It's Tuesday afternoon in Shanghai, and nearly 100 fixed-gear bikers are waiting for an email that will determine the fate of their evening. The subject line (and sentiment) is simple: "The Ride Is On." For most of us, it's the best bit of news we'll get all day, and it comes courtesy of Factory Five, a workshop, store, organizing force, and community space for us to hang out (and commiserate on the hazards of getting doored).
When Drew Bates, Jeff Liu and Tyler Bowa met in Shanghai in 2009, fixed-gear bikes were about as common as unicorns in China; which is to say, it was pretty rare to see folks rocking single-gear bikes with no brakes around these parts.
"In 2009, if I saw another fixed gear biker on the street, I'd know who he was," Drew told us before a recent Tuesday ride. "There were probably 30 of us and we'd all get together on the weekends and sit outside a convenience store and have a drink [between rides]. And we said, you know what? When it rains, we've got nowhere to go."
Enter Factory Five, which the trio initially opened as a place for fellow cyclists to spend a bit of downtime. Because loitering probably isn't the best business model, they also offered their own custom frames and gear. From there, a hotspot was born - and a natural jump-off point for the kind of alleycat racing we've come to love.
Organized by the Factory Five guys, these races test our street smarts and send us all over Shanghai with a list of checkpoints we can visit in any order; the first person to make it to the finish line wins. And at that point, the night's only begun.
Photos courtesy of Ashley Phillips