August 21, 2015 § 16 Comments
Carlsbad-based SPY Optic announced today that it had hired agitator and loose cannon Seth Davidson after an exhaustive executive search to replace outgoing CEO Michael Marckx. Marckx, who led the company from the brink of bankruptcy onto solid financial footing, announced last Friday after everyone had gone to bed that he was leaving the firm.
Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Davidson to ask about his plans as SPY’s new helmsman.
CitSB: How did you get the job?
SD: It was pretty easy. They were looking for someone who wasn’t constantly falling off his bike. I haven’t fallen off since the BWR back in April. And I think they were looking for a new approach.
CitSB: And what is that?
SD: After almost five years of creative disruption, Michael had put the firm in the black, rolled out an industry-leading portfolio of functional and stylish glasses across a spectrum of sports and lifestyles, and reinvigorated the brand. Plus, he fell off his bike a lot, which made for huge cross-posting marketing upside on Facebag.
CitSB: Those will be some big shoes to fill.
SD: Not to mention big hospital beds. But I’m tearing a page out of Michael’s creative disruption handbook and am going to simply focus on disruption. Blow some fucking shit up.
CitSB: Excuse me?
SD: I’m not particularly creative but I am extremely disruptive. Disaster pretty much follows me wherever I go. I can bring that disruption to SPY. I can see implementing some massive disruption there. Fire everyone, sell the building. Or just fucking burn it down, collect the insurance, and buy myself a new Prius.
CitSB: But how does that help the company?
SD: Who gives a shit? Once I ink the contract, which you can bet will have a sweet severance package, I’ll be focusing on Job #1.
CitSB: What’s that?
SD: Not falling of my fuggin’ bike. And Job #2, which is swag.
SD: Is there an echo on the Internet? Yes, swag. When the masters bicycle racing team heard that Michael was leaving we were happy for his new endeavor blah blah blah but we were mostly freaked out about losing our sweet swag deal with the company. Bikes, sunglasses, kits, wheels, helmets in case we fall off our bikes like Michael … that shit’s expensive and without a sugar daddy driving the train it was starting to look like Retailmageddon, a cyclist’s worst nightmare.
CitSB: This may be the most cynical approach to running a company I’ve ever heard.
SD: One day I’ll tell you a little story about a bank named Countrywide.
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August 20, 2015 § 30 Comments
All my adult life I’ve been a provider. Not a very good one, perhaps, but there’s always been a roof, clothing, food on the table, and on most days, enough love to go around. Most days. Not all.
I didn’t become a provider because I wanted to, I became one because I was married at twenty-four and a father at an extremely unripe twenty-five, and I knew from watching my father that when you have a family you provide. You fail at a lot of things when you’re twenty-five, but you move heaven and earth not to fail at that because they are children and they are frail and you are all they have. In retrospect, they are all you have, but you’re generally too dumb to understand it at that age.
I never questioned my role because I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in Texas, and it was assumed that men provided and that ones who didn’t weren’t very good men.
What I never did was nourish because that was my wife’s job. I worked and brought home whatever I could, and she kept the home fire burning. She nourished us all with wholesome home cooked food, and for almost thirty years she averaged six hours a day or more in the kitchen.
The last time I cooked a meal for her was September 10, 1989. Our daughter had been born two days earlier and my wife had had a brutal labor followed by a difficult birth. On September 8, her first night home, I cooked her dinner. I put two wieners in a pot, boiled them, and put them on buns. She had not yet been in America a year and hated hot dogs, but she ate them, grimly, and she thanked me.
On September 9, I cooked her dinner again, two boiled wieners.
On September 10, I put the wieners in the pot but they never got to boil because she dragged herself into the kitchen and slowly, painfully, without anger or reproach, made herself a meal she could eat. It seems strange looking back on it that for such a supposedly liberal person I had such a reactionary and misogynistic view of marriage. “It was her job.” I thought. What does that even mean?
