In 2016 I built two bikes for long distance touring. Iceland was our original plan, so durability was the first deciding factor in many decisions. I had decided that we should go tubeless, but this proved to be a problem. Here is my correspondence with WTB, the tubeless-ready rim manufacturer I chose.
I had wanted to go tubeless for touring, and there aren’t too many options when you are using rim brakes. I chose your ChrisCross i19. Every choice in the wheelsets (2 of) was meticulous and aimed at reliability, using DT Swiss Alpine III spokes, Deore rear and SP-Dynamo front hubs.
On the first day of our tour (also our honeymoon, from Budapest to Assisi) we both suffered rear blowouts. Blowouts as in we were going down a hill pretty fast, and the back tyres exploded off the rims with no warning. Skidding to a stop obviously damaged the rims and probably the tyres. Had the fronts blown, then we may have spent the rest of our honeymoon in hospital, but thankfully we were able to avert accident. I now have very little trust in tubeless and in WTB. The rims come with no information or limitations, and there are no warnings on the internet. The tyres are rated for 60-90psi, and we started with 60 rear and 40 front.
I consider the Chriscross i19 rims to be unfit for purpose, and cannot recommend that anyone use them.
The i19 caused considerable discomfort and worry for several days following the incident. I would also emphasise that I invested many hours of research into rim choice and tubeless for touring, which could have been averted had I gone with standard touring rims. Between research and build, the wheelsets are probably worth around 70 man-hours plus parts. Of further note is the fact that the i19 were pretty hard to set up as tubeless, as the bead well is of a shape that does not seal well with standard conical tubeless valves, and the join seems to leak (as in it is possibly not welded), and sealant still bubbles out of the rims during inflation with tubes, a couple of months after the tour! I also had to ream and remove loose material from many of the spoke holes.
Had I not been after a tubeless setup, I could have settled on one of many tried and trusted touring rims with eyelets, lower weight and RRP.
Aside from the time and money wasted, I feel that this product has caused us significant danger and distress and that we should be compensated. I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.
Tobias, I’m very sorry to hear you are facing some issues with our ChrisCross rims. It is very unusual as these were strictly designed for tubeless usage, we sold load of these rims all around the world and we never received a similar claim for them.
We all here are riders, and do not sell products we do not fully trust in, so to identify what might cause your problems I will need more details from you.
Tobias, could you please confirm, what rim strip or tape you used and also what tyres you put on.
The rim tape used was Tesa 4289 (Stan’s Yellow), 25mm. Valves were RSP, which I ended up supplementing with a fatter o-ring on the inside to seal better. Sealant was Stan’s.
Tyres fitted were Vittoria Voyager Hyper (folding), 37-622. I had wanted to use Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, but there was no UK stock. Since one of my colleagues has been running the Voyager Hypers tubeless on his Stan’s Iron Cross with now issues, I figured the only issue would be pressure loss through the sidewalls.
You are using our ChrisCross TCS rim. These rims require to use WTB TCS 24mm rim tape to provide optimum mounting, fit and seating of UST (Universal System Tubeless) or WTB TCS (Tubeless Compatible System) tyres for tubeless use or standard ERTRTO/ISO tyres for use with tube. It’s necessary to completely cover the spoke holes, inner rim well and rim joint to ensure a secure, uniform air-tight, tubeless performance.
You used Tesa 4289, which is not that wrong, but 25mm width, might caused you troubles to stick it properly and therefore your rim was leaking sealant through the join (We use sleeved joint (cold joint) for ChrisCross rims, as it is much stronger than the welded one and much lighter than pinned one). Here’s video manual, how to tape it properly. It is very simple process: https://vimeo.com/61829564. Once it’s done this way, your rim is perfectly airtight.
The second issue here are tyres.
TCS rims (including ChrisCross rims) are designed to be used tubeless with TCS or UST certified tyres, or with ETRTO/ISO certified tyres, but with tube. The main reason is, that TCS and UST standards has much tighter tolerances to guarantee perfect tyre/rim fit. By converting ISO/ETRTO standardized tyres to the tubeless you are risking that the tyre can burp of the rim (ETRTO/ISO standardized tyres have slightly bigger bead diameter and also different bead shape), which can cause serious injury as you pointed below.
You are using standard, tube type kevlar bead Vittoria tyres, which were not designed for Tubeless usage, but for tube usage. They might work with Stan’s rims, due to bigger diameter of the Stan’s rims, but it’s not guaranteed.
Simply put: Stan’s rims have a larger D1 dimension than allowed under ETRTO (which uses the UST dimension standards for tubeless, and which dimensions are in ETRTO). They use larger D1 diameter, as they wanted to allow to fit standard tube type kevlar bead tyres.
I’m sure this information will help you to get familiar with TCS or UST products. You are using very high end components on your bike, it would be a shame to return to the tubes (please just make sure your tyres are marked by TCS or UST logo). I understand your doubts, especially when your “tubeless’ start was that bad, but It seriously reduces the risk of puncture and flatting, when it’s used properly.
I didn’t have any problem getting the tape to seal. 0.5mm either side with something like 180 micron tape, double layered is really only the thickness of the tape over the recommended width. I think my issue with leaking was around the valve. I bought a pair of Roval valves, which are more similar to UST valves in shape, but got the wheels to seal well enough before I fitted them.
What you are suggesting about the rim’s bead seat diameter is plausible, however:
A: it is relatively standard practice to “ghetto” tubeless on mountain bikes, either using non-tubeless tyres on tubeless rims, or even non-tubeless rims and tyres. I’ve heard of burping, but never heard a report of a tyre fully blowing off a rim without a loss of pressure beforehand.
B: WTB rims come with no instructions, no warnings, no assembly guides, and there is no online help. This suggests that they have no limitations or compatibility issues.
C: TCS is a WTB specific system, and has a limited range mostly of MTB tyres. No supple road or touring tyre.
