Welcome to issue two of Boneshaker Magazine. Perhaps a little brighter and bolder than the first, but with the same enthusiasm and aspirations. It has been a bit of a whirlwind since issue one was published, with many of you getting in touch from all corners of the globe â€“ we really could not have had
a better response from our readers, contributors and stockists alike. There has been so much positive and constructive energy sent our way since issue one came out and we sincerely hope that this is reflected back in the following pages. Enjoy... Team Boneshaker www.boneshakermag.com
Brixton Cycles My Beautiful Bike Merthyr to Mayo Bike Paintings Meadowbank Velodrome Holland, Spring 2010 Long Distance Bringing the Sounds to the Streets Ken Stanek Dokumenta Ciclista Crash Bang Crunch Slowcoast Soundslide Böikzmöind ‘Augmentation’
Contents 6 12 14 20 26 30 32 40 42 46 50 52 54 58
adam faraday, filip k, tom simpson, rujina alam, edwin jimenez, ken stanek, taliah lempert, robert hunter, chris @ dynamoworks, peter locke, gavin wilshen, phil davies, katie t, nick hand, tom germain, becca voelcker, cass gilbert, gav strange, jet mcdonald, saddle man, nick souček, imogen, john coe & jimmy ell
backpats and handclaps
yael ben-gigi, mike white, jethro brice, gavin wilshen, taylor bros & the bristol bike project crew
copyrights & disclaimers
Boneshaker is a quarterly publication. The articles published reflect the opinions of their respective authors and are not necessarily those of the publishers and editorial team. ©2010 Boneshaker. Printed on paper from sustainable sources by Taylor Brothers Bristol Ltd. 13-25 Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8PY / Tel 0117 924 5452 Conceived, compiled & edited by jimmy ell Designed and published by coecreative / www.coecreative.com Cover image by taliah lempert / www.bicyclepaintings.com
CYCLES UP THE WORKERS On Saturday 11th April 1981, Brixton burned. The Brixton riots were a result of the policeâ€™s heavy-handed stop and search tactics, which backfired spectacularly. 6
words and photography tom simpson
This, combined with decades of neglect, desperation and simmering racial tension, resulted in some of the worst rioting London had ever seen. Brixton, a district in south London, wasn’t exactly a place where people wanted to be, and predictably, property prices fell. For a group of bicycle enthusiasts, though, this presented an exciting opportunity... Ken Livingstone, known to the Thatcherite government of the time as Red Ken for his socialist leanings, became leader of the Greater London Assembly (GLC) in 1981. Bucking the right-wing political trends of the time, he proceeded to implement all kinds of socialist policies, including lowering fares on public transport and declaring London a ‘nuclear-free zone’.
One such policy was a series of grants which were made available for people wishing to start their own businesses. Workers’ co-operatives are traditionally businesses in which all the workers own an equal share. They run the co-op in a democratic manner, voting on issues which affect their business, rather than having a single ‘boss’-figure to
dictate what happens. In 1983, this group of cyclists took the opportunity and proceeded to open Brixton Cycles: A Workers’ Co-operative. Whilst the original founders are long gone and many members have since joined and left, there is still a core group of workers continuing to run this fantastic enterprise right in the heart of Brixton.
Ken Livingstone’s socialist policies were in total contrast to Thatcher’s right-wing beliefs. Especially when you consider that whilst Red Ken was advocating and supporting the foundation of workers’ co-operatives, Thatcher was de-nationalising companies left right and centre, dismantling Britain’s heavy industry and instigating the Poll Tax. That these two ideologies could co-exist in the same country, especially at the height of the Cold War, is amazing. In terms of small business though, are the two ideologies really that far apart? On the one hand, capitalism is all about making a profit. Is Brixton Cycles all about profit? Well, maybe, but in a different way, and in a way which is fairer to its workers and its customers – it’s a question of motivation. Maggie Zimmerman, a 27 year-old from Texas, has been working at Brixton Cycles for
obviously the shop-floor monkeys, and the guy in the back room is the mechanic. But the lines are blurred in Brixton Cycles, and rather than having people fit specific roles, the workers seem to work independently of each other. It’s like watching an ant colony at work, the only difference being that an ant colony has a queen behind the scenes. The ant colony that is Brixton Cycles is found at the corner of Stockwell Skatepark on Stockwell Road, right next to the famous Brixton Academy music venue. It’s on the bottom floor of a block of council houses that make up a small part of the Stockwell Park Estate. This slice of South London is and always has been a cultural melting pot – look around and you’ll see people from Ghana, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Guyana, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, China, Japan, Poland... name a
“I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a bike shop as bustling as this in my 20 years of cycling.” 3 years now. She feels that working as part of a co-operative gives you greater freedom to affect your business. ‘Often, here, I feel free to go that extra mile, to work harder, because it’s for myself and because it’s for my customers’. In a more traditional working structure, hard work is rewarded by promotion up the career ladder, and with that comes greater pay. Sadly, a career ladder is an abstract. In a co-operative, the rewards come in greater dividends for both you and your colleagues. It’s tangible, and easily defined, rather than being based on an abstract concept of what others think of you. This difference in approach is evident upon entering and observing the staff at work in Brixton Cycles. In a normal bike shop, you can discern the hierarchy in a matter of seconds: that man is clearly the manager, they are
country and you’ll probably be able to find a small community settled somewhere in Brixton. And so it seems appropriate that situated in this melting pot is this amazing bicycle shop, founded on socialist principles. The shop floor is a maze of bicycles, and the back rooms an even greater maze of bicycle boxes, spare parts, tools and more, yes more, bicycles. Yet despite its tight confines, this place is constantly busy. In fact, on Saturdays, when they operate their morning repair surgery, it’s not unusual to have a queue stretching out of the door as far as twenty yards down the road. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a bike shop as bustling as this in my 20 years of cycling. Is this a result of its somewhat unique structure? According to Barney Stutter, who has been working here
The Brixton Cycles Workersâ€™ Co-Operative are:
Tappan Perkins (1) John Farry (2) Billy Prendergast (3) Jim Sullivan (4) Nigel Brook (5) Maggie Zimmerman (6) Barney Stutter (7) Mogford (8) Lincoln Romain Simon Bendall Kath Roberts Sarah Weir Nahtt
for 23 years, it most definitely is. ‘I read in a magazine, I think it was the New Statesman, that the most profitable businesses tend to be either worker-owned or, like John Lewis, a co-co, whereby they’re not a full co-op, but the workers still have a real input in decision-making. John Lewis, a United Kingdom workers’ co-operative retailer, is an interesting comparison. It’s one of the largest department stores in the UK, yet it is run almost as a democracy, with members elected to a series of councils. Even the board of directors is voted on by everyone who works for the Partnership. The organisation in Brixton Cycles is somewhat simpler; initially a new member has a ‘trial day’, and, so long as everyone gets along and they can do a half-decent Sean Connery impression and their taste in music isn’t too awful (a few have slipped through the net on this one apparently), they become a probationary member for six months. Once those six months are up they become a full member of the co-operative, with the basic tenet of ‘equal pay, equal say’.
Nancy who was very scary, and that was when Brixton Cycles was in a shop the size of a shoebox . Coming from Mid-Wales to post-riot Brixton was my university and my education’. The ‘equal say’ part is what people often cite as a downfall in the co-operative system. Simply speaking, it’s harder to get a decision out of a co-operative than it is to get one out of an individual. Taken from the view of a salesman, would you rather try to pitch something to a crowd of people or to one single person? Although it’s inevitable that reaching a consensus about something is going to take slightly longer than if the decision were left to one person, does that really matter? The decision-making process at Brixton Cycles always takes less than a week due to their weekly business meetings and, according to Barney, the direction that the business is heading is always a popular topic that comes up for discussion. But are there any other downsides to this way of working? Maggie seems to think not. ‘There are always the inevitable clashes of
“It’s like watching an ant colony at work, the only difference being that an ant colony has a queen behind the scenes.” The ‘equal pay’ part of the deal is one of the major draws for many people wishing to work here, and despite the fact that the shop is located in one of London’s poorest areas, it actually pays on average 60% better than your typical bike shop. This has led to a whole manner of run-ins with other bicycle shops, with mechanics all obviously eager to work here. Barney started working at Brixton Cycles in 1983 and is now the longest-serving member. He says of that time, ‘I saw these things around which they now call mountain bikes and I bought one of the first mountain bikes in the country – a Ridgeback, I think... then it was like the road to Damascus. The skies opened, the sun shone down and I realised that that’s what everyone needs... I went to the Yellow Pages looking at bike shops and I got as far as ‘B’ and managed to get an interview with a woman called
personality’, she says, ‘but if you have a clash of personalities under the more traditional structure, who’s your recourse then? If you have a consistent problem getting along with someone, then often that’s just human nature – you either sort it out, or you end up with a ‘we’ll agree to disagree’ scenario’. All pros and cons of the co-operative system considered, one thing is for sure: it is working. Brixton Cycles has now been running for 29 years, and is very rarely empty. It is a fantastic and inspiring example of working from the ground up, not the top down, and when you speak to the person behind the counter, they will make sure you get the best service possible, because it’s their business that’s at stake, and not someone else’s. And that’s the bottom line. 11
Words Rujina Alam / Photography Ben Zen Photographic
My Beautiful Bike My bike has had a hard life. I found it abandoned in a bush, with a battered frame and busted tyres but I was drawn to it because of its sparkly blue finish, oddly-matching wheels and charming collection of ‘peace’ stickers. Having talked about getting a bike for weeks, I knew I had to have it and so dragged it out of the bush and over to my friend’s house. En route, I bumped into a man who told me it was a 1970s Raleigh Shopper. He said that it was a ‘real gem’ and that ‘they really don’t make them like this anymore’ and then offered to fix the wheels for me for just ten pounds. It took him nearly two hours and although he did try to kiss me, he had brought it back to life and I loved it. Since then, I have fitted it with a chirpy little bell which quickly led to me being called ‘ting-a-ling’ by the locals, have replaced the tyres with original white-wall ones and have attached a wicker basket after I almost fell off while trying to balance shopping bags on the handlebars! Despite these various safety measures, my bike has been involved in several mishaps – I’ve crashed it into a metal post whilst admiring another girl’s jeans; I’ve skidded on the ice and grazed both my elbows; and I’ve fallen off in front of an audience outside a busy cafe window, from which I still carry the scars on my left foot! Accidents aside, my bike and I have had lots of adventures together. Last year, I dressed it up as a fairy and rode in a large street carnival procession and more recently I have helped to transport my friend’s cat, Boris, to the vet, as he howls when he’s taken in the car. Day-to-day, I use my bike to run errands and to get to work appointments, although this usually involves riding it to the bus stop, locking it up and then getting on the bus. Amazingly, on one occasion, a cheeky thief decided to steal my lock but left my bike! My Raleigh Shopper is the original city bike. It has been involved in a few collisions, I have to push it up the slightest of inclines and it is the source of endless amusement for all of my friends, but it’s mine and I couldn’t be without it.
words Katie T illustrator firstname.lastname@example.org photography www.merthyrtomayo.org
a solidarity bike ride
67 cyclists, 433 miles, 14 days of sunshine and 2 communities in resistance... A mission, an adventure, a holiday with a difference... A journey from Merthyr to Mayo.
ometime in 2009, the seed of an idea was planted. Inspired by tales of an Irish communityâ€™s ten-year fight to protect their health and environment, as Shell (a multinational petroleum company of Dutch and British origins) attempts to build a huge experimental gas development in their area, a suggestion was made to organise a bike ride which would travel to meet the community and offer support.
Several months later, the seed had grown into something beautiful (if, perhaps, a little strange) and a travelling tribe of international cyclists made their way from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales to Rossport, County Mayo on the north-west coast of Ireland. This is my story of our journey...
e first began organising the ride as a fairly small crew from a cycling collective called Bicycology. However, we made our planning meetings open to anyone who wanted to participate, and other people quickly joined the process, including some who had long-term involvement in the campaign in Mayo. We came from different perspectives, and there were many reasons why each of us wanted to make the journey; it was about a love of cycling, showing solidarity with a community fighting corporate power, highlighting issues around climate change and climate justice, supporting communities’ rights to local sovereignty, attempting to reduce feelings of isolation that can often exist for small campaigns and, through travelling by bicycle, it was also about demonstrating the possibilities of long distance travel without reliance on fossil fuels. To a large extent it was about joining up the dots. The social and environmental problems affecting the community in Mayo are not unique; they are repeated across the globe in the places where fossil fuels are sourced. They are the inevitable result of our society’s addiction to carbon and an economic system that puts profit before people and requires infinite growth on a finite planet. To illustrate this understanding, we decided to make our start point as important as our destination. In Merthyr Tydfil, the community are fighting the development of Britain’s largest open-cast coal mine. The mine impacts heavily on the health and well-being of residents, and the negative environmental consequences of coal use are well documented. Some of us had spent time working with the community in Merthyr and, due to the many parallels with the campaign in Mayo, this became the logical place to begin our journey. The problems facing these communities (and the world, as the fuels are burnt and contribute to climate change) cannot simply be resolved at a local level – massive social change is needed.
Change on this scale requires diverse groups of people to come together, to find common ground and to explore solutions for new ways of living and working in solidarity with each other. Through our interaction with these two communities, the people we met en route and with each other, we hoped to be a small part of that process. Over several months, around fifteen of us laid the foundations for the ride: we planned a route, built a website, distributed information, raised money, gained publicity, networked with the two local campaigns, made flags and banners, created a puppet show, organised accommodation and events en route and bought huge quantities of food. We also produced a newspaper to distribute as we travelled; it highlighted the two campaigns, explored the links between them and explained the reasons behind our journey. We set dates for the ride, timing our trip to arrive for the start of the annual Rossport Solidarity Camp summer gathering. By the time we were ready to leave, over sixty people had signed up to join the two-week ride... Cyclists joining in the UK met in Merthyr on May 21st. As we viewed the town from the hilltops above, the scar in the landscape created by the mine was undeniable. Heading into town, we met with local campaigners and ran a stall in the centre; we talked to people about the ride and handed out our newspaper. In the evening we held an event with local people, with food, discussion, music, screen-printing, and a paper cut-out puppet show. The following morning, we awoke to glorious sunshine and began our first day’s cycling to catch the overnight ferry from Swansea to Cork. Arriving in Cork, we joined up with the rest of the cyclists making the journey to Mayo. We were a diverse bunch: a mix of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities and languages. Some of us had cycled long distance before, but many had never
food, cook and clear up. We decided together the details of the events we were running and who would participate in them. When riding we generally split into groups of under ten people; the final team always had a mechanic and took responsibility for carrying tools and remaining at the back to help any other groups with mechanical difficulties. We had decided not to use any kind of support vehicle, so those who were able took it in turns to tow the trailers carrying all our communal kit (food, equipment for events, tools etc). In general, it was a near-perfect example of the joys of working collectively.
ridden more than a few miles. Perhaps the fittest of us all were a group of people from Spain and Latin America who had cycled to Cork from Madrid. Not only had they already travelled hundreds of miles, but they were also taking it in turns to tow a trailer carrying one of their crew who had an injured leg, and one of them was riding a fixie! Although most of us had never met before the ride began, we made connections quickly. Living and working together 24/7 for two weeks is a definite bonding experience, and by the time the ride finished we had all made many new friends.
The ride itself was beautiful; we were blessed with fourteen days of sunshine and the scenery was spectacular. We travelled up through the counties of Cork, Kerry and Clare in Ireland. We swam in gentle rivers bordered by ancient woodland and pristine lakes surrounded by majestic mountains. We passed along stunning coastal roads where steep cliffs met seemingly endless expanses of deep blue ocean. Travelling by bike, with the wind in your hair and the sun on your back, you get to experience nature in a really special way; you’re going fast enough for it to be a viable form of transport, but slow enough that you can still take in all the changing landscapes as you move through them.
