Jake Lanich @brothalanich 2020 Photos: Mike Martin @m_martin_sf
MASH SF 2015 from MASH TRANSIT PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.
Mike Martin: The photo of your new endurance rig feels like you start to finish. I would love to hear more about the process of this current build. Your writing and experience after these trips is always so laser sharp. I can see so many stories in the bags for example. Can you take a moment to explain the process on these bags?
Chas Christiansen : YO, very stoked on how the bags and bike turned out! I have been planning this bike build for some time. I love my LOW MK1 gravel frame, but after 3 years of racing, it was time for a fresh one. I really wanted a cargo fork to allow for more gear and longer tours, so Andrew and I worked around a Rodeo Labs Spork v1 for the build. A few other small touches, such as a third bottle cage on the down tube, prepared the bike for longer adventures. As all the parts of the bike slowly came together over the course of a few months I kept on seeing these Rapha bags out in the wild. My buddy Robbie got a pair for his first ever bike tour, we spent 4 days in the Eastern Sierra’s, and he was very stoked on them. A month later I met my buddy Nico in France for the TransPyrenees and he had the same setup, which he raved about. Every time I rode with someone that had the bags on their bikes, I noticed how the waterproof material looked perfect to draw on with paint pens. Sometimes you can just tell that a medium will apply smoothly and look great. So, as the 2019 season wound down, I reached out to Rapha about the project idea and they were into it. I got the bags just in time for the holidays and long hours in the studio.
2: Do you ever find motivation/inspiration the bike can give you back while you are out there turning it out on one of these races? Ever find a typo or just find yourself laughing and agreeing to the messages?
Finding motivation from the bike and the equipment is huge for me! When you spend long hours on the bike you stare at the same things all day: your stem, your tires steadily rolling. So I always try to add motivational things to stare at. I am a firm believer in “fake it till you make it.” And when I am hurting and exhausted reading the words written all over my bags keeps me going even if I feel like I can’t keep the pedals turning. The constant repetition of PMA phrases can become like a mantra that I repeat until I feel better. Especially on solo rides. I find myself laughing out loud all the time (along with talking to locals cows or wildlife) sometimes at the situations I’m in and sometimes at the things I have written all over my bike and gear. There are more than a few typos in my art, one of the things I like about using paint pens is that much like real life, when you make a mistake you have to just get over it and keep on going.
3: What was the process for these bags? Are they hand painted? printed? Will they age and show some of the life they will live out there?
As always, the process for my art is trial and error. I really wanted to find a pen that would stay on when you rolled the bags up. I usually use oil based DECO paint pens, but the ink has a tendency to crack and sometimes, because they are oil based, they can interact badly with waterproofing chemicals. I had also been wanting to try out the Krink K42 paint marker so this seemed like a great opportunity. I did a small test patch and was satisfied with how the ink didn’t crack and how opaque it was after it had dried. So I set up a box fan and went to work, it’s hard working with paint pens because they do not dry immediately, so you have to be very careful where your hands are so you don’t drag wet ink everywhere. It can be hard to stop drawing when you are on a roll and wait for something to dry. I use a box fan to keep the air moving around, but it only does so much. After I finished all the bags I let them dry fully and then mounted them on my bike for a studio shoot at Andrew Low’s shop…and then the ink cracked!! I was bummed because when I tested the ink it seemed to be flexible enough to adhere to the bags while not cracking, but I guess really rolling up the dry bags tight was too much. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, so I slowly went back and retraced all the art that had flaked off. Then I had to figure out how to seal the ink in so the art would stay with use. Spray clear coats generally are not flexible and can cause very nasty chemical reactions with various inks. So I went with a Sneaker clear coat. It’s made to preserve custom shoes, it’s flexible and acrylic but not that tough. I figured a slow and steady approach was best and spent 2 weeks applying a thin coat to all the bags everyday and letting them dry fully in between. The next time I went out with the bags I was pleasantly surprised to find that the shoe clear coat worked well. There was some cracking where straps rubbed on the bags but I like things to wear and patina with time, so I didn’t stress about a little bit of wear as I used the bags. They are still fully waterproof and the art is sealed in adequately, they will show wear as I use them, but I dig that.
4: I always love when a series of personal interests are compiled to build something new. i see that in you, and your artwork, from enjoying marking on walls, to technical bags and bikes. Would love to hear how you have approached this project based on past experiences/interests.
