If you are not already acquainted with his work, then let me introduce Michael Valenti. Hailing from Lindenburg Illinois, via Boston and Chicago. He’s an artist who loves to cycle. A cyclist who lives for art. He is the Veloist; a cunning portmanteau of Velo & Artist. If he’s not chasing the Peloton around the globe on his trusty ‘Steel is Real’ Waterford bike creating amazing art as it happens, then he’ll be in the studio or out on the home roads of Illinois & Wisconsin with his beloved Veloist.CC. We have been huge fans of his art and also avid followers of his Social media posts, including his hilarious ‘Bonjour from the tour ‘despatches for some time now. We had to reach out, discover more about the art of cycling and, the cycling in his art. We were hopeful of a short interview, yet we received so much more and via the mediums of facetime Michael welcomed us in with open bandwidth into his life and creative world. Without further ado, please charge your bidons with your weapon of choice and enjoy our chat with the amazing artist that is Michael Valenti
So I was on the lookout for a set of carbon wheels and going through the motions. You know the drill, checking out the best wheel reviews in the price bracket desired then transposing that info into a multitude of search engines. Wiggle, Facebook, eBay, Gumtree you name it. All in the vain hope you’ll find that shining pebble in the discounted price stream. I was even narrowed down to two of the leading brands Zipp V Mavic. Yet every time I hovered my finger over a ‘Bid Now’, ‘Buy It Now’ or a ‘Complete Your Order’ button. I would stall, something wasn’t squaring up.
Then through friendly discourse, I received not one but numerous glowing recommendations to look no more. Why buy generic big brand mass produced, when you can have bespoke, customised wheels made by ‘The Wheelsmith’. So I did. I visited his workshop in Larbert. I was fascinated by this menagerie of wheels and the spinning world into which I stepped. My eyes bounced and floated around like the sound waves of the eclectic tunes wafting out of the sound system. Tracing and darting all over the stunning variations of rims, hubs, spokes and nipples available for customisation.
After blethering, questioning and perusal I decided upon a pair of carbon 40mm rims running Dtswiss 240s. But not only that I was now fascinated and had to learn a little more about this art and the master craftsmen behind it. This is a brilliant example of what happens when passion, knowledge and skill collide. A barometer of this is a client list that spans the spectrum from Russian Oligarchs, Record Breakers, Race champions to Braes City (weekend) Rouleurs.
I asked if he would do a Q&A with us. Reluctant at first (due to previous bad experience) he gladly warmed to the idea.
Without further ado, Let me introduce you to Derek McLay- The Wheelsmith. Grab a glass and enjoy. Continue reading “Derek Mclay – The Wheelsmith”
This time last year I was “bricking it!” The previous November, in a fit of madness I had signed up for the Paris Roubaix, Hell of the North Sportive. I had convinced myself id have plenty of time to train and get fit for it and then Christmas had hit with all the usual cheese, port and chocolate.
By March, due to a combination of snow, hail, more port and more cheese I hadn’t managed anything over a few 60km rides and some commuting to and from work and was genuinely considering not going. Two week’s before we were due to leave things got worse, I injured my lower back lifting a table into our new house and could barley walk, never mind cycle, so it really was touch and go wither I would be heading off for Hell. I was due to be taking part with my good friends, and friends of The BCR Graeme and Iona. A message from Iona asking me what Tom Boonen would do and the fact that The Hell of the North is the most iconic race on the entire calendar (not an opinion, a FACT) was enough to make me toughen up, stop whining and get on with it.
So two days before we were due on the start line I jumped in the van for the drive through to Graeme and Iona’s new flat in Glasgow. When we all met we were all excited but also nervous, you hear so much about how brutal the cobbles are and how many crashes, injury’s occur during this race you’ve got to think it’s a bit mental wanting to take part, but if your into cycling and your in the know, Paris Roubaix and Flanders trump everything else, every time, they really are the pinnacle of the cycling year so the excitement was more prevalent than the nerves. Also, what would Tom Boonen do?
From here it was a 4 hour drive down to Leeds, my back was getting worse, but what would Tom Boonen do? A short stopover in a hotel including carrying bikes up 7 flights of stairs, my back was getting worse but what would Tom Boonen do? Up at 5am and onto the bus. Then stops every hour or so right down the entire country making something like 10 hours on the bus before reaching the ferry, my back was getting worse, you get the idea. By the time we reached the ferry my pain killer stocks were getting worryingly low but, what would Tom Boonen do? Stock up on the ferry, that’s what!
