On Saturday February 11, the guys from Holy Crit will organise ‘Holy Crit X’ which will be held in the National Stadium Singapore. That fixed gear crits are not exclusive to Europe and North-America is proven by Holy Crit as they have, on average, around 75 fixed gear riders participating in their events. Alike Europe and North-America, fixed gear cycling enormously grew in South-East Asia in the late 2000s. We talked with Saeful Hakim, the media representative of Holy Crit, to know more about the history, current state, and future plans of Holy Crit, but also to get to know more about the cycling and fixed gear culture in South-East Asia.
Text: Brian Megens
Photography: Holy Crit Media Team
Holy Crit is based in Singapore, despite that Singapore is far from an ideal environment for training rides, it does encourage crit racing. Saeful “It’s a small island filled to the brim with tall buildings, and little nature. This makes criterium racing the only feasible form of racing you can do in Singapore – you don’t need so much space, we have nice urban landscapes (…) Occasionally, some of the guys will cross the border into Malaysia, through a causeway bridge, to cycle in the country sides.”
The fixed gear scene started in South-East Asia with social rides and Alley-Cats. The idea to start organising crits was born out of several reasons and had several aims. Saeful “We saw the potential fixed gear criteriums could hold for the local community. From group rides we organised, we noticed that plenty of fixed gear riders enjoyed the thrill of speed in open roads, often ignoring their personal safety in the process. As such we sought to create an environment for riders to showcase their athleticism and skills in fixed gear riding, in an enclosed safe space. Furthermore, given that teenagers constituted a majority of the community, we saw a criterium series as an opportunity to create a goal in sight for these youngsters to occupy their free time with, thus reducing the possibility of them being led astray with other vices. We believed that a criterium series would inculcate the values of sportsmanship and healthy competition into the community, while retaining the artistic and social aspects of fixed gear culture which attributed to its rise in the first place.”
Money problems actually forced Holy Crit to operate underground in their first 8 crits which eventually turned into a week of jail time for the organisers Eric Khoo Shui Yan and Zulkifli Awab. Saeful “Basically, organising races in Singapore involve a lot of money and red tape. Because it’s a very small island, road space is at a premium. As such, the authorities impose very high costs on race organisers for closing roads. We didn’t want to raise our entrance fees to ridiculous levels just so we could book roads, so we decided to do it at secluded roads with no traffic, but without a license. Eventually, after 8 races, Zul and Eric got prosecuted for it and spent a week in jail. We now do it legally, with the help of the authorities and cycling federation in Singapore.”
Holy Crit follows a basic crit format wherein one can qualify for finals through heats. For the upcoming Holy Crit X the heats will consist out of 15 riders wherein the first 5 proceed to the final. In the final they will race 25 minutes + 2 laps. The long term future goals of Holy Crit is clear as Saeful tells us “We would like to expand it into a race series across South East Asian cities if possible. At present there’s no single race series which goes to other countries across South East Asia.”