It’s funny how personal interests evolve as you grow older. I really enjoyed writing my name on walls as a young man, even got in trouble for it a few times. But the more I traveled and experienced the world the more I realized that most of the time whatever you put up on that wall becomes background noise. I started to draw on my bike frames, my cycling shoes and helmets because I figured people would see it and it would resonate with them. I used the words, phrases, and images to motivate myself and hopefully to get other people stoke out as well. When people started to ask me to draw on their gear I was so hyped! Each different piece had it’s own challenges and I’ve learned something from each piece I have drawn on. Like I said before, everything is trial and error with me, so I took the sum of everything I had learned before this project and tried to create what I saw in my head. It kind of worked, and even when it didn’t that was just an excuse to try something different. It is a lot like real life, you imagine something, and when you set out to do it, whether it be cooking dinner or racing your bike, things always turn out different than you planned. Sometimes better and sometimes worse but regardless you learn from the experience and take that knowledge with you.
6: Wait, you painted the frame too? Would love to hear more about you initial vision/goal, and where that brought you to the finished project.
Yea!! I was very excited to paint this new LOW! I had used Spraybike spray paint on a couple of chiller projects before but was stoked to be able to conceptualize the frame from new. I really like the muted grey color of my LOW MK1 and wanted to keep that vibe going. The Maipei/Colongo livery from the late 90’s has always been a favorite of mine as well, the color fade on the geometric shapes is ultra cool. I wanted to take it a little further and try to use some of the more esoteric mathematic shapes I could find. While the formulas and actual math behind a tetra-decahedron are beyond me, I still find the shapes fascinating. I researched as much as I could and then drew the shapes in my studio, a good friend digitized them and then you helped me cut them on the vinyl plotter. Once I had weeded all the vinyl stickers it was time to apply them to the frame over the colorful first layer. Spraying on the muted gray final color and then revealing the colorful shapes underneath is equal parts stressful and cathartic. Once again trial and error. I wish I had made the lines thicker on the shapes so they stood out more and held their edges better, but next time! Overall it turned out rad, and even with multiple layers of clear coat is already starting to show signs of use, so i can’t wait to see how the paint job wears as I shred on it all year!
7: Would love to hear about how you’re past experiences shaped this current build. Is it event specific in any way this time around?
Every time I go out on a tour or race an ultra I always think I have the bike set up dialed, and inevitably when I get home I have a list of things to change. I think this comes from working as a messenger, being on the bike all day, fully in tune with your machine. You begin to obsess about the smallest details. So THIS build is going to be the fruition of years of riding and will…need some work eventually. I took my experiences racing mostly road ultra’s like the Transcontinental, as well as crazy dirt races like Further and tried to have them meet somewhere in the middle. The SRAM “Mullet” group is a solid solution, it pairs road style shifters with a single ring and MTB rear cassette and derailer. The front ring is a 42t (soon to be a 40t for Atlas Mountain Race) and the rear cassette has a 10-50t range. We lovingly call that extra bit above a 1×1 ratio “oververt” in homage to gnarly skateboarding ramps and it really comes in handy when slogging up mountain passes fully loaded. I have never needed more speed than the 42×10 has been able to give me, if I’m going that fast I should be coasting LOL. The cargo fork is a nice touch that allows me to carry substantially more gear and stay out longer. I improvised a similar fork mount to carry water on a long self supported ride this last year and am very stoked on a more legit setup. In these photos the wheels are 700c ZIPP alloy rims built to an 12spd rear hub and a SON dyno power front hub. The ability to generate power from riding and charge all my gear without having to get off the bike is huge, especially since my bike runs on batteries. For the Atlas Mountain race I have a set of ZIPP 303 650b carbon rims laced to the same SON Dyno, to allow me to run bigger tires for the harsher terrain. I really like the new ZIPP XPLR flared drop bars. To be honest, I was always against flared bars, but having ridden them for the last 6 months the stability and more open shoulder position has grown on me. For Atlas Mountain Race I will have a set of Aero bars installed, which I kind of hate aesthetically but love functionally. I also mounted my Sinewave light/usb charger to the aero bars to get the light as high as possible for maximum illumination. Every build will need tweaks and changes as things go but I am very stoked on how this turned out!
The bike will be on display on Friday March 6th 2020 at the Rapha Clubhouse in San Francisco, I’ll be there as well talking about the Atlas Mountain Race. Come by and hang out, check out the bike and bags in person and pick my brain about ultra endurance racing. RSVP HERE
Issue 28 of Loop Magazine is available today, and wanted to share the new article about MASH. When Toydog asked if we would like to work on an article, I knew I wanted to make this California Street image, and so hyped it made the cover. It feels like a classic image I shot of Massan in 2006, and the opening shot of our 2007 video with Gabe Morford. I met a large group of riders downtown one Saturday morning early, and we just made it happen. This iconic hill in the city still holds up all these years later, with red lights, trolly tracks and a wall made of city blocks. Enclosed are the images, and interview. Thanks for checking it out! MikeThis image of Matt Reyes dropping into 21st Street stacked up nice. They took down one of the 3 antennas, so maybe it will date the image one day.Had been shooting friends that came by the shop with a Polaroid SX-70, then pealing the borders, and hanging them in the shop. Part of that grid was used here on the contents page.Thanks in part to ride organizers like Patrick, Ray, and Evian, San Francisco has a really vibrant community of street riders, and wanted to share some of the local faces here.MASH has always been about fixed gear bikes, but like all good things, it’s also been about the people. But in the last few years, they have also been independently developing and manufacturing MASH specific bike components. Taking risks is the ethos. MASH disrupts the notions of the establishment by collectively determining values, cheering for the underdog, and trusting one’s gut. This article chronicles the last few years of MASH and how holding tight to their mission has always meant being open to the transient, native, and the kid who just wants to mash on a fixed gear.