For me it was simply slightly wider tyres, 28c Gatorskins to avoid punctures if possible, double bar tape and my secret weapon, extra padded weight lifting gloves!
The ferry journey was 2 hours and then we had another 4 on the bus in France making a total of 16 hours bus journey. Although an epic journey in pain, it was made a bit quicker by all the other cyclists heading for hell. We met guys from Leeds, Manchester, London and various other places, all feeling the same mixture of nerves and excitement before heading over the precipice. All asking themselves, what would Tom Boonen do? As you can probably imagine, much of the chat was around bikes and specifically wither there had been any adaptations to people’s bikes for this particular event. Over the years the pro’s have had sponge seats, suspension forks, wider tyres and various other attempts at making the cobbles more barrable so part of the fun of taking part is working out how your going to approach the pain. For me it was simply slightly wider tyres, 28c Gatorskins to avoid punctures if possible, double bar tape and my secret weapon, extra padded weight lifting gloves! Other people had gone for specific bikes, wider still tyres, less pressure in tyres etc but everyone on the bus was completely amazed by Graeme’s decision to use his single speed bike. Bonkers seemed to be the consensus which was a judgement I believe Graeme ending up making himself!
Bang, my bikes rattling, my jaws ratting, I’m banging about bouncing up and down and clattering on full speed
To the event. Thankfully it was a crisp but sunny morning as we again got onto the coach, this time it was only a couple of hours to the start line and as with travelling to other rides, this journey was over in a flash. I was doped up and although my back was still sore, I could feel it through a fog of painkiller and the adrenalin was starting to kick in. Our coach dropped us off about half a mile from the start and as we cycled towards the line, gradually the streets got busier and busier with cyclists. There is always something exciting about cycling abroad, all the big races you watch on TV are in Europe, generally Italy, France or Spain and I always think there is something special about cycling with thousands of other cyclists speaking one of these languages. Also means I don’t need to speak to anyone when im knackered.
confidence and speed help you roll over them a lot easier than you do if your tense and struggling
So we rolled off gently for the first few miles but it wasn’t long before Graeme, who is an light spring hare on the bike sped off into the distance, Iona and I rolled along a bit further before we gradually drifted apart in the crowds and then it was onto the first cobbled section. Now as you approach, you are genuinely worried, the story’s about broken bones and the legend of these cobbled streets are in your mind and you cant help but think this is going to be hellishly grim but thinking, what would Tom Boonen do? I sped up on the slightly downhill approach and rattled into it as fast as I could. Bang, my bikes rattling, my jaws ratting, I’m banging about bouncing up and down and clattering on full speed. It’s a busy section and although im in a bit of shock I seem to be passing people and faring a lot better than everyone around me so I push on and after a few minutes its over and you release onto what feels like silky smooth tarmac. It was a short section and only 2 star, 5 star being the worse but my confidence has been given a boost and I’m now enjoying myself and looking forward to the next section.
I was enjoying it, I was high, I was hyper but the constant banging, bouncing and brutal jarring gradually wears you down and it does get hard
Over the next hour or so, through however many sections I start to get into the swing of it, I think the fact I do a lot of mountain biking helps and I’m used to picking lines over roots, rocks and whatever else. Lots of the professional looking roadies were clearly really struggling with the constant jolting and having to pick lines, avoid gaps in-between cobbles and keeping their line in the crowds. I also think that its true what they say about the cobbles, confidence and speed help you roll over them a lot easier than you do if your tense and struggling. Most of all through I think that weight helps. Unlike Graeme the Hare, I’m more like a Hippo on a bike and the combination of my weight and, still being fresh, a bit of power really helped me fly though the morning, so much so that not long before the first feed station I looked into the distance and actually saw Graeme bouncing around over the next section, we caught up over a drink at the station and then normal service resumed with him disappearing into the distance again, however me actually catching him at all was a sign he was struggling over the cobbles on his single speed and it does show that the route is more for the bigger, powerful rider as appose to the fly weight climber. Its also pan flat!
After that initial 3rd of the route things got a bit more like normal and the excitement begins to wear off. The sections of cobbles blend into one and the wearing down process kicks in. For the first few sections I was enjoying it, I was high, I was hyper but the constant banging, bouncing and brutal jarring gradually wears you down and it does get hard. I cant really differentiate between any of the sections from here on in apart from Le Trouee d’Arenberg, The Trench. Images of the first world war, fighting in the trenches, barbed wire and mustard gas come to mind and watching the pro race every year, fighting to get in position under the famous bridge and then the carnage as they hit the Trench isn’t dissimilar. Ok, that’s ridiculous but its sometimes pretty bad! I personally made it through unscathed but it was definitely the worst section in the whole route. The trench is through the middle of the d’Arenberg forrest and the surface of the cobbles is therefore wet and almost mouldy, its slippery as ice and this combined with the camber and the gaps, bumps and holes in the cobbles makes for absolute carnage. I witnessed 3 crashes around me as I went through this section, two separate guys sliding off to the right and through the tape landing on the dirt track and 1 guy coming down right in the middle of the cobbles, at the peak of the camber taking out 3 of his mates in the process. Having cycled through here I’m looking forward to watching the Pro’s through this section even more than previously!
To be honest, from then on in it was hard, due to lack of fitness I’m really struggling by this point and its just a case of plodding on and finishing. The cobble sections now that I’m exhausted are much harder as I don’t have the energy or power to rattle through them and I seem to feel every bump and jolt. The things that help in this event as appose to others through are the crowds along the route. The pro race is the day after and the route is already filled with camper vans and fans out to watch and they cheer and encourage everyone as if it’s the actual race, it makes it a fantastic atmosphere and a special event. My one regret regarding this is that I actually passed Didi the Devil cheering me one with his Trident and I never stopped to get a picture with him.
One more incident that happened not long after this was someone trying to cut me up around a corner, I just held my line and he crashed into me and hit the deck. I just kept on cycling, hope he was ok.
I dug and finished the route and I’m so glad I did, the end in the stadium is amazing, again, like on the route there are fans in a day early cheering you on and all the other participants who have finished hang about to cheer people over the line. You come into the stadium, just like you have seen on Eurosport and do a lap to the cheers of the spectators. Some riders are waving, riding round no handed (not me after a previous incident in another event) and some go for a sprint finish but it’s a real festival atmosphere in which to finish. The weather was great and it felt like a real achievement to have completed the route of one of my favourite races. I really would recommend this event to anyone.
Just for information, if you ever do the event yourself, it doesn’t finish there. The next day at the pro race, if you have completed the sportive and have your medal they have a special section in the centre of the velodrome for you with beer on tap and a perfect view of the end of the race. Seeing the world champion ride into the stadium and hearing the roar of the crowd for him and the only rider able to hang onto him till the end just topped off a fantastic trip and I also picked up my souvenir cobble, just like Tom Boonens.
The miracle of all this was that from crossing the start line until the next day my back was cured, like Jesus curing a leper, Tom Boonen had cured my back! A 17-hour bus journey put paid to this however and it was almost a month incorporating massive amounts of drugs and two trips to casualty before I could even sit on my bike again! Worth every bit of pain, anyone up for Flanders next year?
Want to get into the spirit of Paris Roubaix. Come along and join us at the Canalside Pub And Grill and see the race hit the velodrome. What would Tom Boonen do?
10 minute read
Ten blocks of ice are attempting to make perfect circles in a jerky dissociation from my limbs as my motor functions rapidly slow with the wind chill. A wind chill so fierce it will strip any remaining layers of dermis exposed. Head down I advance, meter by meter, shielding myself from the whiplash and turbulence of passing vehicles. Like an Olympic swimmer, I’m rhythmically twisting my head in search of pockets of life-supporting clean air to sook in. Through the road spray, every breath is dual purpose- Filtration and oxygenation. Car headlights are creating a dazzling, yet blinding ‘Aurora Crash-e-alas’ of flashes in my field of vision. This is no longer about the journey. This is purely about the destination. A destination I eventually reach in a cold-suffering hypnotic daze. A daze that I’m broken from by a single life-affirming question. That question ” What Ice Cream Cone would you like?” asked the Igloo Ice Cream Van Driver ‘two cones, One scoop each, both with Nutella drizzle please my man” I mutter without my lips or face moving. I have twenty minutes before I undertake another Zwift training session and I have just made the perilous 50m expeditious winter journey from my front door to the parked ‘Igloo Ice cream Van’ down the street. Yes, regardless of the weather this Ice cream van does the rounds in rain, hail, snow and on the odd occasion, in the sunshine. I might be racing the volcano circuit soon but the ice cream is for the kids..honest! I trudge back to excited children, handing over their windswept and diluted ice cream, before disrobing the winter garb and heading to the man cave.
