A bike race like no other: The Red Hook Crit


Ian Landau of Bicycling.com calls it “possibly the country’s coolest bike race” and at Eastern Mountain Sports, we agree whole-heartedly. What began four years ago as a creative way to celebrate founder David Trimble’s birthday is expected to draw thousands of spectators in just its fifth season for an incomparable evening of speed, skill and adrenaline…with no brakes whatsoever. Welcome to the Red Hook Criterium, an unsanctioned bike race held in the middle of the night on a “tight and technical” 1.25km circuit on the streets of an industrial section of Brooklyn, NY.

The late night, shoulder-to-shoulder, fixed gear, high-speed scene of The Red Hook Crit. Photo courtesy of Bicycling.com

Racers on fixed gear bikes with no brakes must complete 24 laps for a total distance of 30km or 18.6 miles. The atmosphere is electric, the competition is intense, the crashes are inevitable, and as was the case in 2011, the finish is right down to the wire:

Last year's photo finish illustrates the intensity of the Red Hook Crit. The 4th place finisher was just 3 seconds behind.

Despite the considerable risk of serious injury, winning the RHC is all about cred. The winner takes home a grand prize of $500 paid in $1 bills, the coveted cobblestone trophy and the respect of the thousands of spectators lining the streets during the race and packing the club during the traditional after party. In terms of intensity, atmosphere and overall style the RHC is pretty much the complete opposite of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour that we are sponsoring in May.

In addition to The Red Hook Crit, Eastern Mountain Sports is also a proud sponsor of the TD Five Boro Bike Tour.

I asked Ted Manning our VP of Marketing and Merchandising to explain why we’re involved in such a comparatively small and offbeat event: “At Eastern Mountain Sports, we’re climbers, hikers, paddlers, and skiers first; business people second. Nothing captures our love for cycling and our love of a good time like the Red Hook Crit.” Lizzy Fallows of Timbuk2 had a very similar comment when I asked her the same question: “Timbuk2 was started by a bike messenger and is passionate about all things bike. We’re really proud to sponsor such an awesome, grass roots race because it’s slightly terrifying and pays homage to bikes, community, muscles, and cajones.”

This year’s Crit starts at 9PM on Saturday March 24 at Pier 11 in Brooklyn, NY. All 75 registrations for the bike race have been claimed but you can still participate in the 5K running race at 8PM or volunteer to help with course set-up, athlete check-in or crowd control. You can learn more about all of these opportunities on the RHC info page. To get an even better feel for this one-of-a-kind event than my feeble words can illustrate, check out last year’s recap video:

2011 Red Hook Crit highlight video from Jessica Scott on Vimeo.

Jim Darroch

Jim's love for the outdoors began with family camping trips in "Brady Bunch" style canvas tents and progressed to backpacking adventures with the Boy Scouts. In 2007, he fulfilled his teenage dream by joining Eastern Mountain Sports as Brand Communications Manager. When he's not in the office, you'll find Jim kayaking, hiking, and mountain biking around the Monadnock Region and throughout New England with his wife Brenda and his dog Brewski.