Monday, May 18, 2015


I'll be on the road soon, and I wanted to check out a place in Maryland I'd heard about to ride downhill. Apparently some has been/never was photographer used to live out there and it's "SO SICK" just like everyone says their local spot is. Didn't believe it myself until I saw this solid two minutes thirty six seconds of shred your face off downhill destruction no survivors explosion of perfection:

Watch it the whole way through, and then try to pick a favorite part. That's right, you can't. They're all good. No, scratch that, they're all perfect. The fifteen second sky sequence to start things off? The silent, pensive walk up the hill at :46? Hammering towards the camera at :54? The out of his mind drift at :59? The sick double at 1:44?

It's like this video is the blueprint for MTB media. It's the Rosetta stone. Some say perfection is unattainable, and we should settle for goals less lofty, but behold, perfection is here. What  "Iron Horse in SoCal" was for the mountain bike world in 2004, that's what Todd has done for the entire worldwide media landscape in his self-filmed magnum opus. And to think this was published in 2012, undiscovered until today, like gold waiting to be extracted from the living rock. This is the new measuring stick. Is there any need in you left unfulfilled after watching this video? It's like he answered the questions I didn't even know to ask. I feel like I understand not just life better, but the interconnectedness of the whole universe more after watching Todd's work.

If you can't hire Todd to make your next video at least send an envoy to seek his counsel, and equip them with gifts of virgin blood, rare stones, and Marzocchi 38mm seal kits. Seek his counsel and reap the rewards as your enemies weep and bow before you.

Video nerds, Todd is your new king.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Aaron Chase still making videos. Please make it stop.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A thought

Makes for a great photo, but he probably would be hooking up in this turn if he wasn't riding Marzocchi.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Goggles and a half lid

I didn't get the memo and I still don't know what this is all about, but apparently this is the worst fashion travesty in the known universe. My only question would be: compared to what?

Is this supposed to be better?

As soon as you:

A) put on a half lid, and
B) need any form of eye protection whatsoever

you've entered a lose/lose situation. Try as you may, you're going to end up looking like some combination of a spaceman, Larry at the shooting range, and(or) a small child that rides the short bus to school.

You could say "just stop racing enduro," but c'mon people, we gotta pay the bills and keep the lights on around here at ROBOT HQ. Sacrifices must be made.


LEFTOVER DEAH from Clint Reynolds on Vimeo.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

More thoughts on filmmaking

In response to the Phil Atwood video:

"Charlie you are a tool, that video was totally a copy of most 2000's skateboard cinematography. Plus, most of those trails looked like they sucked, if you weren't fooled by the 2 second clip montage. Does the exhaust in your shitty rattle can painted van leak, 'cause you seem high."

Let's break this down into three parts so I can fully address your questions and thoughts:

"That video was totally a copy of most 2000's skateboard cinematography."

This might be the highest praise you could attribute to a mountain bike video, outside of maybe comparing it to Rankin. It's like perfection has already occurred in action sports filmmaking, and now we're going backwards with every subsequent step.

By contrast, probably the worst thing you could say about a mountain bike video would be "that video was totally a copy of most 2015 mountain bike cinematography," which is also to say "that video was totally a copy of most 2012 snowboard cinematography."

I'll take Rick McCrank in Yeah Right! over 99.9% of anything from the last five years in mountain bikes or snowboarding:

"Plus, most of those trails looked like they sucked, if you weren't fooled by the 2 second clip montage."

I don't know how to make this any simpler: that's the point. It's the bike riding on display in the video, and the better you can make horrible trails look, the better you are at riding bikes. Have you ever wondered why Australia and Great Britain produce some of the fastest riders in the world, even though all of their trails suck and their hills are 30 feet tall? Have you ever wondered why almost no one fast has ever come out of British Columbia, even though it boasts an almost unlimited amount of trail building potential?

Mom always told me "creativity takes place within boundaries," and Phil Atwood made more creative on a shoestring budget in a weekend than these jamokes probably could in two years with a full production team and a million dollar budget:

The entire point of the Atwood video is that he's dicking around, and if the trails didn't suck the video would lose its teeth. He's pissing on everything, and if that wasn't clear enough the video starts with a shot of him literally on the shitter. It seems like a simple concept to me, but apparently a lot of people are struggling to understand. I've prepared the graph below to help explain where I believe this disconnect is occurring:

The Atwood video is supposed to communicate these things called "fundamental bike skills," and the great thing about fundamentals is that you either have them or you don't, and they can be practiced or demonstrated anywhere. This is why I'd rather watch a dimly lit iPhone video of Luke Strobel doing cutties and drifts in a gravel parking lot over a 12,000 FPS seggie of Geoff Gulevich riding some picturesque dream trail on a mountain top at sunset surrounded by Incan ruins shot from a helicopter with another helicopter shooting the first helicopter shooting Geoff. Would you rather have one used 2.5" 3C DHF or a pile of brand new Nevegals? And no, in this scenario you can't sell the Nevegals to buy more DHF's.

Here's why all modern mountain bike filmmaking sucks:

Here's another analogy: do you remember in Of Mice and Men when Lennie loves the puppy so much, but he keeps petting it and petting it harder because he loves it so much, and finally he kills the puppy by petting it too hard? It's like that.

And the real tragedy is that in this analogy for the modern mountain bike video creative process, mountain biking isn't even the puppy. I don't know if these filmmakers care about mountain biking half as much as they like playing with expensive cameras, assigning self-important labels to themselves and their "productions," and traveling around the world to exotic locales. I'm sure in their tragicomedic creative meetings the actual act of mountain biking is the 14th item on their discussion agenda, somewhere after figuring out film permits but before arranging local catering. Like once all the details are penciled in for which cameras to buy, what countries to fly to, which sponsor wants which riders to be featured, which months will have the best weather and light in which hemispheres, which kids to feature in the gag-worthy "groms segment," and whether they can book Sam Elliot to do the narration, someone asks "oh yeah, what sort of rad mountain biking do we want to shoot?"

Riders standing around, waiting. "Progression."

Building a dream drift track for Steve and Brook in Kamloops doesn't even count, because that's more about the visual masturbation of slow mo dust sequences than it is about the actual riding or speed, and because clearly Steve and Brook had nothing to do with its creation. That whole shoot was probably more about early morning light conditions than it was about Steve or Brook having fun on their bikes. I'd bet the track was made without any input from the riders, everything was arranged logistically for them, people were on site days or weeks before the riders showed up, and once the riders were on set it was a turn-key production where the riders only job was to eat, sleep, and "dance monkey, dance!" when the light was good and the big man with the mega phone told them to.

I'd bet you ten to one the coolest thing Steve or Brook did on their bikes during production was dicking around on the minute-long trail they took from the "drift track" down to camp, and I bet you no one on set offered to shoot it or even cared. The "producers" were probably already back at camp going over different processing treatments for today's footie or reading the Farmer's Almanac to figure out when the nug light was going to be hitting tomorrow in between mouthfuls of locally-sourced organic quinoa salad from the staff chef.

Remember this seggie? Big smiles all around. "Rider driven."

Or who could forget this Whistler segment? You can just feel the energy and excitement coming off these two riders. "Collaborative."

Maybe the reason these videos feel like boring self-important snoozefests to the viewer is because they were boring self-important snoozefests during the creative process, on site, and during post-production. Maybe the reason I, as a rider, am miserable watching these films is because the riders were miserable making them.

If you want a mountain bike video that doesn't suck, stop trying so hard. Find a good rider, find some trails he likes, and then point a camera (any camera) at him riding. The Brannigan Queenstown video is at 165,000 views already. I know that no mountain bike filmmaker would want to have their name associated with the extremely low production value or non-existent formal qualities of the Brannigan video, and that's exactly why all of the current crop of mountain bike filmmakers should be taken out back and shot. The Brannigan video made people happy, it made people want to go ride, and it made people appreciate bike riding more. If you can't get behind the video because the resolution was low, the light was brackish, or because the guys filming had shaky hands, then you clearly love filmmaking more than you love mountain biking, and we need fewer people like you, not more.

The point of visual communication is not to demonstrate the medium of visual communication, or to marinate your viewers in the various aspects of the medium or the production process. The medium exists to capture a subject and tell a story. So figure out what your subject is, figure out what story you're trying to tell, and then get out of the way. Like good service, you should be invisible.

"Does the exhaust in your shitty rattle can painted van leak, 'cause you seem high."