I would like to be outside riding my bike but yet another bad weather protocol has forced it indoors. We are blessed with many things in Scotland but Winter riding is not one of them. It generally veers from one extreme: Wrapped up like Scott of the Antarctic, to taps aff 1 stripped down to your bib shorts and heart rate monitor for another totally tropical turbo session.
I clip in and start my warm up. With the fan blasting my face and my better looking virtual avatar on a pootle around Central Park, my mind inevitably wanders. I look to the cocoon of four walls and dream about winter riding in the glorious sunshine. As the clock counts down but my speed and heart rate picks up, I scroll my Strava feed to fire a few obligatory Kudos into the community. Keep the motivational spirit strong before I start. A logged ride piques my interest. The profile carries a St Andrews flag. The sun-kissed pictures capturing shore line’s and panoramas that are most definitely not Ayr beach but a portal into a beautiful parallel universe 5,126 miles away from here. I need to know what this cycling winter wonderland is like. Curiosity and the seed of an idea for a guest feature Q&A on the BCR takes hold. I decide to reach out to the Strava Athlete. He may be on the other side of the world but nothing ventured nothing gained eh. I receive some very’ good vibrations’ in return(couldn’t help myself with the beach boys nod and wink) and this is where our story takes flight across the Atlantic pond
Enter stage left Mr Latha Duncan.
Latha hails from Beverly Hills where he lives with his Girlfriend and is of Scottish descent (gone yirself). He Studied Law and Political Science. When he is not cycling he is an Acquisitions Lawyer for Lionsgate, one of Hollywood’s major entertainment players.
He is a true force of nature in the Strava community with over 10K followers. A benchmark many a world pro rider has yet to amass. Latha is going to give us a little snapshot into his cycling life in and around The City of Angels. Along the way, we dive into wine, music, his own cycling website and a surprise ride with Geraint Thomas current Tour De France Champion.
Grab a glass of the good stuff and get prepared for a healthy dose of Vitamin D with our Q&A With Latha Duncan. Continue reading “Latha Duncan – The Attorney”
It’s difficult to say when I first started listening to The Cycling Podcast.
I believe it was sometime around the 2014 Tour De France, which kicked off on the crowd-laden roads of Yorkshire, saw Chris Froome abandon on the cobbles of Northern France, and Vincenzo Nibali seal an easy win (he would be in yellow on all but two race days, and the gap to second place would be over 7 minutes) with victories on La Planche des Belles Filles, Chamrousse, and Hautacam.
If memory serves, it was part of a drive to immerse myself in the milieu of the race – to be surrounded by the noise, the stories, the chatter, and the behind-the-scenes info of the race itself – which caused me to look beyond what television could provide in its very action-centric coverage.
Podcasting, as a medium, although having been on the go for a number of years, was still somewhat niche, and far from the Joe Rogan-shaped, true-crime-drama filled behemoth it has now become.
The iTunes store was not exactly packed with options, so after a search for “cycling”, I just picked the first one that caught my eye.
It was a good thing I did because I’ve been hooked ever since.
So here we are the start of a new year and hopefully many new adventures. But before we get rolling we thought we would take a shooting glance over the shoulder to see the peloton we left behind. A bite-size taste of our favourite rides in 2018. Continue reading “Best Rides of 2018”
Sunday- The day after the day before
As I rouse, the legs are achy, the sunburned skin is as crisp as an overcooked Christmas Turkey and the liver…well, the liver should be pickled in a jar on a mad scientist’s laboratory shelf.
It’s the morning after the day before. Where Derek, Mark, Sherpy and myself took part in the Aviemore 100. A day of mixed emotions and success. Continue reading “Aviemore 100 – The Morning After The Day Before”
He’s a former Olympic Athlete. He rode a Grand Tour(94 Giro). He’s been crowned British Road Race champion not once, but twice! He has won races from as far afield as Tucson, Denmark, all the way to(wait for it) Girvan. As Director Sportive and General Manager, he nurtured a fledgeling World Pro tour team from contenders to multiple Grand Tour Stage wins. You’ll see and hear him on Eurosport as ‘The Coach’. His commentary and analysis dissecting the strategies and moves often before they occur, thrusting us the viewers, straight into the pulsing heart and thrum of the peloton.