“Our rag-tag tribe of cyclists, with our trailers, colourful flags, and booming sound-system, made an interesting spectacle as we took over the roads...!” From the beginning, we shared responsibility for the practicalities of the ride. A relatively small group had planned the ride originally, but it was now under the collective ownership of everyone participating. We organised non-hierarchically (i.e. we had no leader) and we came to decisions by consensus. Despite the occasional frustration of late night meetings after long days of riding, it was a really amazing process to be a part of. Each day, we took it in turns to choose the route, buy
The journey provided constant affirmation of why we have a world worth fighting for. Everywhere we went we were met with incredible hospitality. We had arranged accommodation in advance by making connections with local groups who either supported the campaign in Mayo or were working on other social justice/environmental issues. Sometimes we just spent time talking and sharing ideas with our hosts. In other places we held organised events; these included 17
bike-fixing workshops, talks about our ride and the reasons behind it, and kids’ workshops. In Castlerea, we helped to organise a solidarity concert outside the prison where two men from Mayo are currently serving sentences for convictions arising from their part in the local campaign. The concert was attended by well over 100 people and musicians from across Ireland came to play. We also formed impromptu ‘critical masses’ when leaving or arriving in new places. Our rag-tag tribe of cyclists, with our trailers, colourful flags, and booming sound-system (towed all the way from Merthyr by a tandem!), made an interesting spectacle as we took over the roads. In Ireland, due to the mass protests against what is happening in Mayo, Shell has been forced to re-brand itself as ‘Topaz’; a typical critical mass would therefore culminate with a musical occupation of a Topaz garage. Passers by were generally curious enough to want to talk to us and we handed out hundreds of our newspapers raising awareness about the two community campaigns and the successes they have achieved. Our bikes provided not only a mode of transport, but also built bridges of communication between us and the people we met. Somehow, travelling by bike made us more approachable; people like cyclists! We were able to engage with many people about our journey and the reasons behind it and on numerous occasions we were told how inspiring it was to see dozens of cyclists travelling together. Our journey opened up new ideas of what we (and other people) saw as possible. On bikes ranging from fairly alright to downright shonky, with no high-tech gear in sight, we demonstrated that you don’t need a posh bike or fancy kit to cycle long distance. High on endorphins and vitamin D, looking happy and healthy, we formed a pedalling advert for the benefits of cycling. Random people we met along the way even grabbed their bikes and joined us on our journey!
After two weeks, we finally arrived in Erris, County Mayo in Ireland. Our first stop was Mary’s house, where we were told food would be waiting for us. Mary is used to feeding the masses. In 2005, when the local community picketed the proposed gas refinery site, preventing work for over 18 months, it was Mary who manned a trailer providing everyone with a constant supply of tea and scones. We weren’t disappointed; we were met by welcoming locals and an abundance of delicious food. We then cycled to the refinery site, where we were met by dozens of cheering people from the community and some of the local campaigners from Merthyr Tydfil, who had come to share stories with the Mayo community. A while later we made the final few miles down to the camp where we spent the weekend talking with the local campaigners at the summer gathering. It was a perfect end to a perfect journey. Without doubt, the ride was a success. The two local campaigns felt boosted by the support we offered and we received lots of positive feedback from people in both areas. We forged lasting connections and will continue to find ways to work in solidarity with the people we met. We all gained a lot personally, from new friends to expanded ideas of what is possible when people join together with common aims. For those two weeks we formed a new community; we lived and worked together cooperatively and… it worked! To make the transition to a system based on social and ecological justice we have to take responsibility for creating change, both as individuals and, more importantly, as local (and global) communities. The act of cycling long distance provided one vision of action that individuals can take to help make a better world but, through organising the journey together, and working with two community campaigns for social justice, we also highlighted the power of collective organising in achieving social change... from Merthyr to Mayo and beyond!
For more info on the two local campaigns visit: www.shelltosea.com www.stopffosyfran.co.uk For more info on the ride, including a blog of our journey: www.merthyrtomayo.org
Bicycle Paintings by Taliah Lempert
Bicycles are so beautiful... ...and such a strong, positive symbol that they still leave me totally inspired, even after fourteen years of making pictures of them.
I started painting pictures of bicycles in 1996. I had just bought a bike on a whim and was blown away by how fast I could get around, how it expanded my sense of self and the city and by the power and beauty of it. I fell in love with cycling and had to shout about it – make some noise. Visual noise. Bicycles are great; so beautiful and such a strong, positive symbol that still leave me totally inspired, even after fourteen years of making pictures of them. Some of my earliest memories are riding with my sister in my dad’s bike trailer. He loves cycling and would take us along while he cruised around the countryside in Upstate New York. He thinks bikes are important and so gave each of us a good 10 speed as a Bat Mitzva gift. And I love art supplies! Oil paint is the best; lovely, lush and rich, and it smells good and feels good to smush around. I love how it looks, but it’s
hard to use all of the time and often I’ll use other materials if it is too hot in the studio or if I don’t have a lot of time. I like being fast and loose with materials. Whenever I return to oil, though, it’s like a homecoming. The bicycle always speaks for itself. I like to look at it and muse. I like the way things catch my eye - the curve of the handlebars, worn bar tape, the shape of a seat - the way a bike has become from being ridden. I love the wear, tear and age, suggestive of past journeys and that’s why I’m more excited about painting used bikes as opposed to new ones. Sometimes it’s interesting to know the truth and so I research it. When I’ve painted pro-racers’ bikes, I’ve read all I can about the cyclist’s career and looked at lots of photographs of the bike in action. But I also enjoy the not-knowing. I have no idea who rode some of my favorite bikes but I can just feel it.
quite a few bikes myself.
My two main commuter bikes are the Bianchi, that I’ve had for a long time, and le crap shleppeur, my newest bike, that has folding racks and a trailer hitch, which I use for carrying a lot of groceries, supplies and artwork. I also have a fancy road bike for dedicated road riding – it’s a steel frame with campy 10 speed, and a nice track bike for the track. I also have a street fixed-gear that was my first track bike and a custom single-speed that my boyfriend built. I have a thing for vintage cruisers and have a few from the 1950s and 60s; a pair of early 60s chrome Spaceliners, a 1950-something Rollfast Space Racer (that’s awesome and a better ride than you’d think), a big Schwinn Fleet, a chrome 3 speed, the Fleetwood and a big Rollfast cruiser tandem, that looks like a batmobile with pin stripes and tail fins. It’s the mile-wide-smile ride! I’ve also got an 1898 triple that’s mostly for looking at and painting – I have ridden it a couple of times and might restore it but it looks wonderful as is and hangs in the hallway. When I paint my own bikes it can be like knowing something so well that it is part of yourself, at once integral, deeply personal and taken for granted. Once, I created a large picture of my road bike but didn’t notice until after I’d finished, that I’d made the chainring enormous! It cracked me up. I also painted my street track bike with a zebra mask I had put on it as part of my Halloween costume. In the painting I almost wanted to keep it covered because it was so personal. I like painting my own bikes but I wouldn’t want to just work with them. I really want to describe and celebrate my community. I didn’t have any bike friends when I started riding a bike here in 1996, but have made them quickly. Within a couple of years, I got to know a ton of messengers and was doing alley cat races and met people doing Critical Mass and bicycle activism and advocacy. I like to paint bikes that I associate with my friends. It’s a collaboration. I can get pretty emotional about that – it’s exciting to paint something that’s important to someone. I love the process, not just of my work, but of most art I enjoy. Process is exciting. The studio section of my website is my favorite part. I started keeping it in 2000 and have posted photos almost every day that I’ve worked in the studio since. It’s cool to see how my ideas evolve and develop and a fun way to share my most recent work and interesting to see what people like – I’d love it if my favorite artists kept studio pages too.
NewYork City is great. I love the hustle and bustle, the architecture, and sometimes even the traffic! I’ve got a lot of favorite places to ride. Long rides out to Far Rockaway Beach are great in the summer and the other direction, over the George Washington Bridge and up along the Hudson, is a much-cycled road ride. I raced at Kissena Velodrome for six years and still love the ride out to the track, winding through a bunch of different neighborhoods. It took me a couple of years to perfect the way. In the last few years, NYC has gotten a lot more bike-friendly and has a bunch of new bike routes. There’s also a great new lane from my house to downtown Brooklyn; 4 miles of very low traffic where I hardly need to stop and I can get a good rhythm going. We go visit my boyfriend’s family in Northern California each year and the riding out there is so amazing that it almost makes me want to move. I t took me a little while to recognize the current bike boom because, for the last 15 years, bikes have been a big part of my life and most of the people I know ride them. If all the people you know ride bikes and then, still, all the people you know ride bikes, it doesn’t seem like an increase. But suddenly I realized that there are all these new bike lanes and tons and tons more people riding. It’s awesome! I’ve been riding up the Williamsburg Bridge, and at times, there’s so many people on bikes when it always used to be so desolate. I love it! There’s lots more stylish bikes too. I really like that there’s more going on here than I could possibly know. Different communities with different focuses on cycling. I love the bike culture here and hope it keeps growing. I’m happy with the way things are right now for me, so it’s full steam ahead. I plan to focus on painting and to take it in a little bit of a new direction. I feel some large canvasses coming on, with a lot of really active, drippy, good paint. I ’m working with a lot of my friends’ bikes and have also recently been painting a lot of hand-built bikes put together by my frame-builder friends. I love that my work reflects my community. It’s a balance to keep on making work and supporting myself with it. A bit like riding a bicycle.
meadowbank velodrome edinburgh, UK
text and images www.dynamoworks.co.uk
Originally built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games, the Meadowbank Velodrome was rebuilt for the 1986 event, only to be heavily boycotted by 32 nations because of UK interests in South Africa. Subsequent years have seen the track falling into an increasingly unstable condition but amateur racing continues, unabated, and minor repairs and maintenance are shared between a small band of race organisers and Edinburgh Council. Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy continues to champion the track, which is where his cycling career started, as does his father David. However, a potential new covered track for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games might signal the final bell at Meadowbank and the future remains uncertain.