No, the exhaust is fine, but I bought a fitting so I can refill those one pound Coleman propane canisters, and the seals on the canisters totally leak after you refill them. So yeah my van smelled like propane all last week while I was living in it.

Is propane noxious? They mostly stopped leaking, so it seems fine to me.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


I hope you weep when you see demonstrations of bike skill like this:

Orange Dirt World Team - That Flippin' Five a mountainbiking video by CaldwellVisuals

Also that looked like way more fun than anything I rode today on THE SHORE!!!

They say "don't meet your heroes." It's kind of like that, although the ladder bridges and skinnies have been the funnest parts so far. By far.

A message to Cam McRae and Pete Roggeman

Hate to break it to you guys, but your trails suck.

I'm not going to tell you what trails I rode because already I know, no matter which North shore trails I rode, the locals will say "oh yeah, well those aren't the good ones. Trust me, if you'd ridden [xyz trails with exactly the same fundamental qualities but slight superficial differences] you'd be pumped."

In graphic design it's helpful to repurpose old resources where possible. You don't always need to reinvent the wheel, and as long as no one can see the underlying similarities, or as long as you're working for two non-competing clients in different sectors, you can save huge time by borrowing here and there from past work.

Fortunately I already had a graphic kicking around that I think captures the trail design ethos on the North Shore, so with a few little tweaks here you go:

More thoughts on Canadian "technical" trail building:

It's not because I didn't ride "the gnarly trails." If anything those would be even worse, with the steep fast bits being even steeper and faster, and the violent, awkward, jolting 90 corner at the bottom being even more violent, awkward, and jolting. It's called momentum, guys. If you designed the trails in 1998 when bikes had 2 inches of suspension and surviving a four foot rock roll was the highlight of your year, you probably didn't give two shits about carrying speed. Your whole goal was probably losing speed while somehow not dying. But it's 2015 now, I have 8-inch disk brakes, 2.5" tires, and lots of quality suspension so I can stop. Somehow I'm just not seeing the joy in going from two miles an hour up to 15 and then back to two 800 times in one descent.

Now I understand why people come down to Oregon or Washington and ride trails that we think are boring and say how amazing they were. I can only imagine that these people have never gone downhill unencumbered at a rapid, sustained rate in their entire lives. Hearing stories from Canadians who rode boring, vanilla places like Oakridge and came back raving makes me weep for those poor souls who've never enjoyed momentum before. It's pretty simple guys. Downhill = momentum = fun. If you can keep the trail pointed downhill instead of weaving all over creation, it's pretty fun.

Oakridge is pretty boring and half-assed and yet people from Canada consistently come back raving about how mind-blowing the trails are. You could have this too, Canadians, if you gave a moment's thought to maintaining momentum in your trail building (in between ripping bong hits, devaluing your currency, and talking about "the good old days in college when Sublime was still at the top of their game and Green Day hadn't sold out yet").

And we're riding a shuttle-accessed trail system up here. I saw people out there on downhill bikes. I can only imagine what that poor bastard from Langley was suffering through on every run with his 9.5 inch travel 41 pound 26 inch wheel Intense M9. I'm on a shorter travel sub-30 pound 29er and the flat, awkward bits are still awful. If you ever wondered why "Shore bikes" like the Norco VPS range and the Kona Stinky's from 1999-2009 all had high BB's, short top tubes, and steep head angles, it's because the average speed on this trail system is about four mph, with top speeds somewhere in the 12-14 mph range.

There's a reason why this bike looks the way it does. In a related story, there's a reason why no one outside of Western BC purchased this bike in 2009. Or in 2010 when it was on clearance at your local bike shop. Or in 2011 when it was still on clearance at your local bike shop. Or 2012. Or 2013...

My biked sucked to ride until I took 13 psi out of the rear shock and opened up the compression to Descend mode. I started the day in trail 3 mode, then trail 2, then trail 1, then full descend mode, then I took 13 psi out and left it in descend mode. There are exactly three other trails in the universe I've ever run my shock in descend mode for, but it still wasn't soft enough for the snail's pace thrashing that my bike was taking yesterday. Add to that mix a toxic cocktail of high tire pressure to keep from flatting on all the rock ledges you have to run into... and it was awesomely slow and awkward.

I didn't know you could make trails that were so rough while simultaneously being so slow until I came to the North Shore. Bravo.