Fixed Gear Crit

Rider in Spotlight Q&A with RHC veteran and top rider Evan Murphy

“I found the bicycle late in life but it has opened up the world to me. Although I got my own Track bike one Christmas and started riding to school, it wasn’t until late in College that I began to race. I was very inspired by my brother, Kyle, and Walton Brush who were racing track, road, and mountain bikes in high school, so I started signing up for races myself. I have been racing the Red Hook Crit since 2010 when it was still on open streets, have been racing road bikes since around then, and spent two years professional with the Lupus Racing team, I also race cyclocross for Hudson/Ludwig Larsen, and have been lucky to be a part of the MASH SF family for the last several years.” Evan Murphy

Our reporter Michele Colucci spoke with Evan Murphy who rides fixed gear crits for MASH SF, one of the most famous bike brands in the fixed gear scene, and just confirmed his participation for Red Hook Criterium Barcelona No.5! 
Text: Michele Colucci / vimeo: michele colucciinstagram: mikelone77
Photography: Mashf

Can you tell us about your very first time on a fixed gear brakeless bike? Who or what made you want to try?
Walton Brush was very inspirational, I went to high school with him. Walton, my brother, a few other classmates and I all got into brakeless track bikes around the same time. I also did a summer art’s program in SF, and met a few of the MASH riders, and was exposed to the Track Bike culture in that city, so it left a big impression on me. Since I had also grown up skateboarding, the culture’s similarity was somehow familiar. I think my first time actually on a track bike was outside Oliver Henderson’s house, Will Meeker had just brought back a Bianchi Pista from SF, and Walton, Will, Oliver and myself took turns riding down the hill outside Oliver’s house. It seemed impossible to ride, impossible to stop. I wanted that bike so bad and did everything I could to get one! The first MASH video was a huge inspiration, and the internet culture around track bikes was a really valuable window into what people were doing with these bikes.

Comparing your first Red Hook Crit and your last what’s the thing that has changed the most, both in the event and in you as a cyclist?
I think the event has gone through many minor changes that can feel like they add up to a dramatic change to me, but actually, when I step back, it’s obvious the growth has been stable. For me, the speed and risk has gotten higher and higher everytime I line up to race. I know this because I continue to put bigger and bigger gear ratios on my bike. When I first started the RHC races, I was still really learning how to race a bike, and I am grateful that I was able to place in the races at all. Then, as I progressed, I was racing on the road, and it wasn’t crazy to just be able to show up to RHC events, have a lot of fitness from road racing, and just hop on my track bike and do well. It was fun to not have to stress about performance!! 😉 Soon after, it felt like Europe took the sport and grew it, and all of a sudden we were in over our heads, the euro guys would come into Brooklyn with several fixed gear crits under their belts, and I felt as though I was hanging on for dear life. In the last two years I have actually had to head out on my track bike and do specific training and workouts just to be barely competitive, so that’s obviously a big difference!! As a cyclist, for better or worse, I have also matured to the point where I realize racing is not the most important thing in my life, and I am less likely to take huge risks out on the course. This is a life change that I am grateful for, as there are new fun things in my life that are worth preserving – but sometimes I wish I was able to push myself closer to the edge and win one of these RHCs!!

When racing crits do you often feel like “oops, I may have taken this too far!!” or are you always in control of what’s happening?
More and more I feel I am in control. I saw a lot of riders taking huge risks in Brooklyn this spring, and I thought it was silly, but I am sure I was the one making stupid moves earlier in my career. It’s easy for me to forget that I crashed Neil Bezdek out of Milan 2012, so I really have no right to be critical of dangerous maneuvers. But, I have seen the videos, and I have fought with the crazy guys this spring, and I feel that I have definitely found a strong sense of control and am unwilling to lose it now. In fact, I was crashed out in the hairpin in Brooklyn by a rider who tried to take my inside – I landed on him, recovered, and finished the race, he did not – choose your lines carefully!

We’ve often seen you “get in the zone” listening to music or releasing tension by breathing and moving your body as if to set a rythm synched to the countdown, as in RHC Milan 2014. Any particular ritual before the start of a race?
Hahaha! I know, I get a little excited before races. I actually think I am just stoked, just so excited that I get to race my bike. It seems like the minute we start racing I tend to calm down. I don’t think I have any rituals, but I suppose dancing a little ain’t a bad thing to do!

Your 2016 Barcelona Red Hook Crit race (Top Antagonist Award) was such a spectacle for spectators to see. It seemed like you wanted to scramble any tactics anyone else was trying to apply with those multiple attacks. How are you going to race Barcelona 2017, do you plan strategies ahead or do you just decide on the go?
I wanted to win! Maybe I would have but when Colin bridged up, my legs gave out and I couldn’t pedal at all anymore. It was nice of Dave to give me that consolation prize, I felt pretty stupid for attacking so much! I actually do not have a strategy, for the most part. In Brooklyn I wanted to get into a breakaway, as the sprints are very tense, but I mis-timed my attack, and missed the break. For Barcelona I think the course will reward a breakaway effort, so I will be going for that. I think Stephan Schaefer, Davide Vigano, and Tristan Uhl will be the riders to follow, Colin is again too marked, but that is just my opinion. I hope the pace gets hard and the specialized team doesn’t control it too much – it’s boring when they do that!

The worst moment and the best moment you had racing a fixed gear crit?
The worst moment was Navy Yard Crit when Joshua Hartman was so injured, I felt like that was proof the race had become too dangerous and fast. I wanted to quit RHC that year, and might have if I hadn’t been rescued by the MASH crew. That year’s race was also the best moment because watching my brother and good friend Neil duke it out on course brought me a lot of pride and was so exciting to watch – Kyle was so close to the win! I lost my voice that night and put holes in my socks running around the course cheering!

Your Red Hook Crit Brooklyn No.10 custom painted bike looked amazing. Racing that beast in Barcelona as well?
Thank you! I will be racing it again, definitely. I’m lucky to have sponsors who encourage that kind of creativity. Enve, Rinpoch, Phil Wood, Continental, Giro and Castelli helped us put together a build that really supports my weird painting. Mike trusted me to do that paintjob; he gave me carte blanche, and I am very grateful to MASH that I am not just a racer, but also a member of this wild and beautiful project.

Finally, the most important question of all: your beard game. You actually said, talking about your nickname, that it “depends on whether I have a beard or not…” Can you explain?
Hahaha! I grow a beard in the winter to stay warm, and (try) to shave in the summer to stay cool. I think some people assume I have a style agenda but I honestly just feel better with the long hair when it’s cold. With that comment, I might have just been trying to make a joke, as I don’t really have any nicknames. I will definitely not have a beard in Spain, as I am looking forward to the warm beaches!! Thanks, Grazie, Merci and Gracias!

Michele Colucci
Dead Cyclists Society
Copywriter & Videomaker
vimeo: michele colucci
instagram: mikelone77