Amongst all this circumspection, a new and enthusiastic, if somewhat naive, breed recently emerged. May 2010 saw the venue hosting the British and Irish Cycle Courier Championships. Weekend tourists caught fleeting glimpses of speeding racers throughout the city and subtle skills on the track were taught by regular trackside officials. Comparisons about cycling often refer to the symbiosis of man and machine, and track racing is surely its zenith. As Flann O’Brien famously wrote in ‘The Third Policeman’:
“The bike moved beneath me with agile sympathy in a swift, airy stride, finding smooth ways among the stoney tracks, swaying and bending skillfully to match my changing attitudes.”
Holland, Spring 2010 I trudge prosaically along the Herengracht,
This is not to say Dutch cyclists lack style – I
Amsterdam’s dogs speeding past in bike baskets.
lose count of the number of dresses, suits and
‘Pedestrian’ describes me well, a tourist from
high-heels worn, and no lycra in sight. Cycling
a nation still wobbly on its bike.
is part of life here – both as a means to an end and as a pastime equivalent to the passeggiata.
It is no coincidence that most Dutch bike blogs
It is not weather or wardrobe dependent. Police
show blurred action-shots of cyclists, whereas
patrol and couples date on bikes. Women scoot
ours show us holding our bikes like accessories.
past singing. They hold phones, other hands, take-away coffees, umbrellas and suitcases.
If labelling something ‘Dutch’ traditionally means it is less than it seems (Dutch metal,
While it is true that Holland is blissfully flat,
Dutch courage, Dutch treat), then a Briton
it is less British terrain but more British traffic
posing with a bicycle (think David Cameron)
and attitudes that curb our cycling. Travelling
is more Dutch than a Dutchman.
between Amsterdam and Delft yesterday I passed miles of cycle paths separate from the roads.
Omafiets – Grannybikes – rattle over Amsterdam’s
cobbles, tinkered to scoop up children /
In more urban areas, although bikes are
grandchildren, dogs (in aforementioned baskets
adjacent to cars, they outnumber them and
due to lack of time for walkies), and groceries.
make them seem embarrassingly indulgent and
Bikes with makeshift trailers, buckets, seats
cumbersome. If in Britain we made more
and panniers append the streets like mobile
cycle-path provision, and prevaricated or
favelas. Here bikes are not the supermodel
titillated less, we might avoid seeming as
grannies paraded down Brick Lane on Sundays.
indulgent and cumbersome as our cars.
If in Britain we made more cycle-path provision, and prevaricated or titillated less...
...we might avoid seeming as indulgent and cumbersome as our cars.
words jimmy Ell map photography dynamoworks
Travelling by bicycle is a magical and mysterious thing. To feel the topography of your landscape coursing through your limbs is an invigorating, engaging and salubrious experience. It is a silent, clean and effective method of travel, driven only by your willpower and curiosity as to what might be around the next bend. In a world where, more often than not, it is all about where we are headed – our destination and getting there fast – the process of how we actually arrive there is overlooked. Moving by bike unquestionably shifts the emphasis back on to the process itself and promotes a ‘nowness’ that is impossible to avoid or to resist. And it really is no surprise how people are more likely to welcome you, quietly wheeling, into their world; on a fully-laden bicycle, you are immediately perceived as non-threatening, vulnerable and, almost always, intriguing. So, whether it be a straightforward daily commute, an epic, long-distance trip from this point to that, or simply moving for the sake of motion itself, embrace that wanderlust, saddle up and get liberated... 33
May 2010 – May 2011
Jet McDonald BRISTOL, UK - INDIA
It is difficult to pack for a year’s cycle trip. If you wanted to take all the advice offered by friends and the limitless internet forums you would take a spare bike and a dumper truck of gadgets or, at the other end of the spectrum, a featherlight racing bike, a pair of see-through underpants and a Platinum credit card. The answer for my girlfriend and me lay in packing half an hour before we were due to hand over our keys to the guys moving into our house and head off on a year-long cycle ride to India from Bristol. Having stayed up all night sorting out just what we had to do with our lives, there was no time left to think about the niceties and we just rammed what would fit into our panniers. Now we’re on the road in France and it’s easier to make sense of what we should and shouldn’t have taken. Trouser gaiters? Nope. Two pairs of waterproof gloves. Duh! A complete map of UK cycle routes. Eh? In France? No doubt as we continue on our journey to India from Bristol over the next year we will discard and accrue multiple items like magpies, each item randomly strapped on with bungies and bits of rope. Ultimately the best advice to anyone considering a prolonged overland bike tour is to just go. Necessity, boringly, is the mother of invention and will produce whatever you need, usually late at night in a tent porch with a pair of pliers and a ziptie. As to route planning, the main thing we did in advance was start the application process for an Iranian visa which we heard can be notoriously difficult. We didn’t get Lonely Planets or guide books, and have harvested maps, mostly, from Tourist Info. A month on and this seems to have worked. We have a small GPS and this has been very helpful, together with the Tourist Info maps, for staying off the main roads and out of the cities. Leaving our destinations to chance has meant some unexpected finds, such an eccentric village festival north of Paris and a ‘Lord of the Rings’-like chalk road winding through Normandy. If there has to be one rule for relaxed overland cycling, it must be “stay out of the cities.” One thing I would recommend people do, whether they are cycling to Timbuktu or cycling round the block, is to read Dervla Murphy’s book, ‘Full Tilt’, the story of a young Irish woman in the Sixties who cycled to India from her home country on a single speed Raleigh via Afghanistan with a revolver strapped to her leg. After all the prattle about gear and endurance calories, this book is an inspiration for those who see the bike simply as a means to freedom and adventure. My girlfriend and I are not bike nerds (though Jen would argue I am heading that way), we are just a couple of daydreamy folk who just want to see the world in the slow lane. Three weeks into our trip and only just approaching Germany, our daily mileage would make most Speedy McCreedys (as we call the brightly-costumed lycra-clad racers who overtake our overladen bike trucks) weep with laughter. But we are quite happy pootling along the smallest roads, thanks, and if we don’t make it to India then, hey, we’ll have had some good picnics along the way. And boy, are they mighty picnics. I’ve never eaten so much in my life. The legs are emissaries of the stomach and it’s ‘munch, munch, munch’ all day long. Pastry, pastry, pastry. The bike itself is a highly evolved extension of the legs and has suffered the same aches and pains as the body but with more audible twangs. Talking of which, I currently have a twanging sound in the front wheel hub but I’m sure the Vorsprung Germans will sort out that for me... when, of course, we eventually get there...