Ladies and Gentleman, Brian Smith. Grab a big bottle, pour a wee dram (or weapon of choice) and enjoy Brian’s life in cycling. Continue reading “Brian Smith – The Coach”
A long, pensive look from big, bloodshot eyes…
A deep, massaging stroke of a long, stubbly chin…
A tired, resigned loll of the head…
“Aahh, probably started in fucking 1994″…
A sardonic, chastening laugh, followed by a correction…
A figure’s illuminated head and neck stands out starkly against a solid, black backdrop. A scene which looks interrogatory in nature, but has the tone of the therapists couch.
The figure is David Millar, professional cyclist since 1997. The topic of conversation is his entry in to the sport and his love for its biggest event.
On the road
As the road rises the smile broadens. A beautiful morning in Strathspey last weekend and oh what a coincidence. My road bike just happened to find it’s way onto the bike rack alongside the family menagerie of bikes. Fancied a bit climbing, so headed towards #67 in the official 100 climbs. Cairngorm. Continue reading “Rolling with 15”
He has logged over 32,000 miles on Strava. He rode Paris-Roubaix Sportive on a single speed. He has ridden over 27-century rides in a calendar year including the toughest Sportives this fair land has to offer. He has more badges in his Strava Trophy case than a 75-Year lifelong Scout has on his sleeve (not too mention a Santa list of bagged KOM’s). This rouleur is a true cycling advocate and rarely does a day pass without him either riding his bike, advocating or promoting cycling. So without further ado, It gives us great pleasure to introduce to you our friend Graeme Cook- The Ultimate Cyclist Continue reading “The Ultimate Cyclist – Graeme Cook”
As you know the premise of our website is to celebrate the local heroes, the salt’s of the earth’s, the creatives and the batshit crazy types that migrate to this amazing cycling life. Today we are talking to a cyclista that could have a foot in every one of those camps…if she had four feet that is?! However, rest assured, two feet she has. Two feet that she uses with great affect, not only to propel herself across and around Glasgow on her beloved Flanders Fixie, but also to stand up as an active agent and influencer in affecting and championing positive change for cyclists near and far. Continue reading “Iona Shepherd – The Cyclist’s Cyclist”
- Firstly ASO (The organisers of the Tour De France) thought they would take the governance of Cycling into their own hands by announcing they would not allow Chris Froome to race whilst the case against him for his adverse analytical finding was still outstanding. (Cry’s of magnifique reverberated around the French countryside and beyond.)
- Fast Forward 24 hours and the UCI carpet bombs ASO’s sniper shots with the announcement that they would be closing the case against Froome- on the recommendation of WADA. You could dive down a very big Donnie Darko white rabbit hole around pharma-kinetic testing etc but lets not. Long story short, Froome is back in the TDF. If you like watching bike races then you want to see the best riders duking it out. Right? Love him or loathe him, I’m no fan boy but this makes for better racing IMO.
- LEARNING – STRATEGY: He ‘Formigal-d’ Dumoulin learning from his own errors . In 2016 Froome lost the Vuelta on Stage 15 to Formigal when Contador and Quintana set out on a breakaway. Froome decided to wait on team mates to help reel them in and then couldn’t pull them back. Sound familiar with Dumoulin on the transition after the Finestre attack?
- DESIRE TO LEARN: strengthen your weakness’. Check out all the time he gained on the descents on the BBC article. This is a rider who only a few season used to descend like bambi on ice or Thibot Pinot. He now arrows down the mountain like Bode Miller.
- INTRINSIC BELIEF: Although he had swung a haymaker up the Zoncalon and connected, he was still back on the ropes the next stage, yet he had intrinsic belief to what he was still capable of and most importantly, never knowing when he is beaten.. See the messages to trainer Tim Kerrison in BBC article
- DO your homework: Team Sky recce’d the stage and set about a new feeding strategy to maximise carb absorption ( BBC report) No other team was doing that and saying they didn’t have the personnel available like Team Sky did, is just a cover up for lack of preparation.
- SACRIFICE and HARD GRAFT: This could have backfired spectacularly but at least he had the nuts to go for it and he went all in. Devoid of the usual mass of team mates and tactics that Team Sky are notorious for.
