i am now rapidly approaching my nineteenth year of writing thewashingmachinepost, an anniversary that is perhaps not quite the achievement that it purports to be. i mention this because it's only within the past seven or eight years that i've spent every evening both before and after my tea, scribbling words that i hope might entertain, elucidate and very, very occasionally, inspire. to those who have asked, there is no overall strategy; the post survives or fails on a daily basis. more frequently than not, i've yet to settle on a subject or review for the day by the time i remove the macbook air from its comfy shoulder bag.
but if you tell anyone, i'll deny it all.
in those (almost) nineteen years, i've watched several cycling blogs arise and subsequently disappear, and also observed the big guys (you know who they are) infiltrate the interweb with resources i, as a one-person operation, can only dream of. the world's cycling pixels, by and large, have become a tad more commercialised, more serious and ultimately more corporate. with, however, one major exception.
daniel wakefield pasley is a resident of portland, oregon who once filled his days above several free-range hens pecking below an outside stairway that led to rapha's north american headquarters. he's also the fellow who singlehandedly invented the rapha continental, photographing and writing at least the first two years worth of the road less travelled. daniel and i shared a cup of stumptown coffee in the lobby of portland's ace hotel for a morning back in 2012, but due to previous transatlantic collaborations, i felt as if i'd known the guy since my schooldays.
the man could be described as irrepressibly 'off the wall', but in a very good way, having been one of the principal activists behind manual for speed since its inception several years back. irreverence could well be his watchword, something that stands out within the outwardly staid atmosphere occupied by professional road racing. he and photgrapher emiliano granado have brought mfs to the point where you just know that if it didn't exist, you'd have to invent it.
i've never clained to be a photographer, and with very good reason. i still have a collection of photographs by mr pasley sat in a drawer upstairs that i have used more than once as an ideal to be attained when running digital photography classes. but not only is dwp handy with a camera, he has a way with words that i secretly envy (ssshhh; don't say a word). for those who have either not come across manual for speed or have, but scarcely figured out what the heck is going on, the only solution was to ask: what exactly is manual for speed?
"First of all, Manual For Speed is the pre-eminent Road Cycling thing. Secondly, it's a humanistic, intimate and fanciful study of professional road cycling. Also, MFS is all about the vibe. And really, at it's most core, Manual For Speed is about the Greatest Spectacle on Earth; bike racing. Furthermore, whatever Manual For Speed is, at any given moment, it's nature moves around a bit. Point is, it's a fictional, non-fictional documentary about the sport of Road Racing."
of course, the word 'manual' carries with it certain connotations that until recently, would have implied a substantial chunk of printed matter to aid the initiate in matters in which he/she is uninitiated. there's a whole series of books published in the uk by haynes describing every last nut and bolt applicable to pretty much every automobile ever built. these promise the ability to dismantle a car and rebuild before breakfast without so much as a greasy fingerprint on any of its numerous pages. a real manual for speed sounds like the very tangible publication we'd all love to have in our collection. is there ever likely to be such an item?
"For The Record' is a collection of sometimes startling yet often invaluable insights obtained, first-hand, from bona-fide professional road cycling athletes. They're not all quotes, though most of them are. They're often related to cycling, but not necessarily directly so. As is the nature of insights, they're as much lateral as literal. We also have a feature on the site called Manual For Speed Manuals. MFSMs are educational and instructional photo essays designed to illuminate and titilate."
the very nature of the website that is 'manual for speed' is a temple to the scattergun approach to literature. it's possible to gain a semblance of orderliness from its pixels only to have it shunt you off in a direction you really didn't see coming. so doing takes craft and skill that most of us will never possess, but also pays tribute to an overweening strategy of which there are hints, but seem likely never to be appreciated as an entire entity. does manual for speed adhere to a cunning plan?
"We have so many plans, none of them are cunning exactly. Many of them are ambitious, maybe audacious? Covering the Olympics for the New Yorker. Vice Magazine's Tour De France Photo Annual. HBO special. MOMA. Etcetera, etcetera. We're not joking. Seriously, we want these things. Also, we want to earn and maintain continued respect from the Peloton."
dressed in woolly hats, quilted jackets, ripped jeans and converse all-stars, while referring to each other as 'dude' seems hardly worth mentioning in the worlds of bmx and downhill mountain biking; it is the lingua franca of the genre. daniel pasley is one of the few guys i know who can drop the word 'dude' into general conversation, without ever having it sound pretentious. however, it doesn't strike me as the sort of apellation bandied about in the professional peloton which makes me wonder just how the mfs chaps fit into the world of road racing. bmx and mountain biking, possibly even cyclocross i could understand, but world tour? hmmm... isn't there just the possibility that they're all having way too much fun to fit into the staid world of professional road racing?