February - April 2010
CAMBRIDGE, UK - LEBANON Some people dream of adventures but need a deadline to get going. I’m definitely one of them. So an invitation to holiday in Lebanon and some time to spare got me started on the bike trip. It was a simple plan; my friends and family would fly and I would wend my way down the Danube, all to arrive at the same point. Friends seemed concerned when they heard about my adventure and would ask me how much training I had done. The answer was always ‘very little’ as it seemed pointless spending time cycling around England when the energy could be saved to head in the direction I needed to go. As the date of departure came close, avoidance strategies became more appealing, like hiding away in a hotel somewhere near home for six weeks and then getting the train to Lebanon. But my pride was on the line, so instead, I employed a few delaying tactics, such as it would be so insensitive to leave on Valentines Day. That sounded reasonable and gained me another 24 hours. Finally the day came and I was waved off down the road, bike loaded to the gunnels. Risking a last look back, it was disconcerting to see how quickly the family turned and retreated to the house and their normal lives. The message was clear. I was on my own. The next few days of cold and pain across northern France were to confirm this reality, but then a breakthrough came as muscles hardened and ‘Weak Wimp of the West’ became ‘Saddle Man’ - he who laughs at hills and sniggers at snow, but is still a bit afraid of headwinds. But of course, you are never alone. In fact, I made three very dear friends during my trip. They were Front Wheel, Back Wheel and Chain. We worked as a team but each with a different personality. I felt closest to Front Wheel. He tended to be a bit fickle; turning this way and that, never able to make up his mind, but he was brave and fearless and prepared to strike out ahead of the others. Now Chain, she was always cheerful and low maintenance, chattering away but also with her ups and downs. In some ways she was the driving force behind the whole team and all she ever needed was a wipe down and a spot of oil now and again. But perhaps the most neglected was Back Wheel. He was stoical; the strong silent type, bearing a heavy load without any complaint. On many occasions I thought that I should have paid him a bit more attention but then he was difficult to reach. However close these friends were, I knew that I really had to reach out and talk to others, but the more people I met, the more I realised that I only really had three conversations: Wife, Children, and Bike Trip. So I became scared of boring people and that kept me moving on. Of course at home it wasn’t like that. The family put up with hearing the same old stories again and again. Or perhaps that’s why they encouraged me to take the trip in the first place? The riding continued to go well. Just about every day, normally at around 3pm, I retreated into my own little world. It extended from the handlebars of my bike into the road about 15 feet in front of me. I found that if I focused totally on that space for one or two hours, oblivious to sun, rain or countryside, then I could eventually emerge 30km closer to where I needed to be. Eventually, Lebanon was reached and by the deadline. And so, having completed my ten-week journey, have I been left with many valuable insights about travelling by bike? Well, yes, a couple. Firstly, when you are feeling vulnerable, you really want to meet people who say ‘Yes’. “Yes, come and stay in my house”, “Yes, you can pitch your tent here”. A few people, however, seem to delight in saying no and you will always come across them. So I would like to take all of the ‘Yes’ people and put them in a separate land and that’s where I am going to live. Secondly, a long-distance trip may appear daunting before you go, but bear in mind that someone will always have ridden further and longer to more far-flung places. So just consider your challenge to be a pedal in the park. You can do it. And my final point is that fears and uncertainties are generally a waste of time and energy. On countless occasions during the trip I worried for no good reason – Where would I sleep tonight? Are those people friendly? Could I cope with a mechanical breakdown? – and in every case, my fears proved groundless. What is more, I couldn’t actually do anything until the problem arose (if it ever did), so why worry in the meantime? So, here’s a tip – when you have such a worry, put it in a little mental box of its own, somewhere off toward the top left hand corner of your imagination, with all of those other future concerns, and then lock the door and pocket the key. That leaves you to focus on what you can affect now. Only then will you get where you want to go, and back home again.
July 2009 – unknown
ALASKA - South America On July 4th 2009, my plane finally touched down from Bristol into Alaska’s midnight light. As I made my way to Prudhoe Bay, the most northerly point that can be reached by bicycle in the Americas, I was fully aware that the journey ahead would be infinitely longer. Where was I heading? South, that I knew. From the Arctic, there was nowhere else to go. Where I hoped to end up was a more open question. Mexico? Panama? Peru? In the back of my mind lay the ultimate bicycle tourer’s destination: Ushuaia, the most southerly point in the Americas. Why no fixed destination, no goal to reach? Over the course of a long distance journey, it’s all too easy to concentrate on what you haven’t done, and not on what you have. To focus on the destination and not on the adventure. So this trip is about giving myself time to ride the dirt roads and forgotten backroads of this vast and varied continent. To stop and explore. To connect with people I meet along the way. To do so under my own steam, promoting the idea that cycling is a viable form of travel in an ever more car-centric world. It’s now a year in and I find myself in Guatemala, with over seventeen thousand kilometres on the clock. To reach this point, I’ve followed an oil pipeline from the Arctic. I’ve traversed a thousand kilometres of forest roads in Canada. Ridden the length of the Rockies in America. Crossed the vast and savagely crumpled ranges of Northern Mexico. Under my bike helmet, a tirade of memories already cram for space. Riding epic singletrack in Alaska, spooking grizzly bears along the way. Dragging my bike through knee deep snow under the big skies of Montana. Chopping wood in exchange for Thanksgiving pies in the improbably named Pie Town, New Mexico. Teaming up with fellow bike travellers and traversing the dirt roads of the Sierra Madre, Mexico’s drug-riddled cordillera. Camping beside the thundering, pounding surf of the Pacific, the beach to myself. Crossing the jungles of Belize to a soundtrack of reggae and howler monkeys. Porridge, pasta, wild salmon, tacos, tortillas and even tequila have fuelled my legs. New friends have been made, and old ones missed. I’ve been warmly invited into countless homes, from folk musicians in the Yukon to elk hunters in Colorado to puppet makers in New Mexico and Mormons in Utah. I’ve slept under the stars in tundra, desert, forest and mountains. I’ve even spent a night in a Mexican jail. Yet keeping motivated isn’t always as easy as it may seem; it’s not always blissfully empty roads and picture perfect camping spots. Long distance bike-touring can be tough. The body soon adapts to the physical demands: muscle and sinew shape themselves to the daily rhythm of cycling. It’s the mental challenges that are harder. The loneliness of leaving friends and family far behind. The hours of saddle time to ponder and deliberate. The constant sense of movement this nomadic lifestyle brings. The long stretches of unavoidable, monotonous highway, harassed by the endless torment of speeding traffic. And it’s the little things that tire you out. The eternal forage for food, for water, for a place to stay. Scrimping and saving each dollar, peso or quetzal. Then I ask myself a different question. Which will run out first, my legs, my money, or my inclination? Yet just when I reach a low, it’s also the smallest acts that bounce me back up again. The gift of a papaya from a gold-toothed farmer. Excited waves from a gang of roadside kids. The heartfelt cry of ‘animo!’ – ‘courage’ – from a man in the back of an old and sun-faded pickup. A lone yukka tree lit up by a finger of light. It’s then that suddenly, overwhelmingly, the realisation of what I’m doing, what I hope to do, what I’ve seen and what I will see, are distilled into one moment of clarity and understanding. Everything makes sense again. And once more, my pedals turn, and southwards I go.
‘Ken, before and after USA cross-country ride’
Probably the busiest man in New York Ken Stanek is a ‘do-er’. No doubt about it. A key member of the bicycle culture scene in New York City. Always ‘doing’. He is known for organizing charity alleycat races like Cranksgiving, staging Los Marcos polo events and running Bike Shorts, a successful semi-regular film screening of bike-related short films. We caught up with him recently... So, Ken, where do we begin? You have so many projects on the go... let’s start with Bike Shorts - how did this short film festival come about? I started Bike Shorts three years ago with Luke Stiles. We had been talking about doing a semi-regular film screening, encouraging people to make short films with bikes as an element, partially just as an outlet for our own ideas and also because I personally kept on missing the deadline for the Bike Film Festival! One day, we just did it. We set a date six weeks out, drafted some ground rules, whipped up a website, and started telling people about it. The first two shows happened within a month of each other and overwhelmed our venue, which was a place called Monkeytown.
However, coordinating a monthly screening proved exhausting and really difficult to maintain, so we eventually settled on a quarterly event. Luke moved on to focus on Empire (www.empirebegins.com) and I now work on this with Sara Kinney (www.vimeo.com/ sarakinney). Now, I kinda consider Bike Shorts as a ‘farm team’ for the Bike Film Fest. I’d really like people to be able to work on their ideas all year long, have the opportunity to meet other creative people, and to refine their work ultimately for the Bike Film Festival. There are such a diverse mix of films entered of a really high quality... are the entrants mainly amateur filmmakers or do you also get film companies and bike companies entering?
