Category Archives: Mission Workshop China Bike Tour
After looking back through all 800 photos I shot while on bicycle tour through China with Mission Workshop and Factory 5, I had a hard time breaking it down to a cohesive gallery show.
What I began to notice were themes in the photos, not apparent as I flipped through the files, but when I printed out a selection of photos, they began to tie in together. These themes represent not only my eye for cycling in urban environments, but also my background education and professional career as an architect.
China really changed my perspective on the world as a whole. I saw beautiful landscapes destroyed in the name of progress and capitalism. I witnessed a precious and old culture wiped out to assimilate with a preconceived notion of luxury. Everywhere I looked, I saw western civilization to blame.
Globalization, our desire to own and consume had changed China. Granted I had no benchmark for the status quo, I could only gather enough information through examining the landscapes.
The Chinese build for the sake of building. Supply and demand is a skewed balance, tilted in the former’s favor. This growth is unwarranted and most importantly, uncontrolled.
So where did this bike tour fall into place? It was, after all, Mission Workshop’s idea. While I was given no direction, no instructions, I did have really, complete freedom to do what I wanted.
We had an agenda: test out the new US-manufactured Acre clothing while riding a bicycle through some of the most polluted areas of China and document the trip for a gallery show. Was it successful? I’d say so…
Which brings me to this post: a selection of 50 photos, all shot with my Mamiya 7ii and Kodak Portra 400. These photos break down into illustrative observations, all of which are noted in the photo’s title. Some are obvious, others are not.
You’ll see the themes fairly easily and I’d like to hear what you have to say about them. Feel free to critique / comment, just be polite and constructive.
Many thanks to Mission Workshop / Acre, the Factory 5 crew and anyone that helped us on this journey.
Last month’s tour was one of the best months of my life. China was, albeit a bit taxing at times, incredible and that’s all thanks to the crew at Factory 5. One of those dudes is Jeff and this is his no frills Factory 5 F550 track bike. Bare aluminum, black components and my favorite rims, this bike is clean!
I have to admit, it’s my favorite from the group and that’s mostly due to the utilitarian nature of the setup. Sometimes, there’s risers and a front brake, other times, compact drops. The gear range is spinny and as Jeff proved by smashing it up some serious climbs, he’s well equipped for anything…
James Adamson from Adventure Refugee has a long-time relationship with Ibis Cycles, so when the time came to prep for the Mission Workshop trip to China, he contacted them about a bike. Their Hakkalügi Disc Cross made the most sense for this tour.
Shown here, completely stock with cross tires or as it appeared in my post photos with Fyxation tires. The Hakkalügi retails with an Ultegra kit for $3699. Unfortunately, these are the last photos this bike will ever have taken of it because China Airlines crushed it in transport. Bummer! Check out more in the Gallery.
As I ease back into normal blog content, I’ll be posting some of the bikes that the dudes rode on our bike tour. The first of the bunch is owned by one of the most famous track bike riders in China, MMC. The story goes that MMC was one of the first people in Shanghai to really embrace track bikes. When he wasn’t tearing through the streets, he was scouring the internet for deals on vintage Italian and Japanese components and frames.
Once he started working for Factory 5, the guys made sure he was on one of their new prototype aluminum low pro track frames. These frames look great with their classic lines, true track geometry and a 1″ threaded fork mixed in with oversized and shaped tubing. This particular frame is the third prototype. Many changes will be made for the final production model.
You can build them out however you want (you’ll see more examples). MMC usually rides his Zipp 404 laced to gutted Novatek hubs (upgraded to titanium bits and ceramic bearings) but we put the HED3 on for the photo shoot. Even his cranks are balleur. Campy C-Record Pista with a custom manufactured carbon chainring. He literally contacted a local factory to make it for him (53 x 18).
It’s a slick bike and he rode it like a champ on our tour. It really has one of the meanest stances I’ve seen recently in a track bike… Check out Factory 5’s current frame offerings here.
These past few weeks have been absolutely incredible. Our bike tour was easily one of the most exhilarating rides I’ve ever been on. To be concise, it was an eye-opening experience. I really thought that I knew what China was all about but almost immediately, I realized my preconceptions vastly polarized. My anxieties about some situations subsided, as the harsh reality of globalization’s effect on a ancient land settled in.