"Aren't we in the Entertainment business? There are some people (maybe a lot?!); cycling fans, cyclists, enthusiasts, illuminati, beatniks, hippies, burnouts, artists, celebrities, etc. who aren't ashamed of their good taste and intelligence. We're here to serve them."
international trips to bolivia, to paris-roubaix and to racing locations all across the united states while holding together a creative staff of around nine folks can rarley be achieved on food stamps and newspaper coupons. that intellect and creativity has need of putting food on the table. as manual for speed are embroiled in the heavily sponsored world of international road racing, it comes as no surprise that their endeavours have been selflessly supported by castelli since the first set of pixels caught sight of a web browser near you. how do castelli fit into the manual?
"Castelli and Castelli's sponsorships are a built-in source of inspiration. Without their support, we wouldn't exist. They are our patron. And our muse. And we like them a lot, they are our friends. Furthermore, they give us an Unfair Advantage."
the cliche, 'man cannot live by bread alone' is quirkily attributable to mfs. though daniel and emiliano may be the authors of the manual, in order to publish the scope of their ideas, it has been necessary to recruit, dare i say it, 'like minds'. one of the most recent is that of kyle von hoetzendorff, formerly of portland's chris king components, and prior to that originator of some bizarre, yet clever videos for 21st avenue bicycles also of portland. now that kyle is a part of manual for speed, it seems like a marriage made in heaven, one that, with hindsight, was probably always on the cards. what incentives were offered to drag him away from nw nela street?
"We scouted Kyle Von Hoetzendorff six years ago. He was working for a bike shop, and writing, and generally being Kyle. We've wanted him ever since. Since Kevin Brown was grandfathered in from a previous incarnation of Manual For Speed, Kyle is our first 'hire.' We offered him a Shibori teeshirt, a tax problem, fame, and an all expenses paid trip to Bolivia. And what's called in the biz, a vested interest."
several years ago, when the tour de france came to london, i contacted a number of people i know who had impeccable contacts within the amaury sports organisation (aso) in an attempt to gain press accreditioan for the uk stages of that year's race. yet despite being in possession of e-mail addresses that are a closely guarded secret, i failed to even receive a reply telling me to go away and leave them alone. yet a bunch of americans with a wholly irreverent attitude to the beautiful sport have managed to gain the necessary papers to follow the whole enchilada from start to finish come july 2015. how on earth did they manage to blag their way in, and what will they bring to the party that we've scarcely seen or read before?
"Wait, is it hard to get into the Tour De France? We figured it's just like anything else...you register, right? Your line of questioning is unnerving. What do you know that we don't? We don't know how to NOT be Manual For Speed. The only thing we're good at is being Manual For Speed. At the 2105 Tour De France we will be Manual For Speed. We're bringing ourselves to the Party, and maybe some wine to be polite, and some Executive Water, and our cameras, and a special edition capsule collection of Print All Over Me photoreal 'Chilleur' teeshirts. That's it. Oh, and our website. What else?"
to hark back to the platitude about not being able to live by bread alone, does daniel and his manual make a living out of this?
"Yeah, Manual For Speed is basically a full time job for three, maybe four, fully developed adults. We also do Yonder Journal. Emiliano is also a successful commercial photographer. And we got a helluva tight ebay game."
at the risk of coming across as biblical, aside from the bread thing, it is also a truism that, 'in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.' if we all had the sprinting ability of mark cavendish or the climbing prowess of nairo quintana, there would be no real competition in the peloton. it's the fact that we're all different that makes the world go round (allegedly). clothing, component and bicycle fabricators are continually searching for that last tantalising advantage over their competitors. manual for speed's benefactors, castelli, greet the world with the slogan 'an unfair advantage', to which daniel has already paid tribute.
but surely by definition, the more people that read and view manual for speed, the greater the number of folks with an unfair advantage will outnumber those who don't?
"Wait, that's funny. It's also a conundrum. Bottom line, we're not scared. It sounds like the future."
over my almost nineteen years of scribblings, i may have left a shallow mark upon the world of cycling. though i prefer to keep my meanderings confined to the world of the road bike, not everything is about the competitive edge. i'm every bit as concerned with the bicycle's role in every day life. manual for speed on the other hand, by it's very name embodies and celebrates the racing milieu. in daniel's humble (?) opinion, has professional road racing been enhanced by the existence of mfs?
"That's a serious question. And it deserves a serious answer. I mean yeah, we'd like to believe that yes, we're making a positive contribution to Road Cycling Journalism. Whatever that means. Listen, we make jokes and poke the Institution and all that, but producing Manual For Speed is a LOT of work. But we do it anyway. In spite of the math. We do it because we genuinely love the sport of cycling. We do it because we think of ourselves as artists and publishers. And while maybe it's trite or overly simplistic or misleading or something, we do it because we're compelled to do it."
if you have not made manual for speed a regular part of your weekly roundup, i would heartily suggest that you do so from this moment forward. i say this not because daniel and kyle are good friends of mine, but because knowing both of them and their varying endeavours has provided a whole new perspective on a sport that has a distinct tendency to take itself way too seriously. manual for speed is the only serious antidote (see what i did there?)
thursday 19 february 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................