Almost all are amateurs. It’s been really exciting to see some of our friends come up to us at one screening with this great idea and then to have their completed film in time for the next show and it’s also been really exciting to watch the simplest of ideas completely win over the crowd. We decided at the very start to offer a $100 prize for the ‘best’ film, and give out Crumpler bags just for sending in a submission. This adds an element of competition to the event, which probably had something to do with attracting the crowd Luke and I were already close with. OK, so moving on to ‘Cranksgiving’ - can you tell me a little bit about it and how you came to set it up? Cranksgiving is an annual charity alleycat race (informal bicycle races that almost always take place in cities, and are often organized by bicycle messengers) that was started by Antonio Rodriguez – an ex-messenger from New York who moved to Pennsylvania in 2007. The object of the race is to navigate to grocery stores all over the city, buy a specific food item, and to then donate it all to a homeless shelter at the end of the race. I raced it three times between 2003 and 2006 (coming in 3rd and ‘most generous’ one year!) and have always loved the concept. When Antonio moved away, I told him that Cranksgiving was too good an idea not to keep happening and asked him if it was alright if I took over the organisation of the race. Since then, I’ve been
trying to expand the scope of the race a lot – I now make riders buy two jars of baby food and donate them to different women’s shelters and Cranksgiving also runs a fund drive for City Harvest and the New York Bike Messenger Foundation. My goal this year is to have 250 racers and raise $10,000. Do you still ride in it too? Well I’ve always wanted to figure out a way I could organize it and ride it at the same time, but it’s tricky. The part of the race where you’re frantically navigating a grocery store, racing shoes clacking on the floors, looking for cranberry sauce or a sack of potatoes while the other customers are staring at you, bewildered – and then you have to wait in line to pay for it and get a receipt? It’s hilarious. I miss participating in it. You also completed a cross country ride across the USA last year with a couple of friends. By the look of your blog, TwoArmParty, you had an amazing time. Is that something you had planned for a while? We did have an amazing time. Riding across the country was something that had been simmering in the back of my mind for a while, but we only really started thinking about it a year in advance. I convinced myself that that’s what I wanted to do in 2009. Then I went out & found some friends who would be into it and we started most of the planning
“The part of the race where you’re frantically navigating a grocery store, racing shoes clacking on the floors, looking for cranberry sauce or a sack of potatoes – it’s hilarious.” maybe five months out. Before that, my longest rides were a 4-day trip from London to Dublin for the Cycle Messenger World Championships in 2007 and a one day, 150-mile ride to the very bottom of New Jersey where, after 10 hours of riding, I missed the day’s last ferry by 15 minutes! I like the fact that you went to a couple of weddings, played bike polo matches and visited family along the way. Did it make packing for the trip harder?! Not really. All that essential wedding & polo stuff was loaned out to us when we were there. I was a groomsman for one of my oldest friends in one of the weddings, so I had to rent the tuxedo. I’m sure it probably would’ve been a little bit wrinkled if I had had it stuffed in the bottom of my panniers for 3,000 plus miles! What were the highlights of your trip? There are just too many to mention! But here are some... South Dakota was a huge highlight. Seriously. This is a state most people pretty much forget exists at all. There are less people in it than are in all of Brooklyn. A lot less, actually. But even before the trip, they were all amazing – the guy I called for a bike map of the state sent a detailed, personalized email with tips and links. Also in South Dakota: • We met a group of several dozen men who’d been camping at Pactola Lake in the Black Hills for the same weekend every year for 20 years. They let us leave our stuff there while we rode around and we camped there two nights in a row. One of those guys drove us to an all-you-can-eat BBQ Rib joint after 70+ miles in the hills. • We met Dorothy Hansen – a woman who had survived cancer and opened up a Bowling Alley. They had been robbed the night before we arrived, and still let us camp outside, giving us the keys to let ourselves in in the morning to wash up and make breakfast. My mom & her are now pen-pals. • There was a guy who built an observatory on the grounds of a hospital in a town of fifty people. • We went kayaking down the Missouri river with the Governor’s sister. • On one side of the state we met a woman who’d done 44
the same trip 20 years ago, who promised us massages when we made it to the other side of the state! It was all pretty amazing. We’ve expounded on all of these stories on our blog, TwoArmParty. You also play a big part in the craziness that is Los Marcos Polos, right? Yes indeed. That’s a dark, dangerous, and mysterious subject. Los Marcos Polos is a group of luchadores or something who claim they’re from the island of Los Marcostan. They play bike polo, and presume to be ferocious and extremely difficult to beat. Nobody really knows where they come from or who they are, but it is claimed that they either came from another planet, lived underwater for millennia, or that because a wormhole accidentally opened up after a domestic dispute, their saliva is actually the primordial ooze responsible for all life on earth. And so they decided it was a good idea to throw a no-holds-barred polo tournament in New York every year, but they have no concept of ‘rules’ or ‘structure’. It relies heavily on cheating, bribery, and general theatricality. I believe someone described the Los Marcos Mayhem/Madness/ Melee tournament with prime bullshittery in mind when they said it was an ‘Involuntary Interactive Improvisational Action Sport Performance Art Experience’. You were also in a Hollywood film recently, as an extra in a Bike Polo game... tell us about how that came to be... That was weird. A group of us were in the film ‘What Happens in Vegas’ with Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz. It was a really bad movie, and there’s a completely unnecessary, incongruous, 11 second bike polo scene in the middle. Somebody must’ve penciled it into the script and got in touch with Trackstar to find the group of us, who were paid to hang out in the Hamptons playing bike polo one day. This was one of the first times I ever stuck around to watch a film’s credits, just to see if our names were in there. They weren’t. But we did get to play polo with the two stars. So with all of this needing organising, do you actually get much of a chance to ride yourself? I ride 8 miles to work every day in Midtown, but that’s
about it. Central Park is less than half a mile away from my office though, so I take my lunch breaks to do a couple laps in there almost every day. Every so often I’ll ride to the beach, or up to Nyack, or maybe across New Jersey to visit my family in Pennsylvania. And I keep planning to ride up to see my Grandma in Connecticut. New York is a fun place to ride no matter what. I never want to lose my sense of awe of this city.
in blue electrical tape, had new bars, pedals, and saddle, but the exact same Neuvation wheelset. When I approached him & told him it was my bike, he didn’t put up an argument. He knew it was stolen when he bought it (for $200, he said). It was a carbon fiber road bike. A bit old (mid-90s), but not something you usually see someone delivering burritos on. We took it back without incident.
We noticed from the bikeblogNYC that you had your bike stolen earlier this year – that sucks - did you get it back?
What are your plans for 2010?
Indeed I did have a bike stolen. From right outside my office at Rockefeller Center, where I lock it every day. I still have no idea how they got through the Kryptonite lock & chain. That was at the end of February. Three months later, I got it back. My friend Kennedy, a messenger, spotted it 10 blocks away from my office. It’s a monocoque frame with a curved seattube - very unique. He & Morgan, another messenger, noted the name of the restaurant on the shirt of the delivery guy who was riding it: Baja Fresh - A burrito joint on 45th & Lexington. Morgan & I staked it out & waited for the guy to come back. 15 minutes later he rolled up on what was unquestionably my bike. It was wrapped
Well, I’ve got a huge array of back burners but I gotta chill out. Seriously, I’m overwhelmed. I came back from my trip completely broke last year and so right now I’m primarily trying to make sure I can pay my rent, buy stuff, and go out on awesome dates for a while. Then maybe sometime in 2011, I’ll disappear and ride across Europe or something. As I write this, we’re organizing the 5th annual East Side Polo Invitational and 2nd annual Ladies’ Army polo tournaments. After that, I’m focusing on Bike Shorts and Cranksgiving. For Bike Shorts this year and next, I want to find time to dig up some of my old ideas and finally put them on film. I might also try & finish up my application to Grad School. We’ll see...
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON KEN’S PROJECTS:
www.cranksgiving.org • www.bikeshortfilms.com • www.losmarcospolos.com • www.twoarmparty.com Ken ‘before and after’ portrait ©2010 Edwin Jimenez Photography • www.edwinjimenez.com ‘Beuno’ portrait ©2010 Halston Bruce • Los Marcos Polos T-shirt Illustrations by John “Chombo” Siers
Photo by Sidz
D o k u m e n ta C i c l i s ta is a project run by Filip K – Polish cycle-enthusiast and photographer living in the UK. The idea behind the project? Simply to document man and his bicycle by photographing cyclists and their ‘beautiful machines’ against a stark white backdrop in cities across Europe. Boneshaker caught up with Filip for a chat: BS: Hi Filip, so how did your project come about – what was your primary inspiration? FK: Well, it’s taken me quite a long time to come up with the concept for Dokumenta Ciclista. Ever since I became interested in cycling I‘d wanted to bring photography and bicycles together in some form or other. I didn’t want to just photograph specific ‘scenes’ or trends though, the idea was always to be more inclusive than that. Eventually I became more aware of the connection between cyclists and their bikes, I realised that this was what I wanted to try and capture in my photography. 46
YOU DON'T NEED TO OWN A COLNAGO . . .WHAT COUNTS IS THAT YOU PEDAL I remember some time ago browsing through a photo book called ‘In The American West’ by Richard Avedon, who had travelled across America in the early eighties taking large-format portraits of drifters, miners, cowboys against this plain white background. This created really
vivid, still documentary work. As travelling and documentary were subjects I had always been interested in, this book must have inspired me to quite an extent because Dokumenta Ciclista works in the same way – there is this body of visual evidence left over which I hope promotes the idea that ‘I was there and I care’. BS: So what kind of reception has the project had so far? FK: On the whole it’s been great. I’m receiving good feedback from all the people who have come along to the shoots, but it really does take time to create a body of work and things are still very much at an early stage.
