Red Bull Fixed-Gear Racer Addison Zawada Explains the Berm Burner

In a one-on-one interview with STACK, fixed-gear bike racer Addison Zawada talks about his sport and the Berm Berner race.

STACK: Tell us a little about yourself.

Addison Zawada: I'm 22, originally from South Carolina, grew up in Florida for high school. Got start racing BMX in 2003 and did that for 8 1/2 years. After that I competed in endurance racing and then moved on to racing fixed gear.

STACK: Do you do fixed-gear racing or freestyle?

Zawada: I've dabbled in fixed-gear freestyle, but I'm mostly a racer because of my BMX background.

STACK: Which events?

Zawada: Crit Races like the Red Hook Crit. But I'm more of a sprinter. The Red Bull Ride + Style is my big one.

STACK: What's the setup for that?

Zawada: [Red Bull] basically builds a skate park in Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco. They set up a race course through that skate park, and we race through the course. That's the event that got me started with Red Bull. It's the first event that's felt close to me. It's like a BMX course, but you race on a fixed gear (bicycle).

STACK: Is there a reason they set it up within a skate park and not an actual BMX course?

Zawada: They do the fixed-gear race and fixed-gear freestyle both on the same course.

STACK: What is the strategy for racing on a fixed-gear bike?

Zawada: The main focus of riding a fixed-gear bike is worrying about where your pedals are at all times. This year there were jumps in the course, like the pyramid in a skate park. That's one of the tricky things. For a short event like that, only 30 seconds to a minute long, you have to focus where your opponent is at all times. This year, the final race came down to myself and Matt Reyes, and it's not who races faster but smarter, and on the last corner I knew he would try to make it inside so I slowed down to close him off. He hit my back wheel and actually fell. For me it was more experience since I've been racing 10-11 years now.

STACK: I know you also do the mini-velodrome race. What is that called and can you explain that race?

Zawada: That's the Red Bull Minidrome. Between that and the Ride + Style, it's how I got started with Red Bull. It's mostly a scaled down Olympic velodrome, a high-banked oval.

STACK: Do they ever do more than 1-on-1?

Zawada: They have 10-lap qualifiers that set up the head-to-head competitions. You start at opposite ends of the track and cat-and-mouse each other for 10 laps.

STACK: How long have you been associated with Red Bull?

Zawada: About a year and a half. Back in 2012, I raced in the Minidrome in Orlando and won that. They invited me to another in Montreal two weeks later. Borrowed some money from my mom, won that event. Borrowed my mom's car (again) and won three more Minidrome events in Canada that year. In 2013, I rode a Ride + Style event and won; that sealed the deal (with Red Bull).

STACK: What specific bike do you ride?

Zawada: I'm really favorable to Giant bikes. I've always worked in Giant bike shops and those are a bike I've always favored. As far as fixed gear, it's whatever I have laying around the house. I rode for Leader for a while, so I have those laying around, and it's not anything sponsorship-wise, but it's whatever I have at the time.

STACK: What do you ride around town?

Zawada: I was riding around on a Leader for a while, but that got stolen out of my car. So I ride a Giant now, but that was my backup bike.

STACK: That's a shame, but it happens.

Zawanda: Yeah, L.A. is brutal for that.

STACK: How do you train?

Zawada: Because I do so many different disciplines, I'm not really focused on one thing right now. I've gotten in the gym a lot lately because I am interested in getting into more mountain bike background next year. I am going to need a stronger upper body as well as keeping myself intact and not blowing myself up on one of these courses. In the gym lately I'm doing strength training, fast-twitch and plyometric and explosive workouts. At home I do a lot of sprints on the bike, just to keep my legs fast. I'm naturally a sprinter since I did BMX. It's mostly just time on the bike. I ride mountain bikes with my friends, and I'm a food courier in Santa Monica. I just try to get on my bike every day of the week.

STACK: What's your diet like?

Zawada: I have lately tried to watch what I eat. I don't eat red meat, mostly chicken, turkey, a good amount of pasta, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As much protein as possible and as lean as possible. I try to stay gluten-free when convenient. And I drink a lot of water; I don't really drink anything else.

STACK: What's your strategy for the Berm Burner?

Zawada: I'm going to go back to my roots. I am going to bring my BMX bike. Pumping has always been my really strong point in racing. We have pump races out at the tracks where we actually take off the chain so you can't pedal the bike at all, and I was always really strong at that. That was always one of my positive points at racing. So, I'm gonna go back to my roots and bring out my BMX bike, my little 20-inch BMX bike. And basically it's two turns and a straight with a set of like 10 rollers on each straight. The straights are 80 feet long and 50 feet wide, I believe. That's bigger than I thought it was. I got really excited because pump tracks and pump racing have been some of my favorite things to do for a long time. I actually rode my bike for six months without a chain one time. I just didn't have a chain. I broke it off and didn't feel like replacing it, so I just rode my bike without one. So I got really good at pumping and it's just a really strong point for me.

STACK: Your style will fit there?

Zawada: Being from a BMX background, I got really good at turns. [The Berm Burner] is all left turns. It's like if you cut a cereal bowl in half and then put rollers on the straightaway. It's really going to favor me coming from a BMX background, because it's essentially like riding a BMX track, but smaller.

STACK: What recommendations would you have for somebody who wants to get into the sport?

Zawada: My biggest recommendation is just whatever you decide to do, whether it's for competition or for fun, just make sure you have fun doing it because you won't wanna to do it if you don't. But as far as fixed-gear stuff, find a good group of people to ride with and learn from them. People that have been doing it for a long time, especially around the Richmond area, there are a lot of messengers and couriers. So, just pick and choose which people you ride with and listen to what they have to say and learn from them. Make very good friends with your local bike shop, because your local bike shop is gonna save your butt down the road.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

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