On a Tuesday evening as darkness fell, a lone fixie rolled off the road and onto the polished, gleaming Praca Dom Pedro IV, otherwise known as Rossio Square.
Text: Pierre Labardant, Joao Garcia 6 Nick Chapman
Translation: Kaitlyn Bové
Photo: Andy Donohoe
Another bike entered the square from the opposite corner and the riders greeted each other, stopping by the main statue and leaning their bikes up against Dom Pedro’s pedestal. Soon there were a small bunch of bikes parked up, all with lights flashing as if their riders were about to jump on any moment and rush off.
A wave of fixies all over the city
It all started one evening, during some get-togethers in Lisbon between a few beers and fixie tricks. It was a late-night ride that pushed Miguel Rellego, Rui Costa, Catarina Ferreira, Miguel Peixoto, Luis Pires and a few other guys into creating a collective. It was 2013 in the Portuguese capital, and their energy and motivation would soon help them establish their newfound cycling event: Ride Lisboa.
Marks on the map
The original idea of the occasion was to connect important spots on the map in order to engage the city on fixed gears. Several segments listed on the Strava application invited participants to measure their performance and have a fun, challenging ride among the big monuments, busy streets, steep routes and the Tagus River. Ride Lisboa was suddenly in great demand when Nuno Sota, the founder of the local brand Rodagira, got the word out in his shop on Rua da Misericórdia, which then lead to the arrival of many new riders. It has also developed alongside of the Alleycats, in which the members of the collective have taken part over the years.
Riding here and there
Now the participants meet up every Tuesday night to ride. Being social is high on the agenda. There was a good 20 minutes of chat on arrival, as everyone caught up on each others news, and they made sure that everyone they were expecting to ride was present. We were also invited to join the group for their post-ride pizza which is just as much a tradition as the actual riding. While most riders come on fixies, the collective’s doors remain open to all, with bicycles equipped with gears easily finding their place in this group of enthusiasts. All of their events are welcoming and a great occasion to meet and connect, all while on the handlebars. Each year the collective also organizes some events at the velodromes and supports the group’s of women who participate in challenges such as the Rapha Women’s 100.
In the seven years that Ride Lisboa have been going out, they claim to have only missed the ride when it has fallen on Christmas day. This dedication to riding the city and making use of it as a place for bikes has to be applauded, and whilst there are people like them out there it is hard to see how cycling in Lisbon will go away. The informal leader of Ride Lisboa, Miguel Peixoto, has just had what Laura from Basho Bags described as the ‘first Massa Critica baby’ - he and his partner were part of the monthly rides that were the spark of energy for the new wave of cycling in Lisbon scene. It is a testament to the community that all of these figures still involved are different and what can be seen disparate parts of this scene still know what the others are up to. And it is testament to Miguel’s own dedication to Ride Lisboa that as a new dad he was still there for the ride.
Across the seas
Ride Lisboa events have always been an opportunity to forge close links with other groups running on fixed gears. This is particularly the case with Azores Fixed, a collective that organizes rides in the Azores, the famous Portuguese archipelago located in the middle of the Atlantic. If Ride Lisboa is the opportunity to ride among the great monuments of Lisbon, the outings of Azores Fixed offer the rare opportunity to discover extraordinary panoramas and test the effectiveness of your skid in the impressive descents of the archipelago.
Attending to their image
Ride Lisboa puts a lot of effort into their communication and distributes cool, eye-catching visuals in order to attend to their image. The essential of work of their graphics is carried out by Miguel Rellego, who’s a professional graphic designer. With one requirement: finalising his creation in less than an hour. His posters, simple and refined, get hold of the visual universe of the fixed gear, the routes, and the legend of the cyclist. They are part of the artistic movement that Artcrank has been praising for many years.
Eventually the red blinking lights snaked off round the Rossio fountains and off into the Lisbon night. Later we see a photo pop up on Instagram of the group sat on the sidewalk eating pizza together after another Ride Lisboa is safely completed.