- Team SKy planned for Froome to lose weight towards the end of the race
- Their attention to detail for the Finestre stage was incredible
- Froome’s Descending is where he made the majority of his gains
How to Ride Mount Ventoux
- Morning Ride,
- Lunch Ride,
- Fahrt am Abend ( Pardon you Daniel Friebe),
- Groundhog day
- or maybe even Skating La Feclaz top ( That Thibaut Pinot gets aboot)
- Mad Dogs and Englishmen
- The Giant of Provence
- Mount Ventoux
What is Mount Ventoux
How We Conquered Ventoux
Photography and Cycling- A Q&A with Professional Photographer Tom Main
Let us introduce you to our friend Tom Main. Tom is a former award winning Sport & Editorial photographer who previously worked for major publications such as The Times, Sunday Times, Sunday Mirror and The News of the World. Now he is primarily focused on his passion of large format film and platinum printing. Ohh and how could we forget! He is also a dab hand at cycling photography and a little bit of film making to boot.
So without further ado, here is our Q & A with Tom. Questions posed By Daz. Enjoy
BCR: Tell us a little about your life in Sports Photography.
TM: I started shooting rugby for The Sunday Times office in Glasgow in 1992 with a bit of football and then cricket in the summer season. I was then asked to go to cover SPL and 1st Division football for the News of the World 1993 as the No3 photographer and at the time there were only three football match reports with photographs so it was always Rangers, Celtic and some other team ! So I managed to cover grounds in Scotland from Stair Park Stranraer in the south to Forres Mechanics at Mosset Park on the Moray coast.
By the time SCORE the football pull-out in the NOTW was launched a few personnel changes had taken place and I was first choice for sport and was covering it all; football, rugby, golf, boxing, swimming, anything with exertion and I was there.
At the turn of the century I was in a position to supply my work to other newspapers through the contacts I’d made so my work was now being published the UK’s broadsheet and tabloid papers. This goes back to being freelance and making contacts in the sporting world allowing me the opportunities to create work that the papers would want especially in sports that generally had to battle to get coverage.
There were lots of great photographic experiences along the way that unfortunately haven’t made it to my thomasmain.com website like; Amir Khan KO in 30 seconds to Bredis Prescott, glove on jaw, back page of the News of the World. Tiger Woods on the front page of the Telegraph Sport or Scotland’s former rugby coach Andy Robinson in the Guardian. Generating my own style of portrait and getting to know what certain papers wanted I could create jobs that would be published and that was the essence of a freelance photographer.
“Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!”
BCR: When did you move away from Freelance/Editorial and how did this change your outlook and approach to your own projects?
TM: I was always a freelancer, which looking back now, wasn’t so bad overall, as I still had control over what & when I wanted to shoot. In saying that I’d shoot any sport at any level at anytime, as I still enjoyed the challenge, but as the old adage goes at a few football grounds when the floodlights came on….it got darker! I remember being at Firhill, home of Partick Thistle, and my camera had a broken light meter, so going into the second half the floodlights came on and I whipped out my hand held light meter only to hear “you don’t need that to tell you it’s dark!” from one of the other photographers to a few guffaws all round.
Rupert Murdoch killed my career but he did give me the opportunity to go and create work away from digital cameras, great tools for professional work but a double edged sword nonetheless with the market flooded with images. I now work almost exclusively with black & white film, silver gelatin prints, platinum palladium prints and….. shhh ! digital prints. I’m not anti-digital but I have used it enough to want to go back to what I enjoy and thankfully I kept my darkroom equipment through this digital period and found it easy to go and shoot manually with a hand held light meter again. After finding work outside journalism any free time I now have could be devoted to the ideas and projects I put on the back burner over the last few years.
People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,
BCR: Tells us about your current cycling project(S)
TM: My work at the moment is looking more at the aesthetic of the print that is expressionistic with the movement and texture.
So over the last six or seven months I’ve been shooting cycling action which is a perfect subject as the cyclist brings the effort and drama that I’m looking for. To add to the action photographs I’ve also collected various damaged bike parts to photograph in a still life set up and trying to get a delaminated tyre to look interesting is difficult ! Beyond the still image I’ve also started a video project involving my son Ellis and hopefully some additional riders in the future. This one goes back to my professional sports work where I want to shoot video on longer lenses in order to compress or foreshorten the perspective so that I can concentrate on the rider in detail. This is challenging as I haven’t had a great deal of experience with video and it’s a different way of thinking and planning your shots, though it is nice to see a moving image with the same look as my sports photographs.
BCR: Any current or past Cycling photographers who’s work you enjoy?
