On a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon, more than 5,000 people headed to San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza to watch Red Bull Ride + Style, a collision of fixed gear biking and urban contemporary art. The competition course featured artwork created by California artists, and the event drew 60 riders from all over, including riders from the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, New York and even Japan.
Participating riders competed in one of two categories: track or freestyle. The track competition was along the lines of a traditional race, with two riders going head-to-head, the one with the best time advancing to the next round. The track included a custom art installation by Los Angeles-based artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector that served as the starting arch.
The competition was fierce on the narrow track, with riders elbowing each other for position, and multiple riders crashing into the guard rails. The final showdown happened between two Bay Area riders who weren’t even supposed to compete. Jason Clary and Kell McKenzie were both alternates who were only asked to fill in for dropouts the day before the event. The two friends, who ride together often, put friendship aside for the final race and Clary was able to edge McKenzie for the win.
“I’ve been a bike messenger for years,” said Clary, “and this was a super technical course that really catered to how we ride – weaving in and out of traffic, accelerating quickly and getting very close to obstacles. I’m really excited that I even got to participate, and winning is amazing.”
Fixed Gear Freestyle
The freestyle portion of the competition gave riders the chance to showcase their style and best tricks on several one-of-a-kind ramps built by Jeremy Witek. The custom features donned artwork by urban contemporary artists Aaron De La Cruz, Erik Otto, N8 Van Dyke and Arlo Eisenberg, who worked as a collective, merging together their unique styles to create eye-catching, rideable works of art.
The freestyle competition grouped the participating riders into five different heats, six riders in each. The talent was impressive, and featured a groundbreaking backflip performed by rider Kohei “Kozo” Fuji from Osaka, Japan. The trick has never been landed in an international competition, and the ecstatic crowd stormed the course to congratulate Fuji on the amazing feat.
In the end, it was Matt Reyes from Gilroy, California whose consistent and stylish riding ultimately earned him first place, followed by Josh Boothby from Castro Valley, California in second and Tyler Johnson from Seattle in third.
“I don’t usually win these things, and I didn’t even realize I rode so well,” said Reyes. “It’s just great to have an event that brings the best riders from all over the world together. If it weren’t for today, I’d never even get to meet these guys, let alone ride with them.”
As a surprise, event partner Oakley gave out a “Sick-o Award” for each discipline (track and freestyle), with the winner getting an Oakley Minute Machine wristwatch. Austin Horse, a New York bike messenger, took the award for clocking the fastest track time and Fuji’s backflip earned him the award in the freestyle section.
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