Feb 21, 2007


Back in November, I had a blog entry in mind that I was looking forward to writing. It was going to be a run-down of all the gear that goes into my riding life--bike, rack, tools, pads, cameras, computer, ipod... I delayed it because I hadn't received my new camcorder yet. I was going to get my brother Ben's well-used TRV950, which had just come back from a warranty repair with all new internals. He was going to give me a good price, and I was going to pay in installments. The camera arrived at my house, and Jaime (my wife) was surprised at at the apparent wear. "How old is this thing?" she asked.

"Ummm, three or four years?"

"Why is it so heavy?"

I didn't have an answer. Previously, we had shared in the excitement of documenting our life with three ccd's, but at the price we were paying, she was expecting something in newer condition. Later that night, the camera started glitching, and I was glad for an excuse to pull out of the deal. Ben assured me that I wasn't obligated, and Jaime encouraged me to continue shopping for the perfect camera. I felt glad that I had managed to avoid what would have been a disunifying force.

Time passed, and I further appreciated that I didn't have the financial burden. The start date for my new job was delayed by a month, and on my first payday two weeks later, we learned that I am paid "in arrears"--that is, I am paid not for the most recent pay period, but for the previous pay period. And I didn't have a previous pay period yet. So it was two more weeks until a paycheck. And then we learned that we will have a child arriving on July 1st--joyous news, truly. But as our budget seemed to grow tighter and tighter, I felt blessed that I hadn't taken the camera.

The TRV950 went back for even more repairs, and Ben sold the package to TJ Henderson (pictured in the October 29 blog entry), who will make good use of it.

My old JVC camcorder had crapped out on me sometime during the summer, and I applied my $450 Circuit City credit to the purchase of my first digital camera, a Nikon D70s (see Henry and Murphy in the snow). I didn't mind giving up the JVC, as it was a pretty terrible videocamera, but I suddenly found myself without the ability to capture footage. That has been the greatest frustration--all these tapes just sitting here waiting...

Then, last month, it occurred to me that I need not wait for the funds to purchase a $1500 3ccd camcorder--I could spend fifty bucks on a capture camera right away, and that would keep me busy editing for quite some time. Potentially, I wouldn't even care if it worked as a camera. All I need is playback ability and firewire output. I'm very excited about all this. I could win an eBay auction for a dollar+shipping and get what I need.

I will do the gear run-down soon, perhaps.

The blog's original concept was to document the production of "our video." Well, there's the update for the past three months.

In other news, I finally completed my bachelor's, my new job is great, the child in Jaime's womb is now twenty weeks old and healthy, and the snow is melting.

Nov 14, 2006

four-piece update

S&M shot me this email yesterday, in response to my questions about the Castillo Bar:


Sales Representative
S&M Bikes / Fit Bike Co / Revenge Industries / Metal / Black Market

Aha. I see. Low. Lower. Lowest.

Nov 3, 2006

Shoe Goo

Adrien Lopez's sig has been my riding shoe of choice for three years now. (Go to C1RCA to check out a formidable selection of colorways.) Actually, I've been riding the same pair for three brakeless years. I've finally worn through both heels and a toe, the soles are folding over, and the insoles no longer stay in place, so I'm moving on. Pictured above is a pair that I've never ridden in. The sole started peeling off toward the end of my four-month foreign study in Ghana, in 2004, and I've been saving them for a rainy day project ever since.

First I wiped out all the red African dust, got the two surfaces clean as possible. Then I applied a liberal coating of Goo to top and bottom. That's a safety pin holding open the gap, while the glue dries a little. After a few minutes, I removed the pin and pressed the pieces together tightly. I don't have a vice any more, and all my attempts to improvise one failed, so I gave up, even though the directions emphasize keeping everything clamped until the glue has cured. But after sitting for two days, the shoe feels solid. Also, as shown in the top picture, the toe was deteriorating. I gave that a ShoeGoo patch as well.

I figure these oughta buy me a couple of months, at least. I'll be watching the bmxboard ForSale/Wanted forum, but I think I already spotted my next pair: $19.99 @ Target.

Oct 29, 2006

too much writing, not enough riding

Not the sharpest screen grab. TJ and Ben, quite happy about something... (Update: TJ has informed me that he considers this picture immensely unflattering.)

An NPR interviewer was asking Todd Field, director of the new film Little Children, about cinematography. Part of Field's response was this line: "People don't go to the movies to watch camerawork or to listen to music. People go to the movies to watch themselves." For all I know, that may have been lifted directly from his Cinema Theory 101 textbook, but I immediately started thinking of how it would apply in bike video production.

The concept has at least two distinct facets, both directly applicable. The first is the matter of the viewer's attention: is it "better" for the viewer to notice and enjoy the production of the film/video, or should production strive for "invisibility"? For example, bike riding has its inherent rhythms, and syncing those rhythms up with a musical soundtrack isn't too challenging. When done perfectly, the effect can be immensely satisfying, on an almost primal level. However, I also notice myself anticipating the beat--a portion of my attention is inevitably wondering, "Is the next shot going to sync up?" One could argue that, in this case, the production is a distraction. Camera angles that are overly clever can distract in the same way. "Wow, what a great angle," I sometimes catch myself thinking (instead of "Wow, what great riding").

The most perfect example of "invisible production" that I know of is Steve Machuga's part in Transylvania by Ty Stuyvesant. When the part finishes, it's as if I'm waking up from a dream, every time--I realize that I was completely absorbed in the video. The music (Pink Floyd), the angles, the editing all stay hidden in the background, emphasizing the riding. I don't know how Ty did it, and although I consider it a significant accomplishment, I recall someone complaining that the video put him and his friends to sleep. Funny.

While I find this "invisible production" question interesting, and while the issue is critical for Hollywood filmmakers, I think I enjoy high-quality production of bike videos almost as much as high-quality riding. (However, production quality probably needs to be carefully matched to riding quality. See if you can sit through this very well produced trailer for an upcoming "bike video." I can't.) This actually brings me right to the second point, but it's a little bit complicated to flesh out. I appreciate it if you've read this far. You've a ways to go yet. The reason I love good production and good riding is not that I want to be amazed--I love these things because of the effort involved.

Bmx is different from mainstream sports because (among other things) there is no acknowledgment for your accomplishments--no audience, no endzone, no glory, and no opponent except yourself. And we kill ourselves for what? That a select sub-culture will understand why a "hard 180" is hard? This ridiculous dichotomy--the price paid and the reward earned--is the proof of our love. Or perhaps its proof of the "artness" of bmx. In addition to the scars, scabs, and premature arthritis, we dedicate our time and money, refining the skills of shooting photos and "filming" [with videotape]. Believe me, I notice, I get psyched, seeing a locally-produced video with properly exposed 3ccd footage and no heads chopped off. I love multiple angles, and I love catching sight of another filmer or photographer, or the flash of a camera, or hearing the whirr of a motor-drive. I love footage of riders shaping quickrete trannies, waxing ledges, and sweeping public parking lots. (Jason Enns's 411bmx bio is excellent, and I can't believe I don't own a copy; catch him sledge-hammering a pesky curb for wallride access, hauling a home-made picnic table from spot to spot, fashioning a 20-foot runway of sandbags and plywoood up to some monster wooden handrail in the middle of the countryside, and trimming the same rail with a battery-powered skill-saw.)

Perhaps the most powerful proof of effort is crashing. I don't intend to sound sadistic, but I have difficulty appreciating riders that never crash. If they're not crashing... how can they really be riding at their maximum ability? I want to see the trick that took Corey Martinez twenty attempts to pull. Then we would know what the man is capable of.

Effort... Well, I'm not very good on a bike, and I crash a lot. I suppose a great deal of riders crash a lot, but many pros seem able to go a whole Metro Jam with little more than a light bail. (That's a relevant distinction, too: crashing vs bailing.) This is where I return to my starting point--that we watch videos to see ourselves. Bmx is not easy for me. I have difficulty identifying with pros for whom riding is absolutely effortless.

Consider the facial expressions that people make after pulling a trick. If the rider maintains a cold, tough grimace, or turns and flips off the camera, the non-verbal message is "I'm not breaking my cool, 'cause that was easy." Alternatively, a rider pulls his trick and a huge smile breaks across his face: "That was hard. I can't believe I did it."

Oct 25, 2006

So now I care about SubRosa.

Since the site gets no traffic, this will be old news by the time you read it here: the SubRosa "teaser" is shockingly good. I've never thought that Ryan Sher had anything to contribute to bmx, but this is about the best thing I've ever seen. Smooth, well-framed shots, dramatic black-and-white, tastefully slow-moed, and a refreshing song choice. I expected Guns&Roses.


I didn't know there was a bmx filmer with such a steady hand.

Oct 24, 2006

4 pegs, straight cable, castillos

Sad news, learning that Caleb Ruecker is off Metal. Sadder still, finding out Caleb recently switched to two-piece bars. I think he was the very last pro holding on to four-piecers. With Caleb dies an important bmx legacy. Dave Young, Jeremy Davis, and Lou Rasjich produced three of the most memorable video parts of the late nineties, double-pegging rail after rail on both sides, wrecking themselves on what-were-they-thinking gaps, while sporting a tight-black-pants style that no other rider dared emulate. Except Caleb.

When Brian "B.C." Castillo left S&M, they continued producing his signature bar, calling it the "A.D." Clever punning. Volume, in a show of good humor, produced a slightly updated version called the Mad Dog Bar (Mad Dog being Chris Moeller's ancient nickname). In between S&M and Volume, Primo created the subtly ugly Moe's Bar for Castillo. Castillo switched to two-piece bars in 2001, and Volume stopped producing the four-piece soon after. Check out this old FreedomBMX interview with Castillo himself, where he comments on the various versions of his signature bar (and also takes credit for the least fashionable stem in bmx). EBCO, honoring the Portland, Oregon Castillo Bar connection, was making a four-piece as late as 2003. S&M returned to calling it the Castillo Bar before quietly handing production over to Sean McKinney's flatland-oriented Revenge Industries sometime in the last couple of years. Here's the Revenge Bar.

Here are the ./blueprint parts for Jeremy and Lou, both of which were posted on theComeUp in the past six months. Dave's part is nowhere to be found on the internet, and perhaps that's a good thing, but here he is on the cover of Ride in 1994. Parrick is supposedly working on a dvd re-release of Nowhere Fast. Until then, no one is throwing away their VCR. Here is a video from Caleb's Myspace. Some excellent riding and crashing in true Castillo Bar style.

And, if you didn't know, "Little" Jeff Landtiser successfully pulled Lou Rasjich's wrist-breaking roof gap for his excellent Building the Underground part. Maybe it was the uncut Slams.

Streetriding pros who ran Castillo Bars:
Brian Castillo
Jason Enns
Dave Friemuth
Dave Young
Jeremy Davis
Lou Rasjich
Matt Beringer
Troy McMurray
The Gonz
Ryan Worcester
Scooter (pegless, brakeless, excellent)
Nate Hanson
Sean McKinney

Please let me know if you can think of others.

the old SK8>BMX cliche.

There seems to be a maturation timeline for any given youth movement, and skating has a whole decade on bmx. Their creative figures are older, their participant base is far larger, their image is established and marketable, and the money at stake is huge. (As a side note, Dig has always been a powerful reference point for the progression of bmx culture, something I'm proud to be associated with and to show people, and I'm immensely pleased that it is finally taking root on the shelves of American bookstores. As a teenager, stumbling across a new issue once a year was a charge of adrenaline, and never failed to cement a little part of my otherwise nebulous bmx identity.)

I learned something new about myself when I saw, for the first time, maybe 1999, the Zero video Misled Youth. Jamie Thomas's part expressed something that I'd always felt but never articulated. Baba O'Reilly became my secret internal soundtrack, not that my feebles and manuals were worthy. I pedalled fast and pumped hard. Here it is on Googlevideo. Jaime's part starts at 11:20.

Some time later I stumbled on Tiltmode: Man Down, and had my internal soundtrack altered once again. This video is practically the opposite of anything done by Zero. No slo-mo, no metal, no angry/angsty punk. The video is instead upbeat, happy, and playful. Whereas I was used to seeing antics in Roadfools and in the credits of bike videos, these guys pulled off their silliness without affectation. Not sure if it's true, but that's what I thought then. The video is longer than it needs to be. I would always just watch the first fifteen minutes and then go ride. I'd be so fired up, I could hardly stand to wait any longer. Tiltmode.

I still love both, and I keep both the Who and Aha on my ipod now, but there's a lot of other stuff on there, too.