TM:Before I mention any photographers this is a link to a Henri Lartigue photograph that sent me down the road of my current cycling project. I’m not looking to recreate this image with cyclists but it is the source of inspiration. Not bad for a photograph over 100 years old to still be so stimulating. Back to inspirational photographers. I really don’t have specific cycling photographers in mind though I do like Thomas Van Brecht’s work for Pelotonphotos. Though there are too many photographers to mention that have had an effect on my work in one way or another however I will mention Chris Smith from the Sunday Times and Eamonn McCabe from The Observer both of whom were a big influence on my sports work when I was learning. Albert Watson’s
photographs for Rolling Stone magazine were another big influence on my work, though on the portrait side, his attention to detail is incredible and the photographs timeless.
BCR: What equipment do you use and what does it give you over digital.
TM: Did I say I get to push boundaries? Shooting sport with a Fuji GX617 panoramic camera or a 5″x 4″ Field camera is interestingly difficult and can yield results not to everyone’s tastes, but that’s life at the edge of the frame. After years of striving for pin sharp, peak of the action photographs, I am now interested in building up layers of texture and movement with multiple exposures or one second long, panned shots. Even my still life photographs are challenging as I’m not satisfied just to sit a 1kg stud bolt down to be photographed, I need to make it float ! One of the reasons for shooting with film is that everything has to be done in camera when working with silver gelatin prints. A very small amount of computer work is required for Platinum Palladium printing. I’ve never found any enjoyment in manipulating images to the extent of adding or removing parts of the image. If something exists and you don’t want it in your photograph then you have to work to find a composition that removes the object from the scene, that’s part of the enjoyment of photography. Adding and subtracting in Photoshop is lazy, it’s not enhancement, it’s just something else you let a computer do. People need to experience the satisfaction and enjoyment of producing a photographic print without the use of a computer or digital camera,
BCR: What is it you look for in setting up and creating your pieces?
TM: The first thing that draws me to a subject is tone followed quickly by texture and that tells me if the subject will photograph well in black and white. Next consideration is the composition, whether or not the subject sits in the frame correctly, bearing in mind that I use the full frame of the negative for the final print, as I don’t crop my current photographs, just to make things a little more challenging. Also, to make it really interesting the location for the best picture always seems to be three feet over the edge or where security tell you where you can’t be or when someone tells you it can’t be done. The best spot never seems to be where I’m standing.
I like pushing boundaries. I like to push my photographic self.
BCR: Talk us through your process of creating how you make your subject matters appear to float…P.S. Can you make a Cyclist float? I floated once on the bike, but it didn’t have a happy ending for me!
TM: I don’t think you’d want me to make you float, I don’t do instant gratification, I like the pain, suffering and elation involved with creating the initial visualisation from scratch through to the final realisation in print or, in order to stay in the present, digitally on my website. All of my still life photographs where the subject is floating is done in the studio not in Photoshop and it then requires a level of technical still to light the subject in order to make the photograph believable and subtle. It would be a dawdle in Photoshop, but where’s the ‘fun’ in that? Generally once I’ve shot the photographs I spend an evening developing either the rolls of film or, in the case of large format, the single sheets of 5″x4″ film. Netflix on my phone evens out the tediousness of repeat processing film. Once the film has dried overnight I’ll scan the photographs and make adjustments to the levels and spot out any dust on the negatives. Once they digital images are ready I’ll either produce a digital Pigment Ink print straight from my Epson P600 printer or I’ll prepare a larger negative printed from the same printer but used as part of a contact print to make a Platinum & Palladium photograph. Platinum printing is too involved to explain it here though I have some examples on my twitter feed @thomas_main or use Google as there are plenty of examples out there.
BCR: What is your favourite memory or experience from your time in the field as freelance sport and more recently in your non digital world?
TM: To name one I would think winning the Sports Photographer of the Year three times at the Scottish Press Awards, though the quote from the guest of honour doing the presentations burst any bubbles, “Winning and award is like peeing down your leg with black trousers on, you feel all warm and nobody notices!” Even just being nominated is enough vindication that you’re doing something right. In the non-digital world the best experience is seeing the finished print just as you imagined it would be before you had even pressed the shutter. Nothing beats that!
BCR: What is one of the most important things you have learned in your life of photography.
THE most important thing I learned is that no matter how worked up or upset you are, never burn your bridges. Before you get to that point remember you are not more important than your subject no matter who they are.
I did burn my bridges once before I left the industry though it was building up for a few years and I still haven’t regretted it, so probably recognising any source of irritation and avoiding it’s influence would be a good piece of advice.
BCR: Your on a field trip. One album, one book and one alcoholic beverage to fire up the creative juices?
