MASH SF: A Very San Francisco Cycling Team
MASH SF is not just a cycling team. It's also a shop in Duboce Triangle. But before that, MASH started as a crew of people that made videos of themselves riding track bikes fast through the city starting six or so years ago -- they probably had something to do with the mass popularization of the track bike, "messenger style", and a bunch of idiots riding through traffic without brakes.
If you ride in the Bay Area, you've probably seen their stickers, plastered all over by their riders and fans alike. This isn't just a lifestyle brand though; the MASH team is really fast and serious about winning races, which is why I decided to chat with Rainier Schaeffer, a rider for MASH, bike racing.
Rainier had just got back from Milan, where he had raced in the Red Hook Crit Championship Series. For the uninitiated, a criterium, or a crit, is a race where riders go really fast around a shortish course for about 30 minutes. Crits often have crashes and pileups, since racers are basically sprinting nonstop. The Red Hook Crit is a track bike crit -- that means no brakes, no coasting. Oh and they're in the dark. You can catch a video recap of the series now, complete with some of shots of the MASH SF team.
Rainier placed fifth overall in the four-race series. Of those races that happened in New York, in the eponymous Red Hook neighborhood, and at the Brooklyn Navy yard. The other two happened at Barcelona and Milano respectively.
Other MASH racers included Kyle Murphy, who placed 3rd overall, Walton Brush, who placed 7th, and Chas Christiansen, who placed 42nd. The team, as a whole, absolutely crushed the field, with 170 points, landing at the top of the podium. The second and third- place teams had 126 and 92 points respectively.
But the Red Hook Crit is over for the year, and now MASH is on to conquer the local cyclocross scene. I asked Rainier what he liked better, racing on the road or racing on the dirt. He said, both, in so many words, "Road racing and cyclocross are very different disciplines, and I enjoy each for different reasons. It's funny, come July, I have been racing road for six months and I am dying to race my cyclocross bike. Come January, after having raced my cyclocross bike in the Fall, and I am dying again to race my road bike!"
Schaeffer said that racing in unsanctioned messenger races, alleycats, and moving to more legitimate sections of the sport, has been a natural progression. "Track bikes on the street and alleycats form a natural transition to cyclocross. The skills required to handle a track bike in the street involve mastery of a bicycle -- far reaching foresight, jumping, sliding, rocking -- which are also qualities inherent to cyclocross racing. Alleycats are short and involve powerful intervals, full gas out of a stoplight, then slow again, then full gas out of another stoplight. These attributes translate into cyclocross racing where you make many repeated accelerations. Having said this, they are still very different, and those coming from track bikes in the street have much to learn before understanding a cyclocross bike and race."
Schaeffer said that one thing he wished we had in this city was more races in the city. "I feel like a piece of my heart is now missing with the absence of Golden Gate Park BASP on the calendar," he said. Races in the city tend to draw more of a crowd. MASH recently posted a video of the 1999 Supercup held in the Presidio:
That race doesn't happen anymore. Maybe it still can? Cyclocross is increasingly popular, as I reported last week. MASH SF went from posting videos of riding track bikes on YouTube, to sponsorship deals with Cinelli, Incase, Clif Bar, Giro, Continental, San Marco, and Oakley. And races are good for building awareness not just of the sport, but of cycling as a whole. Maybe race organizing is the next step for the organization?
In a world where the goal sometimes seems to be to sell your brand as quickly as possible, it seem like MASH SF has managed to leverage underground street riding cool, along with some photography and videography skill, to support a serious cycling team, which is what makes it a very San Francisco cycling story.
Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He's can be spotted dragging himself up a hill -- literally and metaphorically.