Showing posts tagged rants

Bicycle Portraiture 101



I’m no photographer by any means so pretty much non of this comes from a pro perspective. I’m just someone who likes bikes. Maybe you are too. Over years of drooling over bicycle portraits across the internet and in catalogs, I’ve learned a few things about what makes these bikes look so good in photos. It’s not really that complicated but still, even the pro’s get it wrong sometimes. I don’t profess to do it right all the time. I’m just a guy with a Nikon point n shoot. Still, I’ve compiled a few tips on how to make your bike look nicer on photo so that next time you shoot your trusty steed, you really get to show it off in all of its glory.

1) DRIVE SIDE!!! Come on, people. You should know this. We want to see what’s on your bike. The drive side is the important part. Taking a picture from the non-drive side is like photographing a car engine with the hood down. Remember, this is your bike’s GOOD SIDE. I’m pretty sure we’re not missing any important details on the left side of your bike.


A rare example of a bike where I might like to see some of the non-drive side.

2) Clean up the background. Have a neutral, non-distracting background. Any object in the setting that’s removable, remove it. That means trash, leaves, dirty socks, girlfriends (optional), etc. Watch out for hard shadows which can also be distracting, especially if the shadows are cast by the bike. If you’re shooting against a wall, it should be mostly one solid color with no patterns or anything that takes the focus off your bike. Speaking of focus, make sure your camera is focussed on the bike and not a part of the background.


See how important a neutral background is? Here I can show a lot of background and it’s still just about the bike.

3) Clean up your bike. This doesn’t just mean giving it a good wipe-down (which I hope you’ve already done). This also means removing anything that isn’t necessary. Everything in this photo is something that’s representing your bike. So you must ask yourself why you have such-and-such on your bike while you’re photographing it. For example, “What is that removable Knog blinky light really saying about who I am and what this bike means to me?” If you don’t have a good reason for it, take it off.


This is my touring bike, so I photographed it with touring gear.

And now… the nitpicky stuff. These are all the anal retentive details that will make your bike look better because it shows that you paid attention to them. The main reason to pay attention to this stuff is because everything in this photo is there for a reason. You need to make it all look very intentional. Just like how all the features of the bike are built into it for a reason (hopefully). This shows that you are damn proud of owning this bike and that you put thought into how you want to display it.

4) Align your crankset. There’s a few ways to do this. It usually looks best if the crank is lined up with one of the tubes or parallel to the ground. Personally, I prefer lining the crank up with the seat tube. Other people line up with the down tube and some line up with the chainstay. In any of these cases, the non-drive side crank arm should be behind the tube you’re lining up with — obscured by it — so that the line is continued by your drive side crank arm. If you choose to line up your crankset so that it’s parallel to the ground, the drive side arm should be pointing towards the front of the bike. Some people choose to line up the crankset so that it’s perpendicular to the ground but I don’t think it looks that great.


This is how I like to line up my crankset.

5) Align your wheels. This probably bothers me even more than the crankset. Most people don’t even think about this, even photographers shooting bicycle catalogs. Again, this is just so that it looks like you meant to do it. Attention to details! You want to line up your front and rear wheels so that the valve holes are both in the same position — 12 o’clock or 6 o’clock looks the best. This just looks cleaner and also lines everything up. If you’ve got fancy deep carbon rims, the logos will line up. The tire logos should line up too, assuming they’ve been installed correctly. HINT: with clinchers, the tire logos should line up with the valve holes and with tubulars, the valves should line up with the valve holes. And if you’re looking at the drive side of your bike thinking “Gee, my tires don’t seem to have logos”, that means either your tires don’t have logos or they’re on backwards.


Line up your wheel graphics even if the valves say otherwise.

6) Choose your gearing (if applicable). Proper gearing not only makes your chainline look better, it can also make your bike look faster! How? I always set it to the fastest gear (smallest cog, largest chainring). This also happens to make the derailleur and downtube shifters look better. I’ve seen some old catalogs that shoot their bikes on the smallest chainring/largest cog. I guess that’s too show off their incredible hillclimbing ability. I guess that’s cool. If you really want to show off your triple chainset, go for it. I just hate it when I see a bike portrait and the chain is just in the middle doing nothing.


The fastest gear on my classic roadie not only brings the chain to the front but also makes my downtube shifters stand out more.

7) All the other details. I’m not sure it’s possible to be TOO neurotic when photographing your bicycle. Just pay attention to the details. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this chances are you like to look at photos of bikes. Ask yourself what it is about certain photos that you like and compare it to your own bicycle photos. I’m always looking at my own bike photos thinking, “Ah shit I should’ve done this.” For example, I only recently realized that all the photos in 1986 Miyata catalog (IMO the finest example of perfect bike portraiture) have the steering angled so that the bars are perfectly lined up dead-on with the camera. As a non-photographer, it’s a constant learning experience but evidently, even pro photographers don’t have it all down. So basically, don’t feel bad if you get made fun of for the goofy saddle tilt in your photo. Just adjust it next time you take a photo of your bike (unless that’s how you ride it, in which case good luck to your naughty bits).


One day I’ll figure out how to make my bike stand on its own two wheels.