TM: ALBUM: Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway BOOK: Hunter S Thompson – The Rum Diary. BEVERAGE: Jack Daniels & Coke
Huge thanks for Tom for giving us little glimpse into his life and passions. If you would like to see more of Tom’s creations head to
Tom’s social media weapon of choice is Twitter follow him at TW: @thomas_main and tmainphoto for Instagram
On the road
A rather disappointing effort in the Aviemore 100 (more on that at a later date…) has had me concentrating on pedalling technique over my last couple of rides, which has led to some rather surprisingly good results.
It seems that during lapses in concentration, whether due to fatigue or simple absent-mindedness, there seems to be a reversion to some kind of default pedal stroke which is probably a lot like how I used to ride a bike as a kid: a stomping action, where power is only exerted through less than 50% of each turn of a crank. It doesn’t take a performance guru to deduce that this isn’t going to help me get anywhere fast.
To try and rectify this I’ve been working on keeping my backside firmly down in the saddle, with solid ankles, and feet pedalling in circles.
Pedalling in circles is probably a bit of a cliche, but it’s probably the best way to describe an effective pedal stroke, where a combination of push and pull exerts a force on the pedals, in a particular direction, throughout the full revolution of the pedal stroke.
This pedal stroke has been particularly easy to achieve when the road goes uphill, with the gradient itself helping the process. The technique needs a little more practice on those flatter, TT-like roads.
The Strava PR’s (as much as the variables inherent in Strava segment times can fully justify a tangible sign of improvement…) have been coming along regularly, so it’s something to keep working on.
Speaking of Strava segments, I was recently ruminating on how much more enjoyable a long Strava segment is.
Short sprints or climbs obviously have their place, but there’s nothing like a good 10-15 mile segment to make you think of pace, endurance, when to make a big effort, when to save energy, etc.
Some local favourites are below.
I was in two minds whether to raise the topic of football on these pages, but here goes…
Football these days leaves me kind of cold, especially in the higher echelons of the game where money pervades every aspect.
Following certain teams these days is akin to following one of the big 8 supermarkets in their race for market share (the Germans will probably win at that also): a game in which, as Method Man so eloquently put it, C.R.E.A.M.
How refreshing then to be reminded that all is not entirely lost by immersing yourself in the mad, mad world of lower league Scottish football.
The Pele Podcast, from the guys at Tell Him He’s Pele, is a series of interviews with the “stars” of Scotland’s Championship, League 1 and League 2.
Packed full of tales of daft-boyness, hard drinking, dressing room fights, dodgy agents, classic games, highs, lows, promotion, relegation, and everything else that makes up life inside the 30 clubs which form the bedrock of Scottish professional football.
Even if you don’t follow a Berwick, Brechin, Stranraer or Peterhead, there’s enough real insight in to people here, nevermind football or footballers, to keep anyone interested.
Check out the interviews with Steven Canning, Colin McMenamin, Paddy Boyle, and my particular favourite, The Beast, John Gemmell.
Just finished re-reading this for the umpteenth time; it’s that good.
A detailed history of Peter Sutcliffe, the “Yorkshire Ripper”, but done without any sensationalised slant, concentrating completely on the people involved in the case.
This really is an absolute masterpiece.
Coffee, coffee and more coffee.
Coffee and cycling go together like Rod Hull and Emu, Glen Michael and Paladin, and Cosmo and Dibs.
Since a Christmas time splurge on a Krups EA8150 , to provide me with my pre-ride caffeine fix, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with what my taste buds enjoy the most.
This process has been helped immensely by a coffee subscription service with The Coffee Factory.
By using their “roaster’s choice” option, at the frequency of my choosing a little bag drops through my postbox, complete with two 125g bags of coffee beans.
There’s everything from Ethiopian to Sumatran to Mexican coffee, each marking high on quality scoring.
A handy little card comes with each bag, describing the farm it was grown on and the tasting notes for the coffee itself.
Well worth investigating if you’re into your coffee and find the supermarket choice a bit bland.
The Braes City Rouleurs collective knowledge around e-bikes extends to naughty Cyclocross riders, and spurious theories regarding Tour De France maillot jaune wearer, time trial/classics winner, and all-round BCR favourite, Fabian Cancellara. So when the guys at Edinburgh Bike Co-Op offered the opportunity of test-riding their electric bike range, the BCR boys absolutely jumped at the chance.
Could committed roadies be seduced by a bike with a button and a battery?
Continue reading “Do BCRs dream of electric bikes?”