On July 11, Mark Barningham from Cycle Surgery Lee Valley VeloPark competed in London’s Red Hook Crit – a frenetic, multi-lap race on a short, technical circuit using fixed-gear track bikes. Sound exciting and/or scary? Here, Mark explains how a criterium works and shares some top clothing and nutrition tips.

1) How Is A Criterium Different From Other Road Races?


‘Crits’ are generally held on circuits less than a mile long with a number of tight, technical corners. They’re high-intensity, require rapid acceleration out of each corner and usually suit strong riders who are able to deal with these accelerations while pedalling at high speed.

The Red Hook Crit is different to normal road bike crits – it’s a fixed gear criterium, which means riding on a track bike without brakes. The rider needs to be confident riding a track bike through the technical corners in a group. Good bike-handling skill are also a valuable advantage, not only to keep out of trouble but to negotiate the circuit smoothly and at high speed.



Red Hook Crit London 1 Qualification R4 #RHCL1


2) What Clothing And Bike Did You Use?

Racing when the sun is shining makes selecting clothing a bit easier, as for criterium races it’s either bib shorts or a jersey and shorts. Some riders prefer a base layer (even in the heat) to wick away sweat.

When riding a track bike in a crit, you must select the correct gearing to suit the course and your riding style. If the gear is too big, you’ll suffer trying to accelerate after the corners or to cover an attack; too easy a gear and you’ll spin out of the high-speed straights. It’s something that riders take time thinking about. Some can cycle on a big gear while others need to spin a little bit more!

For the Red Hook Crit my bike of choice was the Cinelli Vigorelli, a traditional track bike geometry with a few modern features that allow it to handle the rigours of a criterium race. The Cinelli Vigorelli is probably the most-used bike across the fixed-gear criterium scene.


3) Do You Have Any Nutrition And Hydration Advice?

For short races like a crit, the key is starting the event sufficiently fuelled and replenishing your fluids (including electrolytes) after the race. Some riders find that a caffeine gel before the race helps them focus and to get ready for high-intensity cycling.

Stay hydrated during the day too. If you’re traveling to the race, pack a bottle with some carbs and keep yourself topped up.

4) How Can You Prepare Before The Race?

Prepare all of your food the night before and have your kit bag packed. Make sure that your bike is working well and take a small tool kit with any spares that you think you may need. Punctures during a warm-up are annoying, but if you’re prepped it shouldn’t be the end of your race!

Also give yourself plenty of time to get where you need to be so that you can set up and get a good warm-up in before the event starts.


5) What Other Advice Do You Have For First-Timers?

Enjoy it! It’s going to be a massive learning experience, but you’ll come away knowing lots more about what you need to do the next time.


Try to start somewhere near the front of the group to give yourself some time to get up to speed. Concentrate on your position in the group and ensure that you aren’t overlapping the wheel of the rider in front. Be aware of those around you, especially when taking the corners, and try to ride a predictable line so that riders behind can follow around the corner smoothly.


Some riders are more vocal then others in the group and you may be told a few pieces of advice. Don’t worry, this is all part of the learning experience!