty much together the entirety of this run. He was always frantically pedaling, which in turn kept me on my toes. We were probably doing a consistent 15 or 17mph on average at this point, more or less on the up- or downhills, almost without any regard for lights. The cool thing about riding with a half dozen guys is that we could get away with red light go without major issue. We'd have our own mini critical mass, and just kind of decide that we were going through, and cars usually wouldn't try and plow through that many of us, especially since we were chugging away and going as fast as we could.
We finally made it to our checkpoint number 2: St. John The Divine, 110th St and Amsterdam. Our manifest note here was a "Do Not Open Til Christmas" stamp. We caught up with a few folks at the checkpoint, and rode with them to the next stop: 14th St and Avenue C, down 5 miles and across a couple from where we were.
Some Crazy Shit
We scooted across 110th and went east toward CPW. We came to a couple of red lights, but they were clear enough (they almost always are), and did whatever maneuvering we needed to without stopping, and rode south once we made it there. The pace was solid for us, a bit more than I was expecting, probably. But I did my best and stayed with them; it was easier to continually push myself when I had a handful of guys I was trying not to slow down. At 86th St, we came to a red light and decided to take the auto traverse. The cars didn't seem to like us too much, and a few came a bit close for comfort, but we were all in another zone, with our eyes on the next site. Crazy as the stuff we did may have been, I had no doubts that I'd be fine; I was just going and worried more about spinning my pedals as fast as I could and maneuvering as best I could than getting doored or cut off or getting into some other sort of accident.
So we got out on 5th Ave, on the eastside where we needed to be, and took it south for probably a mile or two. We hit heavy traffic and decided to head further east. This was our first tactical mistake, I think. I really would have rather stayed on 5th and gone south to Broadway, and taken that to 14th, but instead we went to Park, and got caught in midtown traffic, as we probably expected. Peter lost his contact a few blocks down as we made our way south, so we had a 30 second delay, and then right back on, getting caught at another light around 60th, going east to Lex, south to probably early 50s, and then making it finally to 2nd Ave, which was smooth sailing, straight down to 14th. 2nd was great - we got hit at maybe a couple of lights, but none were so traffic heavy that we got derailed for long, and so we cruised at probably 20+ mph for a couple miles.
Around 30th, we were met by another racer, and a few blocks down another, but we kind of were in our own zone and didn't stay alongside them. At 14th, we went east, Peter getting stuck beside a reticulated bus at around Ave B, but catching up in good time. Katia, seller of my first fix, and one of the 14th and C station helpers, smacked everyone's ass with a U-lock, and off we went, down Ave C to Houston, catching up with the dude we got cut off from back on Park when Peter lost his contact briefly. He was great, always on top of things and setting a strong pace. I followed a couple paces behind them, but didn't get lost behind Allen or Chrystie Sts, though once we hit Bowery, I was a bit too far away to stay with them as they cut through the newly green-lighted traffic, and wasnĄ¯t able to find them again till back at the pier.
What the *$%??
So, I went down Bowery on my own to Spring, on the sidewalk for a few blocks to Mulberry to the next checkpoint, and got some temporary tattoos for that stop. A bit disoriented, I wasn't sure where to go; one of the station folks said that my friend was looking for me, and "went that way" (west). For some reasons, I didn't follow the pursuit, and instead went south. I staggered around a bit, making my next tactical mistake, and flip-flopping in decided whether I should go to Ground Zero, Liberty and Church, or One New York Plaza, Water and Broad Sts.
After going alternately east, then west as I went south, I saw Jeff, another brakeless fixie going east on Chambers, and followed him. Turns out, he was a friend I'd met who was on his way home - he wasn't, in fact, in the race. So, I ended up diverting myself unnecessarily. I bid Jeff farewell at the Brooklyn Bridge, and then got lost trying to find Broad Street, deciding eventually to just find Water Street and head south, where I figured it would be, though not without first asking at least four people, none of whom had any idea where Broad Street was.
I made it to that checkpoint, was given a yellow happy face sticker, stuck the manifest in my jacket pocket and took off. A block or so away, as I tried to move the manifest to my pants pocket, where it had been all along, the sticker falls off. Fuck. I spend thirty seconds trying to find it on the ground, and then decide to double back and get another sticker, and then take off again, this time not on my own, but following someone else.
My bearings were off, and I didn't quite know where I was, but somehow ended up at Liberty and Church and got stamped Felix the Cat by Bike Works NYC Dave, and took off, still unsure about where I was going. After three or four blocks in the wrong direction, heading east toward the East River, rather than west toward the Hudson, I figure out where I'm at, go on Fulton St to Church, veer over to Hudson St, then over to the bike path via Christopher St. Along the way, I saw some other racers, but they went west on Canal, and I stayed on Church. I'm not sure whether it was they or I who'd made the better move, time-wise; I didn't notice if they were there already when I made it back or not, and didn't pay attention as the rest of the pack filtered in after me.
Finally, at around 7:00, I pulled in, on the lower quarter of the finishers. I gave the guy my name and race number 91, and he congratulated me and told me to grab some free food. Then I caught back up with Peter, Vince, Greg, and that guy we were riding with before I got separated at Bowery. They got in about 10 spots before me, which is not bad, considering how discombobulated I was. I was around 76 of 108, I think. I didn't stick around to find out further.
Finishing DFL, dead fucking last, was Bling Bling Vegan himself, Justin, and his friend Charlotte, aka B Money. I'm disappointed I didn't stick around with them, cuz they got pig-head air-horns as prizes for their unspectacular finish.
Trackstands and 360s
I stuck around a bit, until a little after 8. There was a trackstand contest later, along with another for backward 360's (the winner did 8 in a row), but the chilliness started to get to me, and I bid farewell to Greg and Peter (Vince had already left), and took off into the night.
All in all, a fun day. I'm pretty pleased with myself. I had no pretensions of winning, just finishing respectably, which I think I did. I got to see what I think would be easily $100G in bike hardware here, and lots of people having a crazy good time. I kept a stronger pace and for a much longer time than I usually do, and so in that, I'm happy. My form weaknesses showed themselves - my pedaling could be much better, and that would've eased the load some, maybe even landed me a few spots better, but there's always next race.
Vince asked me if I'm winning next year; I told him no, I just wanna get ten places better next time. But actually, between you and me, it's all me next year.
© Rob Archangel , 2004
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