D: UST is a system that Mavic designed for MTB, and as such there are only a few tyres designed for the system, as far as I am aware they are all MTB tyres too.
So as a cyclocross/touring rim, I would expect the ChrisCross i19 to be compatible with any tyre that any other rim is comfortable with. The general understanding amongst the mechanics I work with is that Tubeless Ready tyres are more airtight and have a smoother bead, but otherwise are the same as their non-tubeless cousins, and therefore only a luxury, not a necessity.
If the tyres are indeed the reason for our problem, then I feel that the rims should have come with a clear warning that it is not recommended they be used tubeless with non UST/TCS tyres at risk of them causing danger and injury. This warning would have to be both on the rim and the website, as a pre-sales warning.
Vittoria Voyager Hyper is not a tubeless tyre and should not be run that way on any TCS or UST rim. WTB does have the Exposure 30 and 34 tyres if you wish to run tubeless. Problem with non-TCS or non-UST tyres is that the beads are almost always too large in diameter. To add to the effect when running fully loaded bike on long descent you generate a tremendous amount of heat the rim that can cause an oversized tyre to blow off the rim.
This “ghetto” tubeless practice is wrong and very dangerous as you could see. Assuming that every non-standard part one puts on his bike and it will work perfectly is potentially going to get hurt him.
Following international standards is the only right way to guarantee the safety.
Tobias, all user manuals are here: http://www.wtb.com/pages/resources, including the info about Tube Type rims and TCS rims.
I’m just trying to show you, that we at WTB do whatever we can to keep our riders safe and the only way to do it is to follow standards, not just say it’s “tubeless ready” with no certain diameters and tolerances.
I understand your point of view, but I am sure you are aware of a plethora of guides from established and respected sources recommending tubeless setup with non-tubeless parts… for example https://youtu.be/mH1O2W7E_wQ
I still feel that the WTB site should have a very visible warning stating that the rims should not be used with non TCS or UST tyres. I have previously searched at length to find thais guide https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0202/9884/files/TCS_WTB_Rim_Users_Manual.pdf?842393167070827044
and even now that I have it, finding the relevant part of the text is not straightforward. I don’t think it clearly condemns the use of non TCS/UST tyres. It does mention the need for accurate spoke tension, but does not provide a guide chart. Before building I did attempt to find tension guides, and tried to contact WTB for this.
I understand that WTB tries to do what you can to keep riders safe, but when the site does not easily provide warnings, and parts don’t come with warnings before mechanics build, riders will probably be unaware that they are doing anything risky.
Tobias, well, yes, there’s tons of videos or manuals, how to convert tube type rims to tubeless, but it does not mean it’s right. Tube type rims has different rim well profile, usually completely miss bead locks, so yes, there are ways how to convert that, but it’s wrong. As well as tube type rims are not designed for tubeless use, as we discussed previously.
Brands should follow international standards, that’s the only way how to guarantee perfect compatibility. Without that, you never know the diameters, tolerances, basically nothing. Unfortunately, not everybody does that. We do. So perhaps your question could be addressed to Vittoria too, why they do not put warnings on their tyres, that tube type should not be used tubeless.
Tobias, I do not want to sound bad, we have it very clear in the manuals, but we are also listening you, I agree with you we could make it more visible and easier to find. We’ll work on this with our marketing team and probably list this info next to each rim, not only to the resources section.
Long gone is the time when the customer was always right.
Evidence would suggest that the tubeless trend is still not market-ready. Similarly to how tubular tyres may only be suitable for professional use (with tubs glued by experienced mechanics, not by me, not taped as they can apparently roll off a rim), tubeless appears to be a mixture of prayer and jerry-rigging.
I was hoping that—as a respectable American company—WTB would offer replacement rims since I still consider the danger and error to be their responsibility. Sadly however I was offered a series of explanations which are easily interpreted as accusations and excuses.
I spent several hours looking for the manuals on the WTB site. I am not joking. I could not find them at the time, through Google nor link clicking on the site.
In principle, tubeless tyres are the way forward. In practice I am still extremely skeptical. A friend and fellow mechanic had his road-tubeless tyre blow off a Stan’s rim shortly after my experience, and he was using Stan’s tape and a tubeless road tyre. Some people don’t have issues, but sadly I think these people are just lucky.
Furthering my stance, videos on tubeless conversion from
Park Tool https://youtu.be/MuEiBSAKWLI
MBR magazine https://youtu.be/mH1O2W7E_wQ
Glory Cycles https://youtu.be/-AqDCaHKTeQ
In fact, the only video or set of instructions which suggests strict compatibility is Hutchinson https://youtu.be/mBa88zZossE
In 2015 I embarked on a project at The Bike Station, to create an extension of Dr Bike, attempting to empower the general public and demystify the technicality of bicycle maintenance. Sound familiar? Demystification is something I have been into for a while, though I hadn’t really taken it into the realm of infographics before. The 2015 media was printed as 3 distinct Z-Cards which worked well, but lacked the media push to make them truly public.
This year we decided to revamp the Z-Cards adding a fourth, for symmetry. Professor Chris Oliver, Scotland’s premier hand surgeon and epic ambassador supreme of cycling social media and the link between science, medicine, politics and enjoyment, offered his support in writing material for the 4th pamphlet, in exchange for being able to share the media with his 17.3k Twitter followers. A pretty good deal all round.
Downloadable versions of the printed material are here: drbike1 drbike2 drbike3 drbike4 And on The Bike Station’s website. The printed material will be available from The Bike Station’s 15th birthday (and having recycled over 50 000 bikes), this coming Saturday 22/10/16.
Breaking these into around 40 Twitter friendly infographics has opened the possibility for the media to be expanded gradually, and my next additions will add a series on “family friendly” cycling – trainers vs balance bike, kid’s seats, trailers etc… And addressing different aspects of comfort on the bike, possibly with some tips from Douglas Shaw at Edinburgh Bike Fitting. Saddles, their differences and their comfort. Underlying physical imbalances. Ape-factor (relationship between upper body and lower body length) and how this can often leave you with a bike that is too big… I think there is a lot that can be put into writing and shared with #DrBike which will help people understand things that will help improve their experience of cycling and – in the long run – bring more active business to the industry.
I’ve been thinking about why I have not been taking many pictures. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years, and I’ve been not taking many pictures for more than a couple of years. I worry that I will lose skill, and by skill I mean familiarity with equipment and fluidity of technique, and yet this worry is not working as an impetus to shoot more. And now, with the imminent relocation to Tempe (USA), I do also need to think about what equipment I may need, what I should take with me.
Today, after work, I was tending to some maintenance and thinking. Something earlier triggered a memory.
In 2012 I went to see a performance with Poppy and Maïté, Songs of Lear by Song of the Goat Theatre at Summerhall. The performance destroyed me! It took me through all emotions, leaving me in tears after having fallen in love and lost everything during the performance. I think I went back two more times, and told all my friends to go, none of whom ever commented. I went through the same experience each time, being dragged through emotions, leaving in tatters. I concluded that everything I did was devoid of meaning, because I could never evoke that kind of emotion in anyone. Nothing I could do would ever have that kind of power.
Shortly after that experience I went on to do my residency at Soup Lab, and produced Tray – an emotionally challenging residency, working on a narrative I had been wanting to develop for years (Struwwelpeter), which became quite a dark series, bordering on deep self-mockery.
Two years later Song of the Goat returned to Edinburgh with Return to the Voice. Naturally I had to go, and take Lauren. The performance was in St Giles Cathedral, I was excited and apprehensive. What I experienced was what I’m used to: I was not moved nor transported. It was a decent piece of method acting mixed with music. And as that it is reasonably unique, as I have never seen another production company which uses method acting in musical theatre. But there was nothing more. I had no emotional response. Another of Grzegorz Bral’s creations, and Monika Dryl was just a proficient performer. I didn’t fall in love. I didn’t cry.
And now I realise that the greatness I’d felt two years previous was tied directly to my emotional state. Yes it was a good piece of theatre, but feeling that nothing I could ever do can rival something that—in a different frame of mind—is nothing incredible, may actually be the reason why I have not been taking many photographs. Nothing artistic is explicit.
Going out on a long road ride is exceedingly good fun. Pedalling at pleasurable speeds is infinitely easier than it would be on a touring bike, however the touring bike does offer the convenience of being able to carry anything you might ever need on that day-ride (and no, a backpack is not an option for me, if it can be avoided). The usual solution to the problem is to use a small saddle bag to carry tools and emergency supplies, and to shove some food and spare clothing into your jersey pockets.
I went out for a lovely “two bridges” loop yesterday (100km, over the Forth Road Bridge and the Kinkardine Bridge, via the Kelpies, Bo’Ness and back) with almost empty jersey pockets. I managed to fit my rain jacket, tools, charger, a spare tube, a giant sandwich, some munchies and I even added a pack of wet wipes to it before leaving. The Alpkit Kowari is indeed the perfect size for day rides, and its made in the UK!
My only criticism is that the main strap, which wraps around it holding the bag onto the saddle rails, is a bit shorter than I’d like, making it very hard to fit the bag to the bike after its been packed. Apart from that, my stuff stayed dry, and the bag did not flap nor rattle, and certainly didn’t fall off. Thankfully I didn’t need any of the emergency supplies either.
I don’t remember how I came across the Indiegogo campaign, but it excited me and unlike all the other fundraisers I’d seen. I got my wallet out. I received the saddle almost a year ago and, for one or another reason, never got round to testing it before yesterday.
The design appeals to my ethics of trying to keep things as simple as possible. It is minimalist in its engineering and its aesthetic. The thought that went into solving an issue was concise and the solution is simple. We are beginning to see more of this cottage-industry lead by users (Morgaw was started by retired professional riders), but usually this leads to goods which are not refined because they are not developed within a network of people who know what they are doing.
What makes Morgaw saddles different is the fact that they have an elastomer link between the rails and the shell, and that this elastomer block can be changed to suit rider weight. The shell is relatively ordinary, with a moulded fibre reinforced plastic shell and an in-mould bonded pad/cover. The elastomer blocks are bolted onto the base, and the interchangeable rails then bolt into the blocks. I have the aluminium rails (the carbon ones cost a little more), which make for a 200g saddle. Unlike many saddles, the rails sit perfectly horizontal with the top of the shell, which is something I rather like from an aesthetic standpoint. In fact, the whole stack height of the saddle is around 45mm, which is slimmer than most.
There are a couple of potential issues: the oval rails mean that you probably can’t mount a Morgaw saddle on a seatpost which has side clamps, like those on Trek/Bontrager posts. During the Indiegogo campaign Morgaw was offering a seat post which did have side clamps designed for these rails and may have been compatible with other posts, however they are not currently offering these (and changing clamps would only be necessary on a bike which has a proprietary post, like many carbon offerings). The other issue is partly why I waited so long to test the saddle: the rails don’t accept the mounts for Ortlieb nor Rixen & Kaul equipped saddle bags, which meant that I didn’t want to take it on a long ride (almost no space between the rails and the shell). I was given an Alpkit Kowari for my birthday which uses straps rather than a clip, so I was able to take it out.
I took it for a 5h (100km) ride with 700m of ascent, on my newly built 1977 (steel of course) Emperor Sport, fitted with 25c Continental Gatorskins at around 80psi. The ride was mostly on tarmac with many rough sections, but also included a reasonable amount of gravel and mud. My bum didn’t hurt in the slightest, and I was pleased to find the ride to be very compliant. The non-scientific nature of my test is highlighted by the fact that it was the maiden ride of the entire build, so my first time on the frame, and my first time on the Felt UH Carbon seat post.
The saddle is comfortable. The shape seems to fit similarly to a Fizik Arione, despite being wider and flatter. The flatness did worry me as I really didn’t get along well with a Bontrager Paradigm RL that I’d bought last summer, which seemed to have a less of a curve to it than the Arione. The shape of the nose on the Forsage does allow for a lot of fore/aft movement, which meant that I was able to comfortably slide forward and tuck in whilst trying to keep up with traffic on the A904, without feeling any discomfort.
The current price point of the Morgaw range (around £100) puts it in an area full of high end competition, though the competition which I find as exciting from a design and innovation perspective are the Brooks C17 and Fabric ALM, both of which cost roughly twice as much. I am glad that I supported Morgaw’s entry to the market (they are distributed in the UK by Ison), and thrilled that the saddle stands up to my hopes and expectations.
I don’t actually watch feature films that often. I seem to be hypercritical to the point that my suspension of disbelief can be thrown by a minor detail, and the film can loose me in an instant. But thanks to BA’s inflight entertainment, I chose to watch Mr Sherlock (pity, pity they couldn’t be bothered to get a script written, nor have a photograph made which looked vaguely authentic, when so much work went into the rest of the film. Spoilt by two rather important ‘features’), and Frears’ The Program.
Last year The Program (2015) was released, and I don’t recall hearing much of it. Frears was—I had thought—a respected director. My first perplexity was with the American spelling of the title of a British film, but I know, that is just one of my pedantic pet hates.
Frears would have been aware that in making a film about a hugely controversial person of recent history, who is the subject of many articles, books and documentaries, his own creation would be under strict scrutiny. He chose not to take the creative license of fully fictionalising the story ‘loosely based on the life of Lance Armstrong’, but rather went down the route of the docudrama.
My opinion of the film is that the writing is very poor, making the narrative feel rushed and compressed. It would have been more interesting to focus on a part of Armstrong’s life or career, and build characters well enough that some empathetic connection could be made: this seems to be a common shortcoming, as though it were impossible to direct the empathy of a viewer within a non-fiction narrative. Nonsense. Cinematography was half decent–the race footage was well crafted, though the use of two ‘artsy’ shots seemed out of place (one close wide-angle shot of the journalist under fire, one sunset backlit shot of Lance). Production design was very poor, with many inaccuracies which were clearly going to be shat on by the cycling community. Sound design was—let’s say—creative.
Three particulars which stood out for me were:
In the opening shot—an artsy slow-mo of Lance cycling up a hill—the chain noises were oddly in your face, synthetic and totally uncharacteristic of a racing bike. Lance was famed for his cadence and fluid pedal stroke, not a slow clickety-woosh, clickety-woosh. these sound effects were used consistently through the film, which could be viewed as a good or a bad thing.
So Lance gets cancer, then he pesters Dr Ferrari into making him a winning cyclist. I have no idea why everyone insisted on his name being Michela Ferrara. These scenes presented a shocking historical inaccuracy, as Lance was pedalling on a turbo trainer with Ferrari talking about what they would do: the bike on the turbo was shown clearly to have a Hollowtech II bottom bracket (detail shot), which Shimano launched in 2003, this scene would have happened around 1997-1998. The film chose to focus on Ferrari’s use of drugs to cheat a performance increase when he also found that Armstrong’s loss in muscle mass could be compensated for by using an increased cadence. Thanks to Ferrari’s insight, Armstrong was the first cyclist in the professional peloton to use a high cadence (over 90rpm) which is today’s norm. They did briefly touch upon USPS’ revolutionary team tactics (also standard today), but chose to leave these two important details in the shadows, rather than focusing on them, which could have been interesting.
An editing mistake which would have thrown anyone of a non-mechanical persuasion was the springboard of Armstrong’s first post-Ferrari stage win: he’s at the back of the peloton with the team car: the mechanic reaches round and (detail shot) tweaks the cable pull on his rear-mech, which then catapults Armstrong’s performance past everyone to the win. Really?
The film left me feeling much the same as I felt after seeing 127 Hours (2010): baffled by the lack of character development, and disappointed that the film didn’t even try to suspend my disbelief.
The new ‘thing’ that the UCI is into is ‘mechanical doping’. The term ‘doping’ is clearly used in the same fashion that one can be a ‘chocoholic’. Let’s assume this part of the recent story is humorous.
The past couple of weeks have brought us rumours of the UCI having discovered the first electrically enhanced bicycle at a cyclocross race, and then videos of officials ‘scanning’ a bicycle with a tablet computer have also appeared. Now, the facts are few: all that we really know is that the UCI may have lost the most important races of the season from ASO, the body who owns the Tour de France and some of the other pivotal road cycling events on the calendar. This may call for some PR stunts, might it not?
Firstly, detection of large batteries, motors and planetary gear systems in a plastic bicycle would be easily accomplished with a DIY shop stud finder like THIS one for £40. Also, road race bikes weigh between 6.8kg and 7.5kg: so if a rider turned up to a race with a bike that weighed 7.8kg, this would be silly. If a rider turned up with a bike that weighed 8.5kg you would have to wonder what was going on. I mean, high end steel bikes in the 1980s weighed less than 8kgs, so using scales would also be a fast way of detecting a suspicious bicycle at a race. Understand, UCI?
Back to the alleged ‘doping’. THIS is the video in question, which seems to provide the speculation on Fabian Cancellara.
Going back to the weight, the motor unit and its battery (VIVAX) weighs “just” 1.8kg, which is light for an e-bike system, but would put most racing bikes over 8kg. If you read BikeRadar’s review of the Gruber system, they also mention how noisy it is, so there is a good likelihood that another rider would hear the motor. Carbon bikes sound like a bit of paper being flapped, and don’t produce a high-pitch whine.
If it weren’t for the BikeRadar article, I speculated that these units may not actually exist. Most of the images available online are not of photographic origin, suggesting they may be non-existent prototypes. Might I also add that the BikeRadar article does say that it cannot be installed in a carbon frame. I shall get to this later.
I don’t think the videos show anything erratic in sufficient clarity with regards to Cancellara’s hand movements, which the narrator is suggesting implicate that he is pressing a button to activate the motor. The video is of sub-PAL resolution. What the video does show with reasonable clarity is that Cancellara’s body movement does not change from the way he was pedalling previously: in the second clip (5:20) on the cobbles in Flanders he is bobbing quite a lot, suggesting he is fatigued but pushing. When he shifts gear he increases cadence, and moves forward. I think that if you had an additional 200w (the rumoured advantage of these systems) he would stop bobbing and take a more composed pedal stroke, and also drop gears to slow his cadence.
A historical point is that EPO allegedly gave riders 1% increase in endurance (a figure I recall from some documentary, though this article is suggesting much more), which over a 4 hour race could be significant. Both Pantani and Armstrong would take off like Cancellara in those videos, and we know that taking off in that way is not 1%, but rather something like 40% for a minute or two. So that kind of acceleration should be within the human athletic ability, and not made possible by blood transfusion or taking drugs.
Back to the motors, I am also curious about the structure of these things. The BikeRadar article suggests that the seat-tube motors can’t be installed in carbon frames, and I can assume that this is because they do not have smooth tubular interiors. The motor is held in by two 4mm bolts, screwed in from either side of the frame. So these are visible fixings (UCI?). Also, for that gear to not slip, the whole motor shaft would need to be held rock solid in relation to the bottom bracket spindle: holding it by two bolts would mean that it would tend to flip fore/aft. I would suggest that to be functional these motors would need to be fixed solidly to the frame within the bottom bracket shell. The lack of actual photographs of these drive systems suggests, to me, that they are a conceptual prototype and don’t actually exist. But this is also speculative and contradicted by the BikeRadar article. Also, most of the images of the motors show oddly angled gears which—to my understanding—would tend to push the motor up, and possibly slip, rather than pulling it in to keep it from slipping.
My conclusion is that I am extremely skeptical. I think there is a high probability that the UCI is trying to gain ‘good’ PR in light of the quarrels with ASO. I think the motors would be too noisy to ride in a group without competitors being aware of them. I think that the weight of 1.8kg is pretty high, and am doubtful that it could actually deliver sufficient power to make this weight increase viable in the hands of the cycling elite. I am skeptical that these motor systems work as they claim, as the fixing system looks delicate and subject to engagement issues, especially within the large, boxy, tapered tubes of Cancellara’s Specialized bike. And finally, I don’t think Fabian Cancellara would actually take this kind of a risk. Not that I am a fan, nor foe, but I just don’t see it within him.
I’ve been using a method for testing shutter speeds is with a dSLR. This method only really works with really big shutters like the focal plane units in Graflex cameras. Extend the bellows (flip up the mirror if it’s an RB), take off the lens and any film back. stick your dslr on a tripod with its lens inside the bellows in the place of the lens board.
Point this assembly at something, turn off the lights and light that something and focus on it through the dSLR. Adjust your aperture on the dSLR to reflect the shutter speed that you are trying to test, and take a test shot with that speed on the dSLR. Then turn the dSLR’s shutter to 1″ and wind the Graflex’s shutter to that speed. Open shutter, fire Graflex’s shutter. Then compare.
I’ve found this method to be much easier than measuring an impulse and trying to compare microseconds to specific fractions of a second. On the dSLR you can look at a histogram approximate a percentage diffence in exposure. 10-20% is acceptable with black and white film.
I am having a show. New work loosely inspired by Star Wars, Cameo Cafe (Edinburgh), 6/12/15 to 16/01/16. The show is supported by New55.
I realise that my work is a study in calculated risks.
Following a theme and working to a deadline, shooting half the images outdoors in a particularly melancholy SCOTTISH AUTUMN, and choosing to work with 25 year old film, prototype New55, and WWII cameras and lenses has made this particularly obvious. And yet I always give myself handicaps. This is my way of making my work easier for myself. I am a perfectionist at heart, but find that the only way I can work freely is by working around issues and clawing back at chaos until I am satisfied that something is acceptable.
I love the fact that photography lets me touch upon the abstract with a means that can only mechanically reproduce a concrete reality. This is partly why I work with CHEMICAL rather than digital tools, as there are fewer opportunities to break the path of realism between subject and image. I choose to work with 4×5″ film and BIG BRIGHT LENSES because they are better at describing fiction than current designs, which are almost exclusively sold on the basis of sharpness and resolution. I had ten shots of New55 to produce eight images. I have one shot left.
I’ve been working with myself as my main subject for 20 years. This started due to availability of the model, and I have become interested in exploring my EGO AND INSECURITIES through the interpretation of abstract characters. This—in turn—feeds back as an excuse/motivation/inspiration to continue to produce work.
The long now and close to here… is loosely inspired by StarWars, seeking alien lands and faces within our nearby surroundings, and making FAMILIAR CHARACTERS out of close friends.
I chose to shoot the landscapes on rolls of FP4 220, forgetting they are about 25 years old. The developer I’ve been using for the past few months is a bottle of Rodinal that’s been precipitating its Hydroquinone. I’m working mostly with a Graflex Speed Graphic and a Sinar Zoom back to shoot the 6x12cm landscapes, and I had packed a Kodak Aero Ektar, Zeiss Tessar 165/2.7 and a Dallmeyer 12”/4.5 Telephoto in my backpack.
A compact 35mm camera would have given me all the resolution I need, but the relationship of scale between subject and film makes a big difference to the perspective of an image: my head is about twice the height of a sheet of (4×5”) film, yet around seven times the height of a 35mm negative. Most digital cameras have far smaller sensors than the 35mm format. My old lenses are generally uncoated, which means that they don’t have treatments that limit reflections between the glass elements inside the lens. Modern lens coatings increase fine detail and line-sharpness, which is not particularly useful when I am trying to persuade you that a grassy hill is a desert landscape. There is also the matter of depth of field, and the quality of things which are outside of it and out of focus. This is commonly referred to as bokeh. The Aero Ektar was designed for aerial reconnaissance in WWII, so it was designed to photograph a flat plane focussed at infinity. When I use it for a portrait, its depth of field is so shallow that it is often hard to get a whole face in focus, which means that my painted backdrop and a single houseplant can make a convincing forest on Endor.
You may wonder why I wouldn’t just do it in post. Working with digital image processing may offer many possibilities, but none of them are risks. Manipulating an image leaves little to chance, and little chance of something unexpected happening. You pretty much need to have a clear and literal vision of how something will look before starting. I simply don’t have the time nor the mental clarity to work this way. With too many options and iterations, I struggle to declare something finished.
I haven’t worked with New55 since before the Kickstarter campaign was funded. Though I was intimately involved in the early stages of the research to produce the film, it has been an entirely new experience to just open a box, load film, and have a print and negative in a handful of minutes. This was our goal, and it is magic. I had ten shots of New55 and needed to make eight portraits for the show. I have one left. It reminds me of when I saw Andrzej Zulawski talk about the making of The Third Part of the Night  here at the Cameo, and how he had to write ‘one take’ and ‘faster’ on each hand to make sure he could shoot the film.
I shot the Aberlady XT Class subs with a WWII German lens, though an American camera, onto British film.
This show is supported by New55 (www.new55.net)
and the Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh (@CameoCinema).
A while ago, as in a few years ago, I leant Ainslie a box of pocket watch parts which I had bought from Now and Then. A couple of years ago I gave him a light box. I haven’t seen Poppy in ages.
I love how Ainslie’s work keeps leaning towards showing the process as a fundamental part of the visual.
A few of you may know that I was the Production Designer on the 3rd series of the Ooglies, produced by Ko Lik Films for CBBC. Last night Ooglies won the BAFTA, which is fab, amazing, epic and swiiit!
If you are in the UK then you can watch Ooglies BBC iPlayer.
It’s always exciting to hear the post come through the door, and to find that I am in print, especially when it is such a fine publication as Shots magazine. The image was my homage to Neil Armstrong, shot on an SX-70 and Impossible Project’s Silver Shade (poor pod batch). As ever, Shots is a boost of inspiration, reminding me that I need to shoot more.
I took the portrait a few years ago now, so I can enjoy being a little bit removed from one of my images, and enjoy it serving its purpose.
Langdon has been a family friend since the beginning of time. I am told that his kids have like grown up and stuff, and are even tall and getting married, though I do find this hard to believe, as I’ve not seen them since they were probably about 10. But then again, Langdon has known me since I was probably about 10.
Technically, I don’t remember much about the shoot. Natural light, and shot on a Rolleicord. It is simply catalogued as part of my Portraits of Artists project.
The image is posted as part of this interview HERE.
Last year I had the privilege of being published in a beautiful hardcover compiled by Russell Joslin and published by Candela Books: BLACK FOREST. The volume is one of the most beautiful books I own, and I am in it, along with friends like Ellen Rogers and artists who were among my early heroes like Witkin and Arno Rafael Minkkinen.
2014 was a good year for my bibliography. The first book to hit a shelf in Italy was Il Corpo Solitario: l’Autoscatto nella Fotografia Contemporanea (The Solitary Body: Self-portraiture in Contemporary Photography) written by Giorgio Bonomi, published by Rubbettino Editore. Here I’m represented as FeltusFeltus, and on the same page as Pierre et Gilles.
“Another couple of artists who work as four hands are the FeltusFeltus brothers. More than together they appear alone, alternating their roles behind and in front of the camera. They enjoy creating environments of a historical nature, as though taken from cult-films, and always with a refined and classic elegance.”
A couple of weeks ago I was talking to Ross Hogg about the BAFTAs which Monkey Love Experiments had just lost. The conversation steered towards what is in essence the same discussion that architects and furniture designers often debate: whether form should religiously follow function or material attributes. Talking about a film the discussion becomes whether the technique chosen should complement the narrative (or the narrative influence the technique), or whether – as an animator – you just use your technique to tell any given story.
Ross’ work is very textural, and his approach is to start with a story, and then find the textures and techniques which will work to help the story to thrive. This allows his work to have a very intimate feel to it, even if the story is not personal. The thing that was amusing in our conversation was that he saw this as being the best approach, whereas I don’t see any problem with adapting a story to fit a technique. Problems arise when technique and product don’t have any logical link and – in fact – it would be more practical to make the product in a different way altogether. I think that Monkey Love Experiments is a good example of how techniques can be mixed to tell a story in a hyperreal manner. We were able to manipulate physical space through photography and editing, use live-action to tie the space and narrative down to known reality, and insert stop-motion animation into this setting, making Gandhi very alive.
In design, a good example of the marriage between form and function is what happened in the Bauhaus era with an example like Breuer’s B34 chair, a structure that could not have been made before the development of tubular steel and which expresses the material without any embellishment. Conversely unconnected designs are represented by most of what surrounds us today, as most products are decorative boxes styled by zeitgeist-trends to sell technology which an accountant and marketing manager have decided is what we are to be rationed, rather than what industry is capable of. Often what we think of as ‘good design’ today is something that is aesthetically neutral. Though Jonathan Ive’s Apple products look at home in Tadao Ando’s architecture, there is something infinitely more honest about making a statement with materials as the fabric of the design of a building. The design of electronic devices is ethically no different no steampunk styling.
I do get excited by hybrid workflows when they do add to what you are able to achieve. Around a year ago I commissioned Jared to make Lauren’s engagement ring: I knew he was the right person to take on the job because of his background working both with fine jewellery and with the machine-shop end of piercing jewellery. This was pertinent because the ring in question is a palladium cast of a cable-tie (or zip-tie) set with a diamond. It so happened that we were visiting his workshop when he was starting to experiment with an interesting workflow. He’d been commissioned to make a rather large ring, and had started building it in silver using traditional techniques, chasing, piercing and brazing from sheet material. But he was also experimenting with the jewellery package in Rhino 3d, and subsequently he had the ring ‘printed’ from wax: he was able to optimise the material thickness much more delicately than he had been able to in the traditionally made ring, which was exquisite when investment-cast: a technique that is more than 5000 years old. I think this is the first time that I have seen stereolithography (3d printing) used effectively as part of a process, rather than being used for the sake of its existence.
I have been asked if I had ever used stereolithography in any of my work, and I haven’t mainly because I have not seen a need for it, or a need that exceeded the tedium of creating a 3d model and getting the print made. Joseph and I had looked into it back in 2005 when we were working on Solo Duets, but found it to be more efficient to sculpt a portrait. Basically we wanted the puppet to be a portrait of Joseph, but at 1:6 scale. We’d even had a 3d mesh made of his face using what we were able to access, but I ended up just spending a couple of evenings sculpting a bit of clay, as computers of the era didn’t seem capable of handling the 6 million floating point mesh that we had of Joseph’s face, and we’d already wasted weeks on this approach. Materialise had been available as a stereolithographic facility for years, but for what we needed oldschool techniques were faster and probably offered finer detail. I didn’t understand at the time, however, why figurines from games (or films) like Final Fantasy and Toy Story weren’t printed directly from the models used to make the films, but rather seemed to be interpreted by sculptors and rarely looked like the film characters.
I seem to have ended up on a tangent involving animation and stereolithography. I would be curious to see the process used within filmmaking, but it would have to become a completely inherent part of the process. Most of the time you start with hand drawings or sculptures to develop a 3d model anyway, and this is why I don’t often see a point in making a 3d model in order to create a sculpture unless there were another reason to have the 3d model in its own right. For example it might be an interesting addition to the workflow of making a film to use Machinima as a storyboarding technique, with the intent of then printing puppets and using stop-motion to produce the final product. The occasionally arbitrary aspects of Machinima could add an interesting layer, either helping to homogenise conflict of opinion, or even helping work out the timing of movement, since the gaming engines all have physics of movement already built into them.
In conclusion, there never is an absolute right or wrong, but as I wrote yesterday it is often worth thinking about why you might chose to do something one or another way, and be ready to explain it. Most often it is good practice to chose to do something in a logical and complementing manner – and often the simplest approach will be the most rewarding. Occasionally it is worth looking at an approach that is a bit awkward but that will add an interesting quality to that which you are doing. Unless you are at the forefront of something completely outrageous like Memphis, it is rarely worth spending time on something which is destined to become outdated at short notice, unless you are comfortable adapting ahead of the trends you might be contributing to.
I’ve been banging on about how my Master’s ruined my career as a designer ever since I finished the degree (it left me over-qualified, too old and with no experience to get jobs in agencies), but rarely discuss the things that I did learn. And by learn, I am not talking about books read, nor theories learned. Not taught subjects, no. I mean the ability to adapt, to take on board, and to explain myself when misunderstood. Qualities which are transferrable.
In 1999 I moved to Edinburgh for my BA. I had already worked as a photographic and printmaking technician at Civitella Ranieri, and was reasonably adept at drawing, painting and sculpture. It was part of the way I had grown up, and I was generally very confident in what I did, as I had no reason not to be. The internet didn’t really exist, so my only pool of comparison and competition were my immediate friends or successful thises and thats who were published in books.
My painting tutor in first year was the first person to challenge my bubble. He basically forced me to unlearn and re-learn, punching a hole in my comfort zone. Initially this was damaging – of course – but it was also a necessary step for me to break from a linear approach to painting (starting with a fine line, moving from one side to the other, and then building up to darker hues) and allow me to loosen up, which then in turn let me learn to adapt and understand techniques or artists who I previously discounted as poppycock. One day I remember blocking in a large sheet of double-sided card with a big brush and runny acrylics, simplifying the geometry of the room we were in as a background for the still-life, when I abruptly came to the realisation that I understood Mondrian – an artist who’s work previously had been little more than wallpaper to my understanding, but which suddenly had opened out into vast cityscapes, simplified both in form and colour. Sadly I do still seem to need to understand to appreciate – life would be easier if this were not the case.
In 2nd year I was studying design, and most of my course was structured around developing briefs. We would be given a scenario, and a toolset, from which we would need to form a solution that we could then describe and justify. Had we been studying law, our solution would have been the defendant and evidence the toolset; the tutors were the prosecution and the rest of the class a jury. We would usually have an interim and final group critique for each brief, and a few of us rapidly adopted a routine that involved going to the pub after a crit to discuss who had “won” the crit, and continue discussing our various approaches. By winning, what we meant was who had given the best overall presentation, leaving the least number of holes that could be questioned or – if questioned – were answered promptly and eloquently. This process involves a lot of lateral thinking, simplifying your presentation, understanding why you make a series of decisions and – above all – feeling comfortable with the fact that being questioned or challenged is both a learning tool and part of the process of growing up. This is constructive criticism.
So what does this mean now? I instinctively circumnavigate a debate, without making it an argument. I comfortably explain why I continue to use analogue photographic equipment without really leaving anything to criticise… Last year I was working on the Ooglies (a stop-motion animated series for BBC kid’s TV), and as a head of department I had the director and producers above me, and a team below me. I had to be able to express how I wanted things to progress to my team, without explicitly forcing them to follow a blueprint as we had to move forward without having finalised a lot of details of the production. I also had to be able to receive instruction from above, work on things and be able to adapt to the changes they would ask me to make. Often you will find that clients, producers and directors are not visually eloquent. For example they would tell me A, I would bring them drawings of A, and they would then say “no, B”, to which I would have to adapt without feeling assaulted. In this kind of a situation everyone thinks they have the most stressful and important job of the team, and the way that I was able to keep things moving smoothly was to be able to adapt rapidly. To then adapt B to C without as much as rolling my eyes, after B had been built and was, I had thought, ready to go.
No, of course I’m not perfect, I’d be insane to even hazard the thought. Of course I still have opinions and feelings that get hurt and can make me angry, but without that initial experience of having to develop briefs and take peer and academic criticism on board, adapt and try again cyclically, I would not be suited to working in any aspect of the creative industries today.
April was an interesting month indeed. The New55 Film project ran a Kickstarter campaign, and we got funded!
Last summer, Ainslie, Will and I embarked on a rather ambitious film, Monkey Love Experiments. I built the sets as well as acting a leading role. The film mixes stop-motion animation and live-action to a very delicate and real degree.
Monkey Love Experiments won the Scottish BAFTA for best short animation in 2014, and was nominated for the BAFTA 2015.
March and april were taken up partly by the making of a new music video. Ainslie asked if I could build sets and props to build a coherent world made of yarn. At this point the video has been viewed somewhere near 400000 times, in three weeks.
I don’t recall when I wrote this, but I did. It is noted as my 3rd rationale for life, but I cannot remember what the second was. I shall post the first at some point too.
The Meaning of Life.
In my new reasoning, i have come to the conclusion that the meaning of life is none other than to move things. yes, the meaning of life is to move things. what do i mean? well, we start with the event of our parenting devices moving back and forth vigorously, followed bythe moving of sperm into another vestibule, where it mixes with the ovula, then food is moved, to fuel this growth. food is purchased by moving pieces of paper with numbers on them, which are moved to your parenting device in exchange for it moving other stuff. yes, work is, generally, an activity of moving stuff from place to place to then receive (thus being moved), a series of numbers represented by paper, which we then use to move more stuff to or from ourselves.
thus, that which makes us different from other animals is the fact that we are the only animals that in most circumstances use the moving of things to move things. most animals will move thing A themselves, rather than moving thing A by moving thing D in exchange for thing C which they then move to subject B so that he can use thing B to move thing A.
All we do in life, again, is move stuff. we move knowledge. we move food. we move money. we move ourselves. we move our things from one place to another. it is all rather silly. disorder is made by moving things. order is made by moving things. peace is made by moving things. war may be made by moving things a little more hastily.
and thus, by mathematical deduction, since i rather dislike moving things, i dislike the meaning of life. thus i dislike life. an odd conclusion, though i do see this kind of logic as being the kind of thing that could start a war, or maybe even a religion.
It is the end of February 2014, and I have not posted anything on this blog for a year and a half. Embarrassing to say the least. So you might wonder what I have been up to, and I shall attempt to summarise this in simple bullet points, or links, or something.
I Am Tom Moody has done pretty well, it won a number of awards, but sadly we did just loose the BAFTA this year.
I say that we didn’t win the BAFTA this year, because we totally did win it last year, with The Making of Longbird.
I made another video for Poppy Ackroyd
Then I went on a residency at The Soup Lab in Norwich, where I worked on a series of images based on Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter. The show which came out of the residency was called Tray. I also experimented quite a lot with Harman’s Direct Positive paper.
Then I made a music video with Unkle Bob
Then I made a music video with John Lemke
And to be honest, that was the last time I charged the batteries for my GH1! But this means nothing, other than the fact that I have not felt compelled to use a digital camera since then.
I worked on a big project with Maja Borg, as part of her ‘Dream Team’ (with Sarah Cairncross and Ruth Paxton), which will become a film in the near future. I also built sets and acted in Monkey Love Experiments, a forthcoming release from Ainslie Henderson and Will Anderson. Despite all this, I have not used my studio space all year, mainly to do with a period of transition, moving to an actual studio which is not also my limited living space. I have collaborated on a number of shoots with Ian, in which I have been pushing towards freeing up my style – trying to be a bit more snapshotty.
In 2013 I also started volunteering at the Bike Station, and consequently become a bit obsessive about another kind of simple machine. But this one means that I am also getting a bit more exercise. A bit more to the point that I built up two Moultons and went on a 370 mile tour of the west coast of Scotland, which is documented in another blog HERE.
A few weeks ago I shot this video with Poppy and John at the Witespace Gallery, in Edinburgh.
I shot it with available light, with the GH1 mainly handheld, wide-open with the Nikkor AF-D 50/1.4. I think we ran through the track four times, to make sure I’d have enough redundancy to make a decent cut of the track.
As per my usual, I edited in Final Cut Express 4.0.1. I decided to transcode the AVCHD footage to AIC for simplicity, and since I’d exposed the footage pretty light, I didn’t feel I would loos any dynamic range in this conversion. I think I was right, even though the whites did display some banding, both before and after transcoding.
The colour grading was done using free filters. To do this, I make a new Sequence, and slap the edited sequence in the new sequence’s timeline, and do all of my grading on this encapsulation of the editable edit. Firstly I increased the exposure with Image Control/Brightness. Then I used CHV/Silk and Fog, radio-clicked for “silk”: I used this to subtly make a little bit of glow on the highlights, which made the footage look a bit more filmic. I then used CoreMelt’s Pigment RGB Levels and Curves to adjust the exposure curve. This is – so far – the closest I have found a video filter to work like Photoshop’s curves, though it is still limited. I then converted the image to B&W using TMTS Color’s Black & White, which gives you a good RGB mix in the monochrome conversion, so you can make skin tones look smooth.
I’m quite pleased with how the high-key look came out, using only available light and manual controls. If you use Final Cut, you might as well download these free plugins, as they do seem to perform pretty well.
And of course, look out for more from Poppy HERE.