When she left last June 6 for a three-month trip to her parents’ home in Japan, for the first time in my life I was going to be alone with my sons at home for more than a few days. Naturally everyone wondered, especially them, how they would avoid starvation. “Subway,” they said.
Since she left I’ve cooked a meal almost every night I’ve been at home. I’m not a great cook, I’m not a good cook, I’m not even a mediocre cook. But I haven’t cut off any fingers yet, and each day I’ve managed to prepare something cheap, wholesome, always edible, and occasionally even something that was eaten with gusto.
There is a profound happiness that comes from watching a child eat with relish what you have made from scratch, even when the children are young men, and even when the fare is modest. It is different from the pride of providing, it is the joy of nourishing. Is this what she has felt these thirty years?
Unlike the money you bring home, which is converted into things like bicycle tires and clothes and tuition and rent, the food you make with your hands that is eaten in front of you by your children is a different thing altogether. There are so many ah-hahs, like watching the last morsel disappear and immediately wondering, “What am I going to make tomorrow?”
Like the mysteries of grocery shopping, how much will they eat, so how much should I buy and are these avocados ripe?
Like the mysteries of cooking itself. When a thing is good, how can I improve it? When a thing is bad, what did I do wrong?
Like the mysteries of kitchen tools. Which knife for which task, and why are they all so fucking dull? And where does she keep the peeler? And how do I stack the pots so they all fit in the tiny cabinet? And why are my hands all scaly and dry and cracked? And when should I add the potatoes?
But there’s more. My sons watch me struggle and sweat and serve up mystery dishes, and they eat them, and we laugh and joke over dinner, and they always say thanks, Dad, and they take turns doing the dishes without being asked, and when tonight’s stew was ready and we, all famished, sat down to eat what promised to be a darned good meal because hunger is the best sauce and we realized there was no bread and one of them jumped up and ran, with his feet, down to the store to buy a loaf, and we all laid into that stew and fresh bread and piping hot corn on the cob roasted in the shuck with as much relish as if the whole dinner had been prepared especially for us by the chef for the Queen of England and we cleared our plates thrice over and cleaned the dogdamned stew pot down to the charred stuff on the bottom that’s when I loved and missed my wife more deeply than any words can ever say.
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August 19, 2015 § 16 Comments
Mark was one of the best elite amateur bike racers Southern California has ever seen. Today he has a particularly nasty form of leukemia.
I remember the state road race a few years back in Bakersfield. Mark, who dominated in every discipline in the sport, had been injured and was far from fit, but he decided to do this grueling race to help out his teammates. He attacked on the first lap and stayed away until the final lap, when the other teams had to throw all their weapons into the fray to reel him in.
The moment he got caught, teammate Roger Worthington went with a counterattack and finished third if memory serves. That was pure Mark — thrilled to sacrifice everything he had for his buddies.
Mark’s friends and erstwhile teammates from Labor Power have rallied ’round, but no matter the support and love, it’s ultimately a battle that Mark has to fight alone. To no one’s surprise, he’s giving it everything he’s got, which is ten times more than anyone else.
Here are some thoughts from three of his closest friends.
From Roger Worthington, teammate, team boss, friend:
Few riders typified the combination of Labor generally abhorred prettiness. Our mantra was “Gritty Not Pritty.” Then came G-Spot. G-Spot did use cocoa butter. He did shave his arms. He did refuse to wear his Labor Stars and Bars because it was the wrong shade of blue. So why did Labor rally around this erstwhile Pritty Boy with the boyish smile and monster legs? Because he may have been pretty but even more so he was gritty. We’re talking all caps GRITTY. He’d go off the front. He’d bang with the baddest. He protected his mates. He feared no one. When nutjobs all about were losing their mind, he’d keep his cool. And no matter how hard, or cold, or hot, or nasty, he wouldn’t complain. This is the character trait that’s serving him now as he’s battling cancer. Just as my money was on G-Spot coming out of that last corner, it’s on G-spot now as he takes on a force a thousand times nastier than a bar-banging scrum. He’s focused. He’s resilient, and in his words, “It’s all good.” We believe him, and we believe in him.
From Charon Smith, friend and understudy:
Mark Scott … I’m not sure where to begin because he has been such a big part of my development as a rider and racer. I have raced with so many talented guys and have had the pleasure of being teammates with talented racers, too. Mark in my eyes stands at the top of the mountain simply because he was the guy who wasn’t afraid to reach out like a father leading his child through the valley and pointing out all the small details that a child would overlook or couldn’t see simply due to lack of experience and knowledge. He taught me how to stay calm, relaxed, and how to always stay in the moment. He would say read the race, monitor the situation, and that everything you do as a racer should have a purpose. Over the years I have stored these things in my hard drive, you will rarely see me doing something just to do it in a race to look good, because it is never about the look but always the process and the finish. Often I see guys doing things in a race that don’t benefit the team or themselves, but they do it because they like to show their strength. Mark would never do that. “Everything, all the time, has to have a purpose.”
In our race meetings Mark would always lay out the plan and he did it with such calmness it made you feel like everything was going to be fine and so often it was; he could control and dictate a race single-handedly when he put his mind to it. I recall him doing things in a race to cause a reaction so he could get the field to react so he could set up the situation he wanted or needed to give our team an advantage. Over time I learned to sit back and watch him work his magic and I was always smiling because I knew that what he was doing was to set us up for the win.
He would often grab me and say “Get on my wheel!” It was like I was out on a leisure ride and not in a race. It’s a hard and delicate job towing a sprinter around, very few riders can actually do it well. Some guys just speak your language on the bike and words are not needed. Mark and I were this way off the top but this simply came from his gift and his huge heart. He could win races but he was not interested in that, he was more interested in molding me and shaping me because he saw something that I could not see.
I recall speaking with Dave Worthington after Mark became ill and he said “You know here’s something I never shared with you. When you started winning I told Mark, ‘Charon is there,’ and Mark replied “No, he’s not there yet there are still some things he has to learn.’ This moment made me smile because while he was teaching and showing me the way he had a bigger plan and vision for me and I never knew it.
That’s he was like a father leading his son through the valley. I recall the first race I did with Mark and he told me out of the blue “I am going to sit this one out.” I couldn’t figure out what he meant, but he wanted to slowly let me fly on my own, and whatever magic he had, it worked because I crossed the line first that day. Over the last four years I have averaged 10+ wins per year all while my teammates are winning as well. This was Mark’s teaching: always give and share the success. The good things that have happened to me and my team all come from the foundation laid by Mark. In our meetings, my ideas come from the plans and visions Mark embedded in me years ago. He also taught me to never allow anyone to try to break you. I’ll never be able to thank him enough. He may not know it but I think of him almost every day because I am on my bike almost every day and that is where we became so tightly connected.
Thanks for allowing me to share my feelings and words about my friend and Captain Mark Scott AKA G-Spot! GB
From David Worthington, former Labor teammate and friend:
Early on I was impressed how Mark could get his workouts in and still have the balance to give back and enjoy Life. So much resolve and charisma in this man. When he worked for my firm he lived blocks away so we rode together constantly. Even though I was in great shape and though I thought I was Bad to the Bone, I didn’t last three weeks on his training program.
I felt no shame sitting on his hip for 15-mile pulls in the headwind on Coast Highway. We forged a tight bond there, a trust that never flinched and always rolled over to race day. We raced as teammates from here to Wisconsin to Mexico, and made a lot of friends on the way with whom we still share laughs and unpurgeable memories.
“Here’s a cycling champion motor pacing me, the climber.”
“I knew at an early stage in our brotherhood, that the diva Mark Scott was a closer with the bite of a tiger shark and and the patience of Abraham and the generosity of a saint.”
“Many people have never seen ‘Brian’s Song,’ but I love Pic in that movie. Mark is a is a cinematic giant like the James Caan character, or that genuine earth shaker and world beater Cool Hand Luke.”
“Mark is oh so silky on the bike.”
“He’s generous and he has the secret, like a CSN song, his message is to love the one you’re with.”
“He doesn’t give a fuck about credit and relishes the hard work, the sweat the grit required to deliver optimal performance.”
“Work is his religion.”
“He’s not a cheater he’s a grinder with a sapphire smile, and if yf you moan about the burdens, the superficial loads of crap that everybody steps in, and you get too wordy about it all making no sense he may sorta brush the dander off the airspace and simply suggest, ‘Davie, you think ya might be over-thinking this thing?’ To which we pause and know … He’s right.”
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August 17, 2015 § 16 Comments
I got this email over the weekend and it made me smile.
Good morning Master Sensei Seth-san!
I was out riding this morning and after being motivated by a lady that I briefly chatted with at the Hawthorne light, I hoped to connect at some point on your Sea Beans ride and actually buy you and the others a coffee. However, I got waylaid and detoured on my journey and never saw you.
More importantly than buying you a java, I wanted to thank you for the impact you have made to me personally and are making in the biking community, maybe even unbeknownst to you. Waiting for the light to change, a lady and her friends pulled up next to me, and after I said “Good morning!” she asked me in an almost reverent tone if I knew Seth Davidson. I said yes, and that I loved your writing, and she said she reads your blog every morning and worries about something happening to you if you don’t write! That’s quite an impact! She will never race but she was definitely feeling the stoke of being out there.
As I rode away lost in my own thoughts, and having a Lukas Nelson song “You Were Always On my Mind” rattling around, I started thinking how you are on my mind on many of my own rides, and how many people you touch and how positive your influence has been in the biking community. I know I will never half-wheel anyone ever again, and when someone does it to me, I immediately think of your Lesson One to me years ago…and try to even up and tell them about the concept!
Sorry for the long rambling email, but I wanted to thank you for being you! I hope to see you out on the road again soon, and buy you a cup or chat a bit, but know you are there riding with me many times when I don’t see you!
It’s true that we never know exactly who is watching, or reading, or listening, and kind emails like this remind me at least to keep the “fucks” to a minimum!
2015 South Bay Cycling Award Nominees Announced
“Everyone Wants a Wanky”
Nominees were announced on Facebag over the weekend, and the Internet, although not completely broken, was forced to limp along for a day or so. There was a fair amount of sore-assedness, but a much greater amount of enjoyment and hilarity and fun, which, as one writer noted, is the point of the whole thing. Those looking for a nomination process that is fair, balanced, apolitical, and legitimate should definitely look elsewhere. So, here they are:
Date: October 17, 2015
Location: New facilities of the Strand Brewing Co., 2201 Dominguez Street, Torrance, CA 90501
Guest of Honor: Steve Tilford (just annihilated the field at Leadville to win his division with a time that bested many of the top riders in all categories)
2015 South Bay Cycling Hall of Fame Inductees: To be announced
List of Nominees
- 2015 Greatest Advocate: Michael Norris, Jim Hannon, Eric Bruins, Daniel Holloway, Greg Seyranian, Phil Keoghan, Kevin Phillips, Rahsaan Bahati, Chris Lotts, Don Ward, Marilyn Sonye, Gary Cziko, Martin Howard
- 2015 Best Bike Shop: Safety Cycle, Helen’s, Ted’s Manhattan Beach Cycles, Peyton Cooke, Sprocket Cycles, Smith’s Cycle, Win’s Wheels, Bike Palace, Penuel Bicycles, Cynergy Cycles
- 2015 Best Young Rider: Diego Binatena, Jules Gilliam, Sam Warford, Summer Phillips, Makayla MacPherson, Ivy Koester, Wulfgang Lochmiller, Tyler Fradkin, Sean Burkitt, Noah Schlosser
- 2015 Best Old Rider: George Pommel, David Mack, Ron Malloy, William Buckley, Greg St. Johns, Tim Gillibrand, Jim Heise, Vicki Van Os Castaldi, Leo Longo, Michael Hines, Marc Spivey, Jim Bowles, Jeff Beeson, Gil Dodson, Jon Stark, Greg Leibert, John Walsh
- 2015 Most Improved: Dan Kroboth, Michelle Landes, Arik Kadosh, Keishawn Blackstone, Paul Foley, Hani Freudenberger, William Alique, Patrizia Richardson, James Cowan, Charity Chia, Langdon Taguiped, Tyler Fradkin, David Holland, Francis Hardiman
- 2015 Best Club: Big Orange, Velo Club La Grange, Beach Cities Cycling Club, Bahati Foundation, PV Bike Chicks, South Bay Wheelmen, SPY-Giant-RIDE, Long Beach Freddies, Ironfly
- 2015 Best Event: Belgian Waffle Ride, 805 Series, CBR Series, Brentwood Grand Prix, Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, South Bay Cycling Awards, Telo, Flog Ride, Dave Jaeger’s French Toast Ride
- 2015 Wanker of the Year: Brad House, Seth Davidson, James Cowan, Chris Tregillis, Stathis Sakellariadis, David Perez, Jon Budinoff, Patrick Brady, Marc Spivey, Shon Holderbaum
- 2015 Belgian Award: Phil Tinstman, Thurlow Rogers, James Cowan, Jon Davy, Michael Marckx, Michael Hines, Dave Jaeger, Stathis Sakellariadis, Gavin Hoover, Marcel Hoksbergen, Mark Neumann, Jonathan Paris
- 2015 Group Ride Champion: Stathis Sakellariadis, Aaron Wimberley, Diego Binatena, Cory Williams, Craig Leeuwenburgh, Michael Norris, Cameron Khoury, Joe Yule
- 2015 Best Sponsor: Strand Brewing Co., SPY Optic, Surf City Cyclery, Basso Bikes, Bahati Foundation, Hot Wheels, Bike Effect, Chevron, Samsung, StageOne, Reback McAndrews & Kjar, GQ6, RIDE Cyclery
- 2015 Best Male Racer: Phil Tinstman, Cory Williams, Greg Leibert, Charon Smith, Rudy Napolitano, David Miller, John Walsh, Derek Brauch, Pischon Jones, Sergio Hernandez, Kevin Phillips, Aaron Wimberley, Scott Crawford, Daniel Holloway, Rahsaan Bahati
- 2015 Best Female Racer: Suzanne Sonye, Emily Georgeson, Shelby Reynolds, Priscilla Savord, Kristabel Doebel-Hickock, Meagan Jones, Robin Kaminsky, Peta Takai, Marilyne Fichant, Tiffany Meyers
- 2015 GC Award: Daniel Holloway, Diego Binatena, Greg Leibert, Rudy Napolitano, Craig Leeuwenburgh, Justin Warfield, Aaron Wimberley, Rahsaan Bahati, Robert Efthimos, Phil Tinstman
- 2015 Crashtacular Fred:Jay LaPlante, Chris Gregory, Dan Kroboth, Emily Georgeson, Pischon Jones , Michael Marckx, Marc Spivey, Chris Tregillis, Jim Bowles, Keith the Cruiser Dude, Robert Efthimos, Doug Peterson
- 2015 Strava KOM: Stathis Sakellariadis, Chris Tregillis, Brian Perkins, Tony Manzella, Oron Kotlizky, Lane Reid, Craig Hummer, James Cowan
- 2015 Most Happy to Help Others:Gerald Iacono, Craig Leeuwenburgh, Bob Spalding, Michael Norris, Rahsaan Bahati, David Wehrly, Gus Bayle, Michael Marckx, Casey Maguire, Marshall Perkins, Marc Spivey, Joel Elliott, Robert Frank, Eric Rodas, William Alique, Greg Seyranian, Jim Hannon, Michael Barraclough, Pablo Maida, Greg Leibert
- 2015 Most Fun: Gus Bayle, Joe Yule, Dan Cobley, Jay LaPlante, Joel Elliott, Peta Takai, Marvin Campbell, Sochin Lee, Chris Gregory, Michael Barraclough, Jonathan Paris, David Miller, Suzanne Sonye, Denis Faye
- 2015 Best Spouse/SO:Jessica Sharratt, Laura Martin, Julie Lansing, Debbie Hoang Efthimos & her parents, Jami Brauch, Rob Unversagt, Dexter Freudenberger, Carey Downs, Hani Freudenberger, Eric Richardson, Patrizia Richardson, Lynn, Jim & Nancy Jaeger, Jeanette Seyranian
- 2015 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year:Tony Manzella, Carlos Ristorcelli, Michael Hines, James Cowan, Stathis Sakellariadis, Chris Lotts, Craig Leeuwenburgh, Suzanne Sonye, Rahsaan Bahati, Aaron Wimberley, Phil Tinstman
And then for historical purposes, below is the list of winners from 2013 and 2014:
2013 Comeback of the Year: Greg Leibert
2013 Club of the Year: Big Orange
2013 Sponsor of the Year: SPY Optic
2013 Champion of the NPR: Eric Anderson
2013 Telo Champion: Aaron Wimberley
2013 Wanker of the Year: Brad House
2013 South Bay Hardwoman: Suzanne Sonye
2013 QOM: Kristabel Doebel-Hickock
2013 Strava Champion: Lane Reid
2013 Crashtacular Fred: John Walsh
2013 Junior of the Year: Diego Binatena
2013 Ride Animator: Josh Alverson
2013 Spouse or S/O of the Year: Yasuko Davidson
2013 Good Samaritan: Michael Norris
2013 Best Advocate: Jim Hannon
2014 Best Advocate: Eric Bruins
2014 Best Bike Shop: Peyton Cooke
2014 Best Young Rider: Diego Binatena
2014 Person Most Transformed by Cycling: Jonathan Paris
2014 Most Improved: Peta Takai
2014 Best Cycling Club: Wonton Heavy Industries, LLC (Robert Efthimos)
2014 Best Rider in Multiple Disciplines: Marilyne Fichante
2014 Wanker of the Year: Stathis Sakellariadis
2014 Best Promoter: SPY Optic
2014 NPR Champ: Eric Anderson
2014 Donut Champ: Derek Brauch
2014 Best Male Racer: Charon Smith
2014 Best Female Racer: Suzanne Sonye
2014 Best All-Around Rider: Robert Efthimos
2014 Crashtacular Fred Award: Not awarded because some chick with a broken arm ran up and snatched it. “I’m the crastactular Fred!” she said, so we gave it to her.
2014 Most of Life Wasted on Strava: Lane Reid
2014 HTFU Award: Phil Tinstman
2014 Larger than Life Award: David Perez
2014 Best Spouse/SO: Sherri Foxworthy
2014 Ian Davidson South Bay Rider of the Year: Kevin Phillips
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August 16, 2015 § 12 Comments
Yesterday we rode, and Hans had big plans. Rather, he had one big plan: Beat down the old man. A scoring system was set up: ten climbs, one point per climb. Hans had a big dinner, went to bed early, and got up at six for our seven o’clock departure.
Hans never gets up at six.
“We’ll grab breakfast halfway through,” I said.
“It’s always hard to get re-started after a big midway meal, but it will be tasty and fun.”
“Okay!” he said again, with a funny grin.
We dropped down Silver Spur and headed to Malaga Cove for Climb #1, the PVDN-Flog Ride Climb. He hung back and wasn’t even trying. Weird, since the climbing contest had been his idea. Halfway up the climb I sat up. He came up to me, happy and chatty. “Okay,” I thought, “he’s changed his mind and it’s just going to be a cruise-along day.” I was kind of tired anyway.
Same thing for Climb # 2, the Cove Wall. En route to Climb #3, the Lunada Bay Alley, we got passed by a baby seal all kitted out. The baby seal got a good ways ahead. Something was grinding on Hans. “Hey, Dad,” he said.
“Can I go get that guy?”
“Sure!” I said.
He unleashed a 1,500-watt flat pedal pop and I barely got on. The baby seal was bludgeoned over the head, skinned, and tossed in the front yard of a $10-million mansion. “Okay,” I thought. “Game on.”
On Climb #3 he hardly even tried.
Climb #4, Millionaire’s Row, he soft pedaled.
On Climb #5, Via Zumaya, the only animation he showed was when we stopped to take off our shirts and were passed by a brace of seals. (Note to reader: riding a bike on a hot day without a shirt is the best.) We remounted, clubbed, and continued to the top.
The best part of the ride happened next, and it never happens on “serious” rides. We stopped at the cafe in Malaga Cove and each had a bacon-cheese-egg breakfast burrito.
Climb #6 was the Golf Course Climb. “Man, that was good,” I said. “But my legs feel like they’re filled with sand now.”
“Really?” he said.
“I can barely pedal,” I said at the bottom of the climb. I reached for my water bottle. As the nipple touched my lips I heard a sound and saw a blur. 1500 watts and he was gone.
“You fucker!” I cursed, jamming the bottle into the cage. I came around the hairpin and he was a tiny dot, but I could see him crouched over the bars, digging deeper than a bad cavity.
I gave it all I had, everything. He was starting to sway and had slowed noticeably. He looked back and saw me gaining. As we approached the summit he beat the pedals with his tennis shoes and gave it one last lunge, taking me by a wheel.
“That was the sneakiest, lowest, back-stabbingest bit of doucherie I’ve seen since the last time I raced Chris Hahn,” I said.
“Thanks!” he said, happy as could be. “I knew you’d like it.”
And I did.
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August 15, 2015 § 10 Comments
There are a handful of people who regularly shoot local bike races, consistently delivering off-the-hook imagery, for money.
We call them professionals.
Danny Munson, Brian Hodes, Kristy Morrow, Phil Beckman … it’s a small club. Yet the work of these photographers in an age when everyone can take a thousand snapshots with a smartphone, one of which will be worth keeping, stands out.
Phil is at almost every race, carrying 4,000 pounds of camera gear, consistently delivering the goods, and what’s more, he always has a word for me as I’m getting dropped, coming off the back, quitting, falling off my bicycle, or wiping away the tears. So I called him up on Monday after checking out his website, PBCreative.
CitSB: How long have you been a photographer?
Phil Beckman: I started dabbling with my Dad’s cameras in high school, and since I raced moto, I took cameras to races and shot occasionally between races. That was in the mid-70’s.
CitSB: Around the time they invented dirt?
CitSB: Then what?
PB: I graduated from high school and went into photographic technology in college, it was a major that prepared you for a darkroom career, and since the last place I wanted to spend my life was in a room, or in the dark, I moved to California in 1981 looking for light, wide open spaces, and for my dream job of being staff editor at a moto mag. I immediately found the position, it was amazingly lucky, and learned a lot about photography and writing. I was a photojournalist for ten years in the 80’s.
CitSB: Oh, so you’re one of those camera guys who, you know, actually had a job in the media and was trained as a journalist.
PB: I guess you could say that.
CitSB: Instead of just buying some shit on eBay and shooting your cousin’s wedding and boom, becoming a pro?
PB: There was no eBay then.
CitSB: Oh. Right. Then what?
PB: The magazine was focused on ATV’s, which weren’t my thing, I was a two-wheeler guy. The the 3-wheeler safety issues came to light and the direction of magazine couldn’t handle it, and it folded.
CitSB: Worst communist liberal plot ever.
PB: What’s that?
CitSB: Taking away the freedom of foreign and domestic corporations to manufacture, sell, and promote vehicles that killed or horribly maimed people. But The Donald’s gonna fix that, you’ll see.
PB: Um, okay.
CitSB: What happened next?
PB: The Mac appeared in 1987 and turned me around with the desktop publishing revolution, I lasted ten years on the forefront of that. I went out on my own in 1989 doing self-publishing, writing, and layout for clients from my moto days. I did dealer communication pieces for twenty years, how-to guides for Suzuki and other major corporate clients.
CitSB: I still want to hear about how you scooped up a bunch of shit on eBay, shot your cousin’s wedding and became a pro photographer. That’s how it’s done, right?
PB: Everything changed with the Great Recession in 2008. Power sports took a dive and Suzuki laid off half their office in Brea, senior management left without work after a whole career with the firm, it was ugly. But it pointed me back to photography. I couldn’t see anything else I wanted to do and my wife was so supportive—we celebrated our 30 year anniversary in October—and I decided to make photography in business.
CitSB: So you shot your own anniversary and turned pro?
PB: If you want to put that in, I can see you’re dying to say that, go ahead.
CitSB: Well if I say it then it’s me making shit up. You have to say it.
PB: (Sighs.) So I shot my own wedding anniversary and turned pro.
CitSB: After buying a bunch of gear on eBay.
PB: … after buying a bunch of gear on eBay.
CitSB: That is so awesome. Shows how anyone can be a pro photographer. My reader is going to love this. Then what?
PB: So much had changed in photography with the switch to digital. The principles are the same and techniques are the same,but it’s a whole different world on the equipment and processing side.
CitSB: I always wondered how you guys dipped these digital cameras in developing fluid without gumming up the works.
PB: Actually, we don’t use darkroom chemicals for digital cameras.
CitSB: Then what?
PB: I had picked up bicycling as training for moto because it was quick and easy training, and it was on two wheels. I got serious about cycling in the 90’s, getting burned out on racing moto. I first did MTB then road, and did a lot of crit racing and have the scars to prove it. I was a solid time trialist, but otherwise pack fodder 20 years.
CitSB: Oh, brother. Not another one of those “I used to race” wankers. Pin on a number, bro.
PB: Well, I got a nerve injury in a ‘cross race 2009 and haven’t been able to ride since then. I can’t sit on a bicycle anymore.
CitSB: Cry me a river. Race on a fuggin’ recumbent. That would be rad. Then what?
PB: I got my BFA at CSU Fullerton, with an emphasis on graphics. Now I primarily shoot bike races. I was doing some moto earlier but now it’s strictly bicycles. I personally love wildlife, nature, and macro photography.
CitSB: I hate to get personal, but how the fugg do you make money off cyclists? They are the cheapest, thievingest, most worthless bunch of deadbeats alive.
PB: That’s not the case with photos. My primary market is the riders at the races, and even though I’m getting more business to the brands selling photos of the heroes if I have the right image, 90% is from the riders, and I profoundly appreciate their support. Without them I’d be doing something else, and the “something else” would be grim. It’s the riders in SoCal that are letting me live my dream, and pay the bills while doing it.
CitSB: Hmmm. Most of the racers I know steal pictures like a klepto in a supermarket run by blind people.
PB: In one sense of course the business end is hard. The business and marketing end is way harder than the shooting. I try to market and earn new business and clients, but the shooting is the fun part. The weather can be a challenge, especially the heat. Still, I love being out in the middle of nowhere just hanging out waiting for riders.
CitSB: A few years ago every bike race had twelve people each with $50,000 in camera gear. Now it’s basically you, and occasionally Danny Munson. What’s up with that?
PB: Some of the bike photo boom was people like me getting laid off looking for something else to do. It seems like easy work. “I like to take pictures,” …
CitSB: “And I shot my cousin’s wedding … ”
PB: Right. So there was a lot of price undercutting for shoddy work taking away business from the veterans. It’s easy to buy a camera and hard to make money off of it. The competition is very difficult. The prevalence of smartphone photography has skyrocketed so now everyone’s a photographer. But ultimately if you’re looking for a really good picture that captures a certain thing at a certain time in a certain way, you’re going to need a professional with the right tools and the right skills to deliver it. There will always be a market for the best, it’s just a bit harder and perhaps more competitive.
CitSB: Anything else?
PB: There’s no way I could have even ventured out without my wife’s support. It’s been three years, and she’s as solidly behind me as she was from day one.
CitSB: Do you have any photos I can post on my blog for people to shamelessly steal?
PB: I’ll send you a few.
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