Poster by Wojtek Rusin
BS: The project began in the UK but you are hoping to take it further afield, right? Where exactly has the project been so far and how have things evolved?
FK: Well we started out in Bath, UK, as I’d heard about this Fixed-gear Alleycat race going on there. I went along, did a shoot at the event and that then became the blueprint for the project going forwards. Second time around we were in Bristol, UK, but this time we’d actually had flyers and posters designed to publicise the event. I still didn’t know exactly what to expect, but to my surprise over seventy people turned up for the shoot. It was amazing - much better than I could’ve imagined. We’ve also taken the project to Oslo in Norway and also to Wroclaw, a chief city in south-western Poland.
Photo Sequence by Lara Zibret
These particular locations were chosen purely because I already have contacts there and also because they’re reasonably cheap to travel to. To set-up the shoots abroad, I send all the promotional material in advance as well as posting the event online, but as far as choosing the best location and doing the publicity, this is left to the local guys on the ground who know the cities best. They’ve done a superb job in Oslo and Wroclaw and I’m very thankful for their help. BS: So how do the other cities compare to the UK in terms of bike culture, like Poland for example? FK: Not as many people ride in Poland as in the UK, that’s for sure, but the bicycle culture there is still very similar. You see a wide variety of cyclists – BMXs, trial bikes, fixed-gears and even the full-lycra, big-buck Carbon Racers, although they never come to my shoots for some reason!? To my surprise, lots of cruiser bikes are also appearing – something I don’t see much of in the UK.
BS: And to which cities do you see the project heading next? FK: The immediate plan is to do Berlin, Edinburgh, Glasgow and of course London. I’d also love to take the project worldwide and to document the different cultures and their relation to the beautiful machine in places like China and Iceland, for example. Peoples’ reasons for riding a bicycle are so wideranging – it may be because of common sense, fashion, work, a form of exercise or simply commuting – whatever it is... I’m on my way to finding out a little more. BS: What does cycling mean to you personally? FK: Cycling is just common sense to me really. My bike is the most obvious choice as a means of transport – and then there is also the mechanics of it, which I love. For me, there’s no greater satisfaction than fixing something by hand. Sometimes I wonder if I can still remember how to walk...
For further info please check the website:
www.dokumenta-ciclista.co.uk Words Gavin Wilshen / Lead Photography Filip K
Peter Locke Illustrator ..............................................................................................................
Cally Callomon Bicycle collector & enthusiast
“My name’s Cally, I’m a rag and bone man. I work in the music business mainly, either managing artists or designing and art directing. And that’s simply a ruse for me to construct and ride old cycles – it’s a means to an end. Bicycles were the fastest things on the roads in their day, when they were invented. Suddenly people came across a sport where you could cycle at 35mph and nothing else on the road could do that. So it was the equivalent of Grand Prix. They were expensive things, only the upper middle class and the wealthy could really cycle. But what was unique about them was that women could cycle at almost the same time as men, and it was seen as daring, but perfectly acceptable. And the posters on the wall here lay testament to the amount of women who could go out and cycle. It wasn’t seen as just a bloke’s thing, and there was a great appeal to women to go out and cycle and have bikes and bloomers and everything invented to go with the trade. If push comes to shove I select a bike depending on my mood, or the wind, or if I don’t need mudguards today, so I’ll take out a bike without any mudguards and not worry about getting covered in muck. I’ve done the most miles on the Pedersen. The Pedersen is just an all-rounder. If I had to keep one bike it would be that one. It’s the most comfortable, graceful, well thought-out machine. They are really strong. And I’ve had it the longest. I build up a relationship with the bikes, and it’s the one that has served me the best. All of them are ridden and I try and get a ride in on every bike, every year, otherwise it shouldn’t really be in here. There is something about museums that I really like. But everything decays so quickly. Everything does: metal, rubber, leather. So I think you may as well use it while it’s decaying and get fun out of it, rather than sit there watching tyres go flat.
On this bike, the Sun, a guy was riding it and I looked at it and just thought that it’s the perfect 1930s, heyday of cycle touring, bike. And I said ‘If you ever sell it, can I buy it?’ and he said ‘fine’ and he phoned me up in a year’s time and said. ‘I’m fed up with it and I haven’t ridden it at all this year’ and I said ‘great’. So you can court bicycles away from people. They smell great, cycles, and they’re very tactile pieces of equipment. I’m quite surprised sometimes when I meet other cyclists and I’m looking at their bike and they wonder what you’re doing eyeing up their bike and I say ‘oh you’ve got so and so or such and such’ and they don’t have any interest in the machine, they only really have interest in the journey that they’ve made, where they started off, what time they did. Which is great, you know. That’s half of it. But for me, if you don’t have an interest in what you’re riding, you are missing out on quite a large area of the fun. And likewise if you see people with a particular kind of bike, it says quite a lot about them: they’re like little portraits. Well, Ordnance Survey maps are fascinating and each one covers such a tiny area of the British Isles. But when you live in the map, and we live right in the middle of sheet number 155, it’s a vast area of terrain. So the collector in me, just said I want to collect every road on that map before I die. So I plan to cycle every road, which I thought would be easy to do, but I’m now cycling 30 miles in order to do a one mile strip that I hadn’t done before. And there is a feeling actually when I’m on the strip, that says, I’ve never been on this road before. I can’t remember half the roads I’ve been down before, I don’t know, but it’s just given me an excuse to get out and tick off a few more roads. Ha ha, and I’m colouring them all in black so that they become anonymous. When they had colour, A and B roads and yellow roads, they had real character to them. And now I’m making them all black, so I can’t tell where I am half the time, because I use the red roads to tell me roughly where I am, the brown roads to get me closer and then the yellow roads to tell me exactly what I’m on. And getting the red road is the hardest, because it’s the busiest and it’s the least pleasant road to ride on. So I’ve done most of them in a hurry just to get them out of the way.”
portrait photography adam faraday
You know that you’re in for something slightly different when the piece of classical music ‘In the Kingdom of the Mountain Hall’ by Edward Grieg (aka the Alton Towers theme) starts up. A montage of beautifully-shot and instantly recognisable Bristol landmarks flash by and we see the odd cyclist dart past. The music begins to crescendo and the riding becomes increasingly wild, right up until the climax which concludes with a spectacularly funny skid-cum-crash. This is the trailer for the eagerlyanticipated ‘Böikzmöind’, a film about the fixed-gear scene in Bristol, UK, by 28 year-old Gavin Strange.
words jimmy Ell
JUST BIKES, MIND GAVIN STRANGE
Immediately likeable and refreshingly down to earth, Gavin works by day as a senior designer for Aardman Animations and by night creates under the alias of Jam Factory – his own design company that has been running for ten years. A quick look at his website is seriously inspiring – he really does a bit of everything and does it well, be it creating websites, illustrating skateboard decks, making short films, and even designing his own vinyl toys! I caught up with Gavin on a beautifully balmy night down by the harbourside in Bristol and talked about his forthcoming film... BS: First things first, just how do you make time to do everything that you do?! Gavin: Ha ha, yeah it can be tricky and compromising at times. Managing time is a hard thing but I have been learning how to do it better over the last few years. It really is all about getting the right balance and remembering that your energy has to come from somewhere. BS: Have you always been good at realising your creative ideas? Gavin: To be honest, I’ve never excelled at anything – it was always just a case of getting by at college. Then I turned nineteen and I sort of switched on and started pushing myself a bit and stuff started happening. I started to think, ‘Well if I work this hard and this is what happens, imagine what will happen if I work this hard!’ I certainly didn’t have raw talent but I really believe and hold on to the idea that as long as you have the passion and love for something, combined with the ideas, you can make it happen.
“I started to think, ‘Well if I work this hard and this is what happens, imagine what will happen if I work THIS hard!” BS: So, how do you rate the fixed gear scene in Bristol? Gavin: More than anything I would say that it is very diverse. It really is about everyone just coming together and riding their bikes, regardless of peoples’ abilities – it is very sociable and people are very down to earth. That’s why I like it and that is definitely what spurred the film on, because the people are so approachable and open. I mean people do take it seriously and that’s cool, but they are also very easy-going.