MASH has always been about fixed gear bikes, but like all good things, it’s also been about the people. But in the last few years, they have also been independently developing and manufacturing MASH specific bike components. Taking risks is the ethos. MASH disrupts the notions of the establishment by collectively determining values, cheering for the underdog, and trusting one’s gut. This article chronicles the last few years of MASH and how holding tight to their mission has always meant being open to the transient, native, and the kid who just wants to mash on a fixed gear.
Visiting with Mike Martin
Back in 2004 Mike Martin was working as a photographer in San Francisco, shooting commercial and editorial projects for work. As a creative outlet, he started getting out and shooting video with local bike messengers, which led to sharing a video short at the Bicycle Film Festival in 2005. This was the beginning of MASH. By sharing this video project, he met Gabe Morford, and together they made a full length video also entitled MASH in 2007. The project exposed how bike messengers and non-messengers were using these brakeless velodrome bikes on the steep hills and streets of San Francisco to the rest of the world. Since then, Mike has always made a point to stay behind the camera, focus on sharing quality riding and design, and encourage anyone wanting to get on a bike to join MASH’s global community. We wanted to hear more about what it is that makes MASH such a special project.
What is it about the track bike that has kept your attention all these years?
The track bike reels you in, first with its sleek look and its simple function. Looks can be deceptive though – these bikes have a steep learning curve, and they are hard to tame, but we have documented multiple generations of young riders doing just that. The 2007 video was not much different than a BMX or skate video with riders having short video parts, and through these edits, viewers could see what it felt like to ride along side several different riding styles: powerful, stylish, efficient, mostly under control. I was inspired by Lucas Brunelle and Peter Sutherland who were sharing some alleycat races and messenger stories, but San Francisco had another piece. We had freeriding that was not always about being a messenger, but just about wanting to climb and drop some of the biggest hills in the city. San Francisco has a rich history of hill skaters, and it was clear that made an impact on some of the riders we wanted to get out and shoot with. America was founded on the spirit of the wild west and that same spirit is still a part of the American ethos in some way. That shows in these brakeless bikes on city streets, a little bit of an outlaw culture, and sometimes in spandex.
What does your day look like?
It always starts and ends with family, then riding mtb down south or a cx/gravel bike up north. I go to the bike shop around 11:00, work on design, any photo or video current projects, and have shop hours a few days a week. In between all this, I like to connect with friends who are planning their race schedules, organizing street races and group rides, all with the hopes of helping if I can. It’s a bit of an organic process with a mission statement that is stripped down to the basics: riding, friends, family, and creating for bike people.
Martin and I create the videos, and Martin has edited most of the video shorts since 2017. Jake Ricker helps manage the bike shop a few days a week and that helps him get his film developed for a photo book he has been working on, Al Nelson collaborates on the main design projects since 2016, and I love how we create together. This year, Jimmy Nolan, has consulted on geometry updates of the MASH bikes by taking rider feedback and incorporating them into final designs.We have also been working on some new categories of frames we want to produce. Additionally, a core group of friends, which includes Matt Reyes and Chas Christiansen, have been incredibly inspiring through their energy, creativity, and willingness to get out there. There are also several generations of riders from across the world who have been consistently supportive, and some folks who share positivity by just stopping by to say hi. These are the people who continue to be at the heart MASH.
What have been some of the milestones since the 10 year anniversary project in 2015?
For me, the main goal of the 2015 project was to share a video that showed how the riding quality was progressing. The riders really stepped it up while we simultaneously pushed the video quality. Once that project wrapped, I wanted to focus on our bike development/distribution and to make the bikes we wanted to ride. I knew we needed to manufacture/distribute ourselves, so 2016 was the last year we collaborated with Cinelli. We loved being able to create with a legacy brand for so many years, and we knew taking on production would be hard work, but the excitement masked the intense effort. In 2017, we released 2 frame sets, some components, new collaborations with Phil Wood, Izumi, Selle Italia, Giro, and Oakley. Since the 2015 video, we have released a number of videos online and to me, these videos are a way of sharing what we love in the moment. We also collaborated with Apple to make a video shot on an iphone with Chas Christensen, who made a reflective bike and clothing using his art. With a unique camera build, we made “Reflect”, a short that feels like he is powering a glow by spinning his legs out. Another video that was a game changer was the “Green Video”. Matt Reyes and Chas had really fun video parts in the 2015 feature, and wanted to take it out to Matt’s hometown of Gilroy, California to show some playful and powerful riding outside of the city. This is still one of my favorite videos I have been a part of.
