The Best Bit About Being A Bike Reviewer
I should be asleep but I'm too giddy. Instead I'm writing this in my head so that future-Andrew can type it up at a time when it won't be "très ennuyant" to his family. That's living in a small multi-purpose space for you. What has me so excited is my next series of bike reviews. And, surprising as it may be, it has nothing to do with being a giant gear nerd.
We can talk more about the specifics on August 19th, but it's not really the bike I'm losing shuteye over. I'm certain there will be lots of interesting meat to carve off over the course of testing the machine and the bike is cool in a not-my-usual-cup-of-tea sort of way, but the reason that I'm so very stoked is I had the opportunity to hang out and see the first-look photos being created, in the pitch black of night, and they look f***ing amazing.
I've always had an artistic bent but with extremely limited artistic talent. So little talent in fact that folks with actual aesthetic sensibilities are innately wary of my presence lest I siphon off some of their spark. I'm fairly certain that,in elementary school, kids like Deniz tried to bribe our teachers to be sure they wouldn't have to collaborate with me. They were probably told something like "it's important to learn to work with all sorts of people because when you grow up you won't always get to choose who you work with on projects." Ha! Pass the glue friends - it's collaging time.
As someone who loved glossy print bicycle magazines, like bike or Dirt Rag, for the stories, I'd still start every single one by going cover-to-cover perusing the images. I've never really been into mountain bike videos, having always felt the sport is best captured and distilled in photographs. And to have my, at best, mediocre bicycle riding talents captured by artists like Dave Smith & Deniz Merdano has been an absolute joy. Both seeing the final products and experiencing the process one-more-time over and over again.
It's certainly not a matter of my making magnificent shapes on a mountain bike, boosting big into brutal bottom outs, or burying my bar as I'm carving through corners. There's no need to hold back or hide from it; taking my photograph is a job.
Aside from the awesomeness of getting to see myself in professional photos looking like I genuinely know how to operate a mountain bicycle, my favourite aspect of working with actual artists is that I never finish a shoot without a few pieces of writing percolating. It's regularly protein for my process.
After Deniz captured my terrified facial expression on the upper part of Digger, I wrote Scare Yourself. After Mr. Smith captured me looking extra-rotund layering for interminate dank Dave experience, I wrote Fatness Goals and Survival Of The Fattest and even eventually If You Can't Ride From Home, Ride From Somewhere. And apart from the directly correlatable content, there are untold numbers of other little inspirations.
As I browse back through the three hundred and seventy-odd pieces I've written for NSMB.com, it's astounding the percent that directly owe their existence to the talented folks who've taken my photograph. It could be chewing through first looks at a new bike, where images create the interest while I'm rattling off specs and nit-picking about things I'm going to change, or being the sole inspiration for a piece of editorial, but there's something about the experience of working with a photographer that makes my juices flow.
As someone who'd usually rather be riding my own bicycle this is one of several reasons being in the photographs is the best bit about being a bike reviewer.