BS: For a lot of people that don’t ride fixed-gear, including myself, it can appear as quite a clique scene – have you come across that much in Bristol? Gavin: I totally understand the whole ‘scene’ thing, which can become cliquey given the opportunity and can be intimidating to those who consider themselves outsiders to it, but I guess it can happen with all subcultures really. It’s like when you have your favourite band and you have all their records and go to all their gigs and then suddenly they are played on mainstream radio and everyone gets into them and it’s like, ‘oh... but I heard them first!’ It’s the same with anything that you love and care about. But I don’t find any of this here in Bristol. It’s especially important to just be yourself and be honest with scenes like these; I’m always upfront about my abilities – y’know, I can’t ride as fast as those guys and I can’t do a lot of the technical stuff but it doesn’t matter! It’s just a bike y’know – two circles and some straight. It’s that simple really. BS: How did you get into riding fixed? Gavin: Well, I became friends with Danny Wainwright (a British skateboarding legend) who owns the FiftyFifty store and I was doing graphics for them and one day, this beautiful-looking bike showed up and I was like, ‘What’s that?!’ and he said it was his ‘new ride – a fixed gear’. ‘A fixed what?’ ‘A fixed gear - you can’t stop pedalling’ ‘Is it broken?!’ He persuaded me to take it out for a spin and I was doing pretty good up until the point I went to coast and then it bucked up and scared the shit out of me! I persevered with it though and began to understand the appeal. I wasn’t much of a cyclist really – I had a mountain bike with loads of gears (when the number of gears you had was how cool you were!) and then stopped riding a bike when I was seventeen and started skateboarding instead. The only bicycles I had ever been used to were mountain bikes with lots of gears and accessories and plastic bits and it just wasn’t a visually attractive thing to me and it wasn’t until I started seeing fixed gear bikes which literally had nothing on them and are so pared down, that I started seeing bikes in a new light. My first fixie was this old Raleigh racer called Aeroturbo that had belonged to my dad. It had a really naff colour scheme but I was convinced that it could look pretty cool, so a couple of years ago Danny did it up for me and turned it into a fixed gear and that was it. Now I really understand why people say that they wouldn’t go back to gears – you are just so completely in tune with your bike when riding fixed.
“It’s just a bike y’know – two circles and some straight. It’s that simple really.” BS: I just saw the short film you made for Danny Wainwright recently in Barcelona which looks lovely... How did you originally get interested in making short films? Gavin: Well I originally studied Graphic Design at college in Leicester and then skipped university and moved to Bristol five years ago. I had always tinkered with film and always enjoyed just filming what’s going on around me, but I really became interested in making short films and taking photographs through skateboarding. It wasn’t until a friend of mine told me about the Bicycle Film Festival, at which they accept ten-minute entries, that I decided to start filming mates of mine out on their fixed gear bikes. Over time it became a regular weekly thing and we would always meet down by the waterfront. The first few times it was just a couple of us and then the next time we went back there were six people there and then the following week there were fifteen people and I decided that I could be on to something with it! By this point I had missed the entry date for the film festival and was getting way more than ten minutes worth of footage. Various events started happening like the Alleycats and hill-riding and there was this sort of snowball effect, so I just decided to carry on documenting this whole scene. The whole thing has been a real evolution of the scene over a period of eighteen months... BS: When did you start filming Böikzmöind then? Gavin: In the dark depths of February 2009 (with my best friend from college, Makinov) and so it’s been going a little while, but it is definitely winding up now and the plan is to get it out there this Autumn. I am currently working on the intro & outro sequences and have some friends on board from Aardman who are helping me with those and I’m also conducting interviews with many of the riders from the film. It’s such a learning curve for me
all this, but that’s what is so exciting about it! I’ve never shot a documentary before but I’m learning and giving it my best shot! BS: How long did it take you to establish the right filming rig for the film? Gavin: Quite a while actually! It really has been constantly evolving. I’m no Spielberg so I’ve just been making the best of what I’ve got. I started out with a JVC Everio, a handheld that was 3-chip and filmed in hi-def, and used that for a good year and a half. I then borrowed a Manfrotto ‘magic arm’ from a friend which was brilliant. It’s basically a long tube of metal with a joint in the middle, a clamp at one end and a camera plate at the other, letting you twist and turn it in any direction and pretty much clamp to anything. I used it for all the shots that are filming the frame or the riders themselves and it produces a really strange result as the background moves whilst the bike and rider stay static within the frame. This summer I bought myself a Canon 550D, which is a DSLR camera that films in 1080p HD. That changed everything as I can use any lens I like and treat the footage like I would a photograph, so can control depth of field and shutterspeed effortlessly, which just gives so much more control over how the film looks. I’ve also been lent a portable dolly system by Glidetrack, to add a nice bit of motion to what would otherwise be quite static shots – it is really fun to use and makes me feel like I actually know what I’m doing! BS: When I saw you at the No Gears night recently, you mentioned that you weren’t really that excited by a lot of the fixed gear films that are out there and that you wanted more depth to your own film and to feature more of the humanity behind the scene.
Gavin: Yeah, that’s right... ultimately I am interested to know why people ride bikes with no gears or brakes in a city that is full of hills and rain, cos from the perspective of a non-fixed-gear rider, it doesn’t really make sense! I also really want the film to be accessible and for people to view it as a documentary about the scene here in Bristol. I don’t want it to be an elitist thing at all and would very much like my mum to watch it and to be able to appreciate what it’s all about, even if she can’t understand it... BS: Does the film have one particular theme running through it? Gavin: Well, I want it to be engaging with a narrative running through its duration and it will feature a crosssection of riding styles rather than a dedicated theme as such – there are people mashing up hills in ten minutes, those doing seriously long-distance plus a bit of the technical stuff. Really though, I guess it’s more about people riding together – that buzz you get from being part of a big group of cyclists streaming along together out in the fresh air – it’s such a beautiful thing and I really want to capture that spirit of riding. It’s the sort of stuff you look back on and have fond memories of – a nostalgic segment of time. Above all, I really want the film to inspire people, regardless of what type of bicycle they ride, and to make them want to go out and ride.
“I’m no Spielberg so I’ve just been making the best of what I’ve got.” BS: How many riders have been involved in the filming? Gavin: There has to be about 50 riders involved in the project and all from such different backgrounds with different stories to tell. BS: The film features a lot of Bristol landmarks such as Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Docks. How do you find Bristol as a creative person? Gavin: I do have a real love for this city, especially aesthetically, and I think that the general attitude here is great – people are laid back but are still getting things done. For me, it is a really immersive and engaging city and in general the people are friendly and up for sharing skills and knowledge. BS: Talking of which, I heard you mention that the soundtrack will have a strong Bristol link? Gavin: Yeah, that’s right. I have a good friend, Redg, who puts on the No Gears nights here in Bristol and he also manages Invada Records (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow’s record label), so he is going to curate this side of things. The plan is to do a rough cut with no sound and just peoples’ narratives and then to build the music around it. Invada will provide the whole soundtrack and it’s really nice to have that Bristol link, not to mention the diversity and quality of music on that label.
BS: The trailer on Vimeo has had almost 30,000 views to date, which must be pretty exciting to know that it has already had that much exposure. What are your plans for the actual release? Gavin: Yeah absolutely, it is exciting. I’ve always used the web for getting stuff out there and it is amazing how these things spread so quickly on blogs and forums. I would ideally like to put the entire film online for free but also to create a beautifully-designed print version that comes with a DVD. That way, hopefully a lot of people who see and enjoy it online would also want to own a copy of the real thing. I like buying fixie DVDs myself, even if I’ve seen them, because it’s nice to feel like you’re supporting something independent. BS: Do you think that the fixed gear scene has got a longevity about it in the same way that skateboarding has? Gavin: I think so, yes. Skateboarding is a weird one, cos it just seems like it’s constantly rising and falling in terms of its popularity and I don’t know why. I mean people are always going to ride bikes as a form of transport regardless of any scene, whereas skating is a little different like that. I think the hype surrounding fixed-gears will subside a little as and when something new comes along, but I definitely think that they are here to stay. It will obviously become more normalized as it becomes more popular. BS: Before we finish, we’ve got to talk about the title of the film, Böikzmöind.... Gavin: Ha ha! Yeah, still people don’t know how to say it and it’s really funny hearing them try. It grew out of the Bristolian dialect – adding a ‘mind’ to the end of everything... you start out mocking it cos it sounds really funny and friendly and then over time I found myself starting to do it! “Just bikes, mind!”.... you hear that all the time and that phonetically turned into böikzmöind. Instant Bristolian. I really like clean, Swiss typography and so when I applied this to that word and stuck the umlauts on, it really worked for me. I’m never normally happy with the names I come up with, but I still really like this one.
Böikzmöind will be released in Autumn 2010