You have visited Japan several times over the years. What was your first impression?
Each time I visit Japan, I love it more and more. My first visit in 2006 showed me what MASH meant to people around the world. Hiroshi Fujiwara, Yopi, Hiroki, Shin, Ataki, and all these brand leaders were falling in love with track bikes, so it was exciting to see their world. Julian Khan reached out early on and asked what my plan was, and I told him that I wanted to put out a video and small book. He reached out to his friends, and we quickly had raised the funds to print it with the help of Supreme, Fragment, Visvim, Stussy, Nike, and a few other brands. I remember John Jay from Weiden and Kennedy pulling up to a checkpoint at an alleycat in Tokyo, and he got out of a white Rolls Royce wearing a white suit to watch the race. This is not what things were like back home. This initial attention reflected how some people were treating the bikes like a fashion trend, but trends never last. Culture vultures jump from trend to trend without truly living what they are emulating. Some messengers assumed that’s what I was doing with MASH in the beginning, but after 15 years of constantly cheering for these bikes, older messengers can see the work we put in helped support the bike we all love. On that trip, we also hung out with the core group who were working as messengers: RK was always a homie, Yohei, Rip, and Moto, and the T-Serv dudes. We love going back and seeing them.
What have been some of the highlights from Japan trips since then?
I love how passionate the Japanese bike community is. These bikes draw in a crowd of outsiders, misfits, and creatives ,and we love being able to celebrate bikes with like-minded riders as well as sharing with new riders who might not yet know the history. In 2007, we had the opportunity to show a video in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka and that trip was massive for that generation of riders. I had a new baby at home, so I only made the Tokyo stop of that trip. Then coming back in 2015 with the support of Blue Lug was incredible. They produced a beautiful series of events around our 10 year video with photo shows, screenings, and a massive group ride and alleycat with local riders. The riders from the 2015 video will always remember that trip and the friendships formed along the way. At the end of 2017, a small group of riders were invited to the Izu Velodrome for a “Track Party” event, which was a pre-party track event for the 2020 Olympics. Yohei helped bring out Chas, Duke, Rainier and I, and that trip was special for a totally new experience. Getting to ride and photograph at the Keirin School, which is a world class velodrome is a milestone for sure. The bicycle is designed to take you places, but I had not imagined how far it could go! I’m hoping to return toi Japan in the next few years, show a video, and get to ride the city and the country. A few of our friends who came out for Tracklocross Worlds earlier this year want to plan a bike tour, which would be amazing.
When we first started talking about making a MASH article we (Loop) imagined it being a history lesson for new riders. You wanted to focus on the last few years. Why?
MASH is always changing. There is no buisness plan, no marketing or advertising, there is just this force of creativity that sparks me when i’m with friends, and that drives me to do new things as MASH. Over the years, I have tried to listen to each generation of riders and their personal goals on the bike, and tried to help them achieve those goals in some way – from the bikes they ride, to travel, and race entry fees, to creating video parts they are proud of. After the fashion-wave of popularity died down, some thought fixed gear bikes were dead, but that’s far from the truth in San Francisco. I was never a fan of #savethetrackbike. I am an optimist, and whatever it’s taken to get here, it’s working. New energy ands spirit has kept it alive as I witness the current wave of riders in San Francisco organizing weekly rides, races, and monthly longrides through Phixed Kings Expeditions (Thank you, Dudes!), the obvious talent of this generation is alive and thriving. Matt Reyes inspired this new level of trick riding on go fast bikes, and that combination of being able to rip the city in style has been really inspiring to me. And it really just comes down to that – creating and expressing this joy.
1: Chas Christiansen MASH AC-1
2: Matt Reyes AC-1
3: Evan Murphy AC-1
4: Reflect Video Bike by Chas Christainsen
5: Raw Smoke Steel Build
6: Matt Reyes Steel Build
7: Sean Geivett: Lava Steel Tracklocross Build
Thanks for taking time!
Matt, Jake, and Daniel during a flash flood in San Francisco. 2019
A week ago I received a text from Chas asking if I was down for a ride out of The East Bay to Santa Cruz to campout and race the 41st Annual Surf City Halloween Cross Race. My response of course, a good ol’ Hail Yeah! So I packed a backpack and grabbed the AC-1 and headed down south. Originally to be Chas, Sean and I, I was pleasantly surprised to have the additions of Jean, David and later on down the road JDR!
I met Sean at his place and we took BART to Warm Springs where we met with Chas, Jean and David at a Taco Bell