Tracklocross Worlds 2024: Sometimes the Simplest of Things Is All We Need

While 5,000 die-hard gravel riders were grinding away in Emporia, KS at Unbound, a smaller group of 120 racers gathered at a rodeo ground in Folsom, CA, for an altogether different affair: the 2024 Tracklocross World Championships. For the uninitiated, tracklocross is a throwback to the original cyclocross races of France in the early 1900s. Pro racers would take their fixed gear bikes over hill and dale in unofficial, off-season training races. Modern tracklocross races feature purpose-built fixed gear cyclocross rigs and closed courses instead of the fields and creeks between towns. Don’t miss Erik Mathy’s unique photos from this revitalized Tracklocross Worlds event below…

Tracklocross Origins

Tracklocross may stem from an OG branch of bike racing, but Tracklocross Worlds are new. So new that they’ve only been held once before, in 2019 in Japan, at the base of Mt. Fuji. The crew at Squid Bikes committed to running the second one the following year in Sacramento. And then, like Godzilla emerging to breathe fire and stomp giant footprints along the streets of Tokyo, COVID emerged. Like the rest of the world’s plans, the 2020 Tracklocross Worlds in Sacramento got put on hold.

Chris Namba, co-founder of Squid Bikes and the Tracklocross Worlds Event Director, laid it out for me. “Before COVID, this had a ton of momentum. There were little pockets popping up all over the place that were connected through social media. Then we went to a tracklocross race in Tokyo. We were hanging out with those kids, and it was, like, one drunken night in Tokyo, we said, ‘Hey, we should do Tracklocross Worlds, we’ll do it in Tokyo!’ Then we did that in 2019. We wanted to throw it in Sacramento the next year. We wanted to show everyone this kind of weird thing we have here, too. And then COVID happened. We just didn’t do it, and we lost steam in putting stuff on. Then last year, all of a sudden, we, like, started putting on events in Sacramento again, and doing a lot of stuff with the community. So we decided, let’s do it! No one else is taking up the reins. Let’s just try it. And we did, and it’s been really cool!”

Fast Forward to 2024

For the 2024 edition, Race Director Frank Shoemaker and the crew from Squid Bikes brought the race to their favorite stomping grounds where they hold their yearly Rodeocross series: the Folsom Rodeo. The course itself was fast. It started and ended by spiraling through the rodeo arena before heading out into the park grounds. The most popular area, by far, was “Heckle Hollow”. Racers dropped down into and out of a small gully in a wooded area, to be greeted by a raucous crowd offering (mostly) encouragement and a variety of hand-ups. Gummy worms hanging from fishing poles were snagged, Dixie cups of beer handed out, and a Beer-Cam collected plenty of evidence of racers chugging Modelo on every lap.

Yes, you read that right: A Beer-Cam. The revolution will be on Youtube.

When it was all said and done, the dust settled, the sun set, the loud music STILL going and the beers still being drunk, newly crowned World Champions Li King (Non-Binary), Alyssa Black (Women Trans Femmes) and Hiromu Mitsumune (Open) stood triumphant on top of a podium constructed of Lagunitas Hop Water cases. As I walked back to my car and witnessed an impromptu longest skid competition, I reflected on the day. Pretty much everyone I knew in the bike world was at Unbound. I’d been bummed not to be there. Even jealous of my friends who were. But I left the Tracklocross Worlds happy and content.

Sometimes the simplest of things is all we need: A bike with no gears or brakes, music, a little competition, and a lot of camaraderie. Next year’s Tracklocross Worlds will be in Barcelona, and if I have any say in the matter, I’ll be there, too!

About The Images

I decided to take *only* one camera and lens to the Tracklocross Worlds: my Fuji GFX50R digital and a Hartblei Superrotator 45mm f/3.5 lens. The Hartblei is a crazy technical tilt/shift/rotational medium format film lens. It’s meant for architecture. Shooting action with a lens like that is… exceedingly difficult. I’ve done it once, at the Singlespeed CX Worlds in Santa Cruz last year, and have not used it for action since.

The evening images were taken with the same setup, sans any tilt/shift action, using a single speed light and some shutter drag to help capture a sense of motion. It’s one of my favorite ways to make nighttime images. Like the tilt/shift it’s not easy, but it sure is fun!