Brakeless track bicycles will be racing through the streets of downtown Los Angeles this weekend.

We know what you're thinking: It's almost everyday that you see the brakeless bikes known as “fixies” (for fixed-gear) bombing down L.A. streets. Lucky for you this exercise in unabated speed will take place on closed streets.

It's the Civic Center Crit 2 race, and it's happening Saturday:
Crit is for criterium, which defines a short-course, urban bike race.

The small .69 mile course around City Hall will take over parts of First, Temple, Spring and Main streets. Qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Those who make it to the 6 p.m. finale will have to do 24 laps as fast as they can.

Don Ward, of race organizer Wolfpack Hustle, describes the challenges this way:

In these races, you have to plan ahead because you can't just slow down on a dime. We have a couple of hairpin turns, which makes it exciting.

The event last year attracted about 5,000 entrants, and the buzz is even stronger this year, Ward told us. Teams from Italy, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico were expected to mix it up with locals and out-and-state riders, he said.

Is it safe?

Credit: Wolfpack Hustle

Credit: Wolfpack Hustle

Some parts of the course will be lined with hard foam “tough blocks” used in motocross racing to lessen the blow from crashes, Ward says. And paramedics will be on standby. The event has the approval of City Hall and the Los Angeles Police Department, too.

That said, last year there were only a “couple” minor falls, Ward said.

The Civic Center Crit takes what was once an outlaw sport and gives it structure and organization. The entry fee is $20. The winner gets $250 plus prizes. And sponsors include Red Bull and Herbalife. It has become kind of a big deal.

Although New York's Red Hook Crit race helped to pioneer the street format, Ward argues that L.A. is a kind of epicenter for this kind of riding.

Fixie bike enthusiasts, from messengers to recreational riders, abound in Los Angeles, and their bikes are basically variations on track racers meant for race courses and velodromes.

“You got the fixie kids riding brakeless track bikes,” Ward said. “That's what this race is. This was invented by those kids.”

For more information on the race, visit Wolfpack Hustle's website.

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