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!