Fise 2016: Cycling that’s less like running, more like dancing
Tuesday 20 September 2016 11.25 BST
For the many of us who ride and talk about bikes, it’s almost always about getting from A to B, and often as fast and as efficiently possible. But can there be another way? Touring the world, a group of some of the world’s most skilled and physically strong riders dedicate their lives to doing exactly the opposite.
Their aim is to go nowhere on a bike but round in inventive, breathtaking circles. And they do so with such flair, entertainment and extreme daring, that, as a road cyclist never interested when young in smaller bikes or skateboards, their performance has managed to re-orientate how I think about riding a bike. Commuting, touring, riding a sportive or occasional race, I’ve always thought about riding two wheels as akin to running. But this is like dancing.
The World Series of Fise 2016 (Festival International des Sports Extrêmes) began in May this year in Montpellier, before going Croatia, the US, then Canada this weekend, before concluding in China in October. Now in its 20th year, Fise has become immensely popular, watched by crowds as big and animated as any grand road tour. The Montpellier leg alone attracted half a million spectators.
Alongside other extreme events on skateboards and rollerblades, BMX and mountain bike riders perform on a variety of courses, slopes and surfaces made of wood, earth and metal. En route, instead of battling the clock, they compete against each other like spinning-top gladiators, twisting, and somersaulting with death-defying manoeuvres. They are gymnasts whose bodies merge with their bikes, like a new iteration of characters from Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman.