Monday, February 27, 2017

The Making of Bike Shop Mural

Every good LBS deserves a mural. Here's the story behind the mural at Joyride Bikes in Logan, Utah.
Some twenty-two years ago when I first fell in love with mountain biking, I used to ride out my backdoor with a couple buddies up into the mountains of the small Northern Utah town where we grew up. We’d ride up canyons, across hills, and down dusty dirt-bike trails until we arrived back home. Who knew that two decades later all three of us would still be riding bikes, albeit in three different states, and that one of those friends would own his own bike shop?

Joyride Bikes mural.

I head back to Utah a few times a year, and i always try to stop by Joyride and catch up with Wayne. Since I first started riding I've loved bike shops. The smell, the sound, the eye candy, all of it. I paid for college by wrenching in an LBS and still try to visit the shops whenever I travel. I stopped by Joyride last winter. Wayne was getting ready to move the shop to a new location on Main Street with a fifty-foot brick wall flanking the exterior of the shop. As we talked, Wayne said, “How would you like to paint a mural on that wall?” I’m not a professional artist, although I had planned to be for many years. It was my lifelong dream. then after my first year as an art major I somehow decided to earn two English degrees and become a high school religion teacher instead. The urge to create still tugs at me though, and I try to get my creative hands dirty from time to time whether it’s drawing a portrait for a birthday gift or making stop-motion videos of bikes putting themselves together. 

I’ve never done a mural before, but Wayne must’ve guessed I had the vision, patience, and tenacity to pull it off. Of course when he first asked me it sounded like a pipe dream, but I loved the possibility of combining my love of art, bikes and bike shops. “Sure, that would be awesome,” I responded casually. But over the next few months we kept in touch, sharing our vision and ideas. 

Initial Sketches and brainstorming:
Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.
I kept polishing the drawing and started sending colored drafts to Wayne. The overall image continued to evolve.

Joyride Bikes mural.
Once we settled on the overall concept, we dialed in the overall look and layout.

Joyride Bikes mural.
More refining and various color ideas. The last image went to the City Council for permit approval.

You don’t just paint any old thing on a job like this. A mural on a bike shop falls somewhere between public art and advertisement, so there are some constraints. Obviously, we wanted it to be bike themed. We wanted it have the “cool” factor but also be a tasteful addition to the city as a whole; eye catching but not too far out of place. Fun and creative, but not too weird. Above all, it's got to be good. Nothing worse than a bad mural! Of course we also had to get the whole thing approved by the City Council. 

During the design process, I kept thinking, “What would make everyone who drives past this wall say, ‘Check out that mural!’ What would make people stop and take pictures to post on Instagram? What would become an iconic part of the town's image?” I was ultimately driven by a few main concepts: Simplicity, bold colors, geometric shapes combined with the organic look of hand drawn lines, and the feel of the local mountains. 

I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of murals and mountain biking for inspiration. I did a few sketches and ran them past Wayne. Once I got an idea of what he liked, I started refining. The refining of the drawing and the colors continued for months all the way up to the day we started actually putting the image on the wall. My wife, who actually is an artist, gave constant feedback about the design, layout, and color. Her fingerprints are all over this thing. 

Joyride Bikes mural.
This final line drawing we projected onto the wall in three pieces. I used a handful of photographs to finalize the rider.

Joyride Bikes mural.
Final digital draft with final colors. 

Waiting for approval and permits kept us from painting in the summer, but we had one more chance during my fall break. We had five days to do the mural before I had to get back to work in Arizona. On the first night, we projected the line drawing onto the wall in three separate parts and traced it with Sharpie markers. A small rain storm threatened to soak our computer and our outlines, but Wayne saved the day with an easy-up. Luckily, the Sharpie stayed on the wall. 

Joyride Bikes mural.
Tracing the drawing with Sharpie markers in the dark.

We got the paint the next day. We used the highest quality outdoor paint we could find. The specialty paint store employees were a bit confused but enthusiastic about our project, although they really struggled to match the colors we wanted. After a couple failed attempts (we had to return some puke green and baby-poop yellow) we ended up with twelve colors that we were happy with.  

Joyride Bikes mural.

We spent four complete days painting, an estimated 100 man hours. I didn’t ask for it, but everyone in my family stepped up to help paint. It was a good thing, because we never would’ve finished in time otherwise. The brick turned out to be really rough and it sucked up a lot of paint and took a long time to get a clean coat. The black lines turned out to be especially challenging, and by the end of the second twelve hour day, I couldn’t see anything but a brush and paint when I closed my eyes at night.

Joyride Bikes mural.

It was cold. My arms were tired of holding a brush and my feet were tired of standing on a ladder all day. But every few hours I’d step back to look at the progress and get so stoked as I saw it coming together. It’s one thing when you draw something on a piece of paper, and it’s another thing to transfer that image onto a 50 foot wall, so I was so happy to see that it was translating well. We had a lot of people stop and watch as they passed by. Drivers honked. Everybody had good things to say. We were stoked. 

Joyride Bikes mural.

We did so much work so quickly that looking back, it’s almost hard to believe we actually did it. Now that I'm back in Arizona, I haven't seen the mural since the day we left town, although I've had multiple dreams about it getting destroyed by rainstorms or vandals. As far as I know, it's alive and well. 

Joyride Bikes mural.

For me, this was an incredible opportunity to be creative, contribute to the bike community, and leave a mark on my hometown. Every good town needs a good bike shop, and I think every good bike shop needs a mural. The bike community so often gets caught up in technical product details while there's so much room to embrace the creative side of biking. Art and creativity help us express and remember why we fell in love with the sport in the first place. When you're passing through Logan, Utah, you won’t find any better service or dedication to the community than from Joyride Bikes. Say hello to Wayne and get a picture next to the mural! We hope it reminds everyone of the fun and freedom that can only be found on two wheels.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Joyride Bikes mural.

Home Court Advantage

If you're anything like me, you spend an embarrassing amount of time on Pinkbike aching to ride the incredible trails that are featured day after day in photos, videos, and articles. But, if you're like me then you also don't have the privilege of living in one of the world's mountain biking meccas. I am not complaining. Growing up in Utah and now living in Arizona I've had access to top notch trails for most of my life and I've been lucky enough to take some trips including unforgettable outings to Moab, Virgin, and BC. 

But my closest trails, the ones I can hit for a quick ride after work before the sun goes down, they've never been on the front page of any magazine. No teams circle them on the map when they decide where to spend their marketing budget shooting a video. Heck, I'd be surprised if any rider has ever driven more than an hour just to ride these trails. They are too wide and too sanitized. There are no jumps. All the corners are off camber, the hikers are oblivious, the equestrians are cranky, and there is a fee to get in. They're just not that special. Except for one thing: they are my local trails. As they say in basketball, I have "homecourt advantage." I ride them more than any other and I know every corner, every whoop, and every rock. I know which way to take the loops to maximize the downhill, and I know which lines to take to maximize the fun. I know just where to be for the best view of the sunrise and for the sunset too. They keep me sane when life gets crazy, and even though I'd rather be riding Dirt Merchant, I love my hometown trails. 

I doubt I'm alone. My guess is that most of us live closest to trails that aren't necessarily our favorite to ride. To those who happen to live near their dream trails, I salute you. To those who grabbed life by the ears and moved to their dream trails, I salute you twice. To those who picked up a shovel and built their dream trails, well... thank you for letting us come and play. But for those of us who have to settle most days for something a little less, I won't give you a lecture about "If you want it bad enough..." There are things that matter more than biking, whether family, career, education, or other passions. Maybe dad took a job in the middle of the big city or mom has a soft spot for acres of wheat fields. Maybe you've racked up thousands in debt treating your daughter's leukemia or you're biding your time while you finish that college degree. In any case, sometimes things keep us a little farther from our MTB dreams than we'd like to be. The world is full of wild variety, and I'm grateful to be able to put tire to dirt on any of it. So this video is just a little nod to unsung local trails and the people who ride them, wherever they are. Here's to home court advantage.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Unlikely Ride: Our New Stop Motion Video

An Unlikely Ride: Behind the Scenes

I suppose the concept for this video started a couple years ago when I used my GoPro to make a stop-motion video of myself building a new Transition TR250. It was when the 250 had just come out, and I figured people would like to see the bike and the stop motion would be a fun way to document the build. It was easy; just stick the GoPro in the corner, set it to take a picture every two seconds, and then build the bike. After piling the pictures together in Final Cut and slapping some music on it, I had a fun video that got a decent response on Pinkbike. But it planted this evil seed in my mind. I thought:

"It would be cool to do the same thing but without anyone in the pictures, so it looks like it built itself."

I tried to banish the thought as soon as it came, but it was too late. I told my mates my idea and we knew we had to do it. We made that video a year later. The results, the TR250 stop motion bike build, got a pretty substantial response on Pinkbike, Vimeo, and Youtube. Making the video was incredibly tedious, but we knocked out the photography in 18 hours over the weekend and the editing process was relatively simple. We had never done legit stop-motion before, so after brief planning we just hoped for the best as we took the pictures. We really didn't know how it would turn out until we lined all the pictures up on the computer, and while we were really excited about how it turned out, we noticed a lot of things we could do better. 

Still shot from our original video.

My favorite part of that video is the actual bike building itself, but a lot of people were really stoked about the "riding" at the end of the video (which we pretty much did as an afterthought). So a year later, when the pain of stop-motion photography had been dulled in our memories, we started talking about doing another video where we applied everything we learned from last time and focused more on the riding. 

We wanted to tell more of a story this time, so we spent a lot of time brain storming. As ideas came, we would talk about how horrible it was going to be to try and carry them out. Some had do be dismissed as impossible. Others just weren't in our budget (of zero dollars). Ultimately, we mapped out the story in the constraints of our location, a friend's shop with 18-foot ceilings, which provided a decent sized concrete background for our photos. In the end we spent a few bucks: A new lens, a power supply for the camera, and a 30 foot USB cable so we could see what we were shooting and take the pictures from a laptop.

The shop floor was dirty, so we washed it.
Getting ready to mount the camera.

We may or may not have zip-tied two ladders together to reach the ceiling. The first couple times up there were a little scary.

Final touches on the floor.
 We wanted to make the trail and speed look much more realistic, so I spent some time calculating walking speed, falling speed, riding speeds, wheel revolutions, and ultimately how far the wheel should turn in each picture in relation to how much ground would move under the bike in each picture. Annual quota of math filled!

early calculations and thumbnail sketches.

Meanwhile we recruited high school freshman Treston to be our rider. In all fairness, we spent a couple weeks making it very clear just how much time he was going to spend laying on concrete flexing his body in odd positions. He insisted he could do it, and he did, although he did get cranky a couple times. (Something about losing all the feeling in his arm). If you can imagine it, take a second to think about how it would be to lay on your side on concrete for thirty-five hours, every moment being jerked around and yelled at by two guys: "Arch your back! Point your toes! Rotate your wrist down! Lift your head up! Look happy, you're on a bike ride! FLEX!" Don't worry, Treston was (sort of) compensated for his work.

Photography took around thirty-five hours. With each picture, Treston and the bike (or bike parts) had to be positioned accurately, the wheels turned the right amount, and the markers on the ground had to be moved the right distance to the left. Taking pictures was tedious enough, but a lot of the time was spent visualizing the video in our minds and trying to figure out the best way to pose everything. If each picture wasn't posed right, then the final product wouldn't look right. It's a taxing mental process.

Treston did this for thirty-five hours.

testing out the lawn chair.

Examining our options.

Training before the shoot.

Still shot, ready for video.

Editing involved far too much time in Photoshop, mostly drawing the house, trails, and trees, and erasing the portions of the house and tree that overlapped the rider in each picture. Fifty hours of some of the most tedious work I've ever done. Tying the pictures together in Final Cut is pretty easy if you've taken the right pictures, and by then, adding music and sound effects was like putting frosting on the cake.

An example of some of the rigging that we took care of in Photoshop.

A lot of people just shake their head when they realize what we've done. The urge to do something no one has ever done, or to do it better, is a powerful motivator in mountain biking. It is an endless quest for those at the top of the sport (maybe even an addiction) and it leads to the progression we love to watch, from Redbull Rampage to the World Cup. I suppose it's that same desire that drives us. Take three parts equal love for shooting photos, editing video, and riding bikes. Next toss in that nagging impulse to do something different, even if it requires hours of torturous work, and this video is what you get.

Weeks of planning, thirty-five hours of photography totally 1000 pictures, followed by fifty long hours at the computer editing photos, audio, and video. 10,000 minutes of combined work for a two minute video? All worth it if it puts a smile on some faces and sparks some creativity in some minds. Thanks for watching.


Here are the steps we took, if you're crazy enough to read through all of them.

  1. Write the story
  2. Find a place to shoot where we could stay setup for a couple weeks
  3. Determine photography setup
  4. Build custom camera and bike mounts
  5. Find some decent looking, and bright, bike clothes
  6. Take test photos
  7. Arrange and take photos
  8. Organize photos into scene folders
  9. Batch process photos in Photoshop for image improvement
  10. Import photos into Final Cut, assess timing, delete any bad photos
  11. Various Photoshopping to merge some pictures and delete props
  12. Draw the ground and jumps using a digital pen
  13. batch export to Final Cut, assess ground and jumps
  14. Fix mistakes in ground and jumps
  15. Draw and arrange a collection of pine trees
  16. Position pine trees in proper position on each picture
  17. Export to Final Cut, assess trees
  18. Fix mistakes
  19. Erase parts of trees that overlap rider
  20. Draw house and windows in Photoshop
  21. Erase portions of windows that overlap rider
  22. Export to Final cut, assess house and windows
  23. fix mistakes
  24. Check every picture individually for any mistakes
  25. Final arrangement in Final Cut
  26. Determine duration of each picture in Final Cut
  27. Scour internet for free sounds that will work for sound effects
  28. Edit sounds in Logic and export to final cut
  29. Arrange sound effects
  30. Mix audio
  31. Create titles in LiveType
  32. Render final video, assess titles
  33. Fix mistakes
  34. Render
  35. Fix mistakes
  36. Render
  37. Fix mistakes
  38. Export final, share with friends and family
  39. Fix mistakes
  40. Render
  41. Export final
  42. UPLOAD! 
  43. Cross fingers people like it. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Rare Rain = Prime Pump Track

Hours and hours and hours of digging. Worth it.

 I'm lucky enough to have a place to dig. Or cursed. It's hard to say. Shaping dirt can become addictive. It rained over the weekend, which is a big deal here in AZ. Any significant rain is so rare that you have to go throw dirt when it's wet by nature. The rest of the time it's moon dust and hoses. We always have something in the works out here (like the rough line of jumps along the fence on the left) but there's plenty in prime riding condition. I probably should've dug more, but I couldn't resist some riding (because it rides best a little wet, too.) I also took a stab at some self portraits. Not super effective: Out of probably 50 shots I got a couple that were kinda cool. Fun anyway. Maybe someday I'll ride with someone who likes to stop and shoot photos as much as I do.

Remote shutter set on a ten-shot burst. I'd say I got lucky, but this was after a lot of trial and error!

Turns out my lips look like that in every picture. Like it's all gnarly and intense out there. And of course my finger is on my brake.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Great White North and Upgrades Under the Tree

Well flip, you blink and it's 2013. Actually, it's been a long few months. The shower in our master bath has had an irreparable leak for a couple years, and I finally succumbed to the delusion that I could tear it out and rebuild a new and improved shower. That shower has taken enough of my time, so I will cease talk of it now.

"Winter" is prime riding season here in AZ, but we couldn't resist heading north to play in the snow over Christmas. We were lucky enough to arrive in Utah just in time for a few storms to roll in. While the unfortunate public was dreading slushy roads and slippery walks, we were licking our lips and rubbing our hands together. No disappointment. As much as I love riding my bike, it's still not as glorious as snowboarding in powder. It may well be the pinnacle of sensation.

Me and Lisa having our way with two feet of fresh snow. Snowbasin, UT.

Dave has fun when he snowboards. Bush Ollie with extreme prejudice.

 We had some incredible days in the white stuff, and while my heart was turned to sliding on snow for a couple weeks, Santa still knew me best and managed to sneak some riding goods under the tree. Luckily Santa knows I spend 95% of my year in the desert.

My observant wife snagged me this POC lid that I have affectionately dubbed the Blue Bonnet. Perhaps it's a bit aggressive in its styling, but whatev. I've always had a penchant for using gear that attracts attention far beyond my skill level. If you can't ride well, you might as well look good, right? I haven't used the helmet for its true purpose, but so far it's easy to adjust and comfortable. That's about all I ask.