MORE:
-Ray Dobbins’ Photo Setup
-Bicycle Photography Do’s & Don’ts at Hetchins.org
-Simple Bicycle Photography at The Incidental Cyclist
-Bob Hovey’s Guide to Photgraphing Your Masi

If you’ve got anything to add to all of this, please leave me a comment.
Tags: art, pr0n, rants, my bikes,

Olympic Omnium Format

More news from the Union Cycliste Internationale's agenda with Olympic track cycling program. Last week they confirmed the format of the Omnium event and this is what it looks like:

1 - Flying Lap (TT)
2 - Points Race (men: 30km, women: 20km)
3 - Elimination Race (Miss and Out)
4 - Individual Pursuit (men: 4,000m, women: 3,000m)
5 - Scratch Race
6 - Kilometer TT (men), 500m TT (women)

Well, there’s the Individual Pursuit and Points Race which were already eliminated from the Olympic program. Also, there’s the Kilo TT (and 500m for women) which was dropped from the Olympics in 2008. Now they are all grouped together in this kitchen sink Omnium. What does this mean?

A lot of people are saying that UCI and the International Olympic Committee are gradually phasing out track cycling in the Olympics. Is this move really foreshadowing the death of Track Cycling?

There are now only 8 events in Olympic Track Cycling (including the separate men’s and women’s contests):

Omnium
Keirin
Sprint
Team Pursuit

In 2008 we had 10 events. In 2004 we had 12 events. It definitely seems like it’s shrinking.

With the new Omnium format, we’ve got 6 contests housed under one medal. Well so much for specificity. Now if Taylor Phinney wants to win an Olympic medal for his Individual Pursuit effort, he must also ride a killer Kilo and Flying Lap. Could he do that? Yeah, but he’d have to compromise his very specific Pursuit training in order to include training for other events.

The Individual Pursuit is a very specialized event and that’s why there are Pursuit specialists in the world. The same thing goes for the Kilo. The Omnium kind of kills all of that. It’s beginning to look like the IOC only has one Gold Medal to award to an “Overall Track Champion”.

Compare this to swimming with 34 events in 2008 (not including the Diving, Synchronized Swimming or Water Polo events). There are athletes who specialize in very specific swimming events and even still, one man took home 8 Gold Medals, which pretty much made him “Overall Swimming Champion”.

The difference is Phelps had to be the best at ALL those events. In the Omnium, you don’t have to be the best at any of the individual contests. You could come in second for all six races and you’d have an excellent chance at winning the single Gold Medal award. In fact, that’s probably your best bet. You have to be the Jack of all trades, master of none. So this is the new Olympics where mediocrity is rewarded.

With the trend we’re seeing right now, I bet that by 2016 we’ll only have the Omnium and the Team Pursuit. They will take the Sprint competition (which has been narrowed down to 8 qualified riders instead of 18) and throw it into the Omnium, replacing the Flying Lap. Keirin might also become an Omnium contest, replacing the Miss n Out. And that’s that! One Gold Medal to rule them all.

Now I don’t really have a problem with the Omnium as an event in itself. It’s an event contested at the World Camps (since 2007) and obviously most local track race days are set up as Omniums (which is great of course). But this isn’t a local track meet. This is the Olympics. It’s supposed to be a major international event that celebrates and awards the best athleticism shown in ALL disciplines.

That’s why there’s the Shot Put, Hammer Throw, Javelin Throw and Discus Throw… not the “Omnium of Throwing Shit Around”.

Read the news at Cycling Weekly.

The Slowly Fading Cult Of The Messenger

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Now that it’s beyond obvious… a NY Times blog entry about how fixed gear freestyle/trick riding is now more popular than just riding a track bike.

I don’t know… I’ve been riding track bikes for a long time. I love to ride and I love to ride hard, fast and far. To me, there’s not much of a relation between fixed gear freestyle and fixed gear riding. It’s not like everyone into the urban fixed gear aesthetic just up and converted to doing tricks. All the trick riders I know came from a BMX background and are just adapting their old tricks to bigger bikes. At the same time, all the track bike lovers I know still love track bikes and still love to ride. Alleycat races are still fun, vintage pista parts are still sexy and messengers are still cred as shit. The only difference now is that the fashion spotlight (what kids dig) is now onto trick riding. And to me, that’s a different scene altogether.

It’s exactly what happened to BMX in the 80’s. Before all the flatland and half-pipes, BMX used to stand for Bicycle Moto-Cross and that’s exactly what it was. When the 80’s came, the legit BMX racers stuck with it and new kids got into something completely different which happened to use the same bike. That’s what’s going on here.

Hell, there’s probably more messengers riding mountain bikes than those that ride track bikes but nobody really associates people who ride mountain bikes with messengers. Furthermore, nobody really associates people who ride mountain bikes with mountain biking. Well it’s the same shit with track bikes. Just because someone is using the same type of drivetrain as me doesn’t mean we’re related or associated. It’s apples and oranges and one does not necessarily overshadow the other.

Still, I understand that both trick bike culture and track bike culture are not mutually exclusive. Like pretty much everything in this world, there are no black and whites. But in light of this article, I felt it was necessary to point out that the street-smart, city-bred, gritty lifestyle of an urban fixed gear hero such as the messenger is no less romanticized than 5 years ago. It’s just the lens of pop culture shifting focus.

All that said, I got tons of love for all the trick riders out there (as I do for all riders out there). You guys are doing some amazing, next-level shit and carving new paths for generations to come. You’re doing it because it’s in your heart and there’s nothing that will validate that feeling more than when the next stage of evolution hits and you are sticking to what you love.


A website dedicated to the support and growth of grassroots track cycling, the comradery and heritage of the worldwide velodrome circuit and the roots and culture of fixed gear bicycle racing.

If you have any news, stories, photos, videos, questions or comments to share I would love to hear from you so please contact me.