Little Bro really upped the ante in the gift department this year by hooking me up with this ENVE DH handlebar, handmade a stone's throw from home in Ogden, UT. I'm pretty stinking excited about this bad boy. Let me just go ahead and tell you that with the matte black finish and dialed logos, this thing is as smooth as cookies and cream. I actually wrestled with mounting it, knowing it would probably get a scratch at some point. Don't worry. I got over it. 

 No review yet; I finally got a torque wrench (that's advised with carbon components) and got it mounted up today. My steed was noticeably excited about the upgrade and hopefully we'll get out for a test run soon. 

800mm wide
245 grams
9 degree sweep
5 degree tip
23mm rise

So...what about you? Make any memories or score any loot over the holidays?

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Inevitable

In an effort to satisfy our Whistler withdrawals, we escaped the Phoenix heat and headed up to Flagstaff a couple Saturdays ago. It's a three hour climb from Phoenix to Flagstaff, from desert floor to pine forest in a 6000 vertical-feet climb. We had been meaning to get up there and shuttle some trails for quite some time, and it felt so good to be scoping tacky trails in cool mountain air again.

Our first order of business was to make some laps on Wasabi, a short Mount Elden trail with tight flow, a few small drops and jumps, plenty of berms, and a quick shuttle. We left the camera in the car for a few warm up laps. After a couple runs we ran into another group of three dudes and we decided to combine forces for some more runs. We hit upper Wasabi, including the infamous Wasabi gap, and vowed to snap some photos on the next run. 

We dropped into lower Wasabi and Wes must've been feeling pretty zesty, because he was totally gone. I tried my best to chase him down and finally succeeded...when I came around a corner to find him laying in a berm. I peeled off, asking if he was alright. He calmly said "I'm done." And then he held up his hand to show me his finger...

Oddly enough, I think there was some actual debate going on as to whether it was broken or not. I think it was mostly wishful thinking on his part, unwilling to imagine that such a good day was already over, as the rest of us sadly assured him that his finger was clearly toast. What a bummer! Apparently Wes had been moving pretty fast, hit the berm a little hot, blew over the top, and slammed into the large pine that the berm was built up against...with all his momentum focused on his little finger.

Acceptance of injury apparently comes in stages. Once we established that the finger was definitely broken, the debate turned to whether Wes could keep shuttling us for the rest of the day or if we should make our way down the mountain. 

The onset of pain and shock settled that discussion pretty quick. All that was left was to decide how much of his soul Wes wanted to give to the doctors. 

First stop? Urgent care. $400 for an x-ray and a splint. No setting of the bone. No thanks. We can splint it ourselves. Emergency room? No quote, no promises. A bunch of hacks that are there to stabilize the injury and nothing more. What do we do now? Why, lunch of course! Maybe a famed Flagstaff Diablo Burger would help us figure out what to do next.

Eased of his pain during a short trip to flavor country, Wes remembered a friend with a dental surgery practice. I had my doubts about a dentist fixing a broken finger, but you get what you pay for, I suppose. Wes was pretty positive as we drove down, in between waves of pain that had him laying across the back seat. Lots of fuss for such a little finger.

I don't know if I've ever seen anyone enjoy such immediate pain relief. Those syringes look like a tool of the devil to me.

That forty-five degree bend? Yeah, it's not supposed to be there. 

We all knew his finger was messed up, but not THIS messed up. Pretty messed up, eh?  

Some odd sounds were heard as the doc-man took a stab at straightening the finger. It turned out... better... but still pretty jacked. Lots of encouragement for Wes to see a specialist, lots of Wes saying he'd just deal with it. 

"Hey Wes, give us your best hang lose!" It's been couple weeks and Wes is still doing his best to put on his happy face. The day after the break, I watched him during church, clearly in a rare degree of pain. Especially for someone as tough as nails.  He was visibly sick; sweating, green, restless.

Wes called the other day on his way home from work. He saw a specialist, and it was pretty much worse case scenario. Crushed into five pieces, it won't heal without surgery, and will probably have to be amputated if he doesn't get it fixed. I hear him wince in pain as he shifts his truck. On top of the pulse of the crushed finger comes the annoyance of people telling him "It's just a pinky." And, "Aren't bikes for kids, anyway?" But the real pain, the one that he really hates, is deeper under the surface...

It's the pain of knowing he won't be riding for a while. And it eats at all of us. But if you're going to ride a lot and ride hard, then the inevitable will happen. 

Wes, if you're out there, get that thing fixed, and let's go ride!