There’s nothing that can prepare you for the realities that hide on the outskirts of the city. As my film gets processed and scanned, I’ll begin think about how I’ll present my experience on paper. Right now, I feel like I’ve been nursing a two week long hangover. My body aches, my head is pounding and my lungs need some recovery time. So would I do it again? Of course.
When it’s all said and done, I’ve met some truly amazing people and had the opportunity to share all these experiences on bikes with them. I’ll say in confidence that we all will walk away from this trip with some great memories and for that, I’ll always be thankful to the communities that we rode with, the towns we stayed in and the guys at Factory 5.
Until next time, Shanghai, zài jiàn.
As the culmination of the Mission Workshop China Bike Tour with Factory 5, we threw a huge party last night. 700 bottles of beer, 2 Pocari Sweats and a few 2 liters of Sprite brought in around 400 people throughout the evening. Shanghai’s bike scene is a mix of ex-pats and local Chinese riders, so the crowd was quite interesting from a westerner’s point of view. I had a mini-photo show from some photos I posted on the site, James played some rough-cuts of the Mission Workshop videos and Shanghai brought the fun.
Tomorrow morning we all leave China and I still haven’t even begun to process this trip. I’ll share with you some thoughts later on, but for now check out some narrated photos from the party in the Gallery!
Photo by Hou Jue
Photos by Jeff Liu
In recent months, I’ve started to find myself in front of a lens almost as much as behind it, especially on this recent tour. Riding through China was overwhelming from a photography standpoint. Everything was rich in texture and as a foreigner, the everyday was visually engaging. When I could, I’d stop and shoot, or ask one of the riders to pause for a portrait.
Just about everything was natural and that’s something James from Adventure Refugee tried to capture in his video pieces for Mission Workshop. We’d leave with no plans, or script and would point out shots, or spaces when we came across them. In a land like China, nothing is predictable, you’ve just got to go with your instincts. That applies to the subject and the subjected.
Last night, we arrived in Shanghai, where we’ll stay until Monday night. Saturday night is the Mission Workshop party at Factory 5 where I’ll be displaying some of my favorite digital photos from the trip. There will be mountains of free beer, good music and great people. If you’re in Shanghai, roll through!
Unfortunately, Vimeo, Youtube, Facebook and even Gmail (sometimes I can load it up) is blocked in China, so regular blog posting won’t commence until I’m in Australia on Tuesday (your Monday). Thanks for understanding and if you sent an email, there’s no need to forward it again and again, I received it…
Expect some more Shanghai-related posts to go up periodically over the next few days, including bike portraits, so stay tuned.
I think I speak for the whole gang when I say that we’re all very happy to be done with the bike tour of China. It wasn’t so much the distance, because on paper, it’s not that much, totaling around 300 miles. But when you consider everything we encountered, it was one of the most sobering experiences of my life.
One of the things I did look forward to each night were the group rides. For me, it’s rad to see what and how people are riding in each city. Hangzhou was no different from the other cities. Most of the riders were young, most had cheap “rainbow fixies” but some had insane track bikes, ready for the boards…
Check out some narrated photos in the Gallery and keep an eye on Mission Workshop’s (@MissionWorkshop), Factory 5 (@Factory5) and my Instagram (@JohnProlly) during the day for updates.
We all woke up this morning knowing that we only had 70k to go on our trip and most of it was downhill from the bamboo forest. I really wanted to mob some trails on the Geekhouse Mudville, so James and I headed into the bamboo forest to shoot some video. When we got back to the lodge, we ate lunch, packed and headed out.
The ride today was hellish. Even though it was downhill for the first 15 miles, the wind was blowing hard. Then, when we got on the main road, it was filled with potholes and giant trucks spitting exhaust into our faces. Hangzhou was our final destination so we just put our heads down and pushed forward.
Finally, we were in the outskirts, but had to go through four tunnels to make it to the hostel where we were staying. Four tunnels that were so disgusting that the sissy Americans nearly puked after passing through them (myself included). To give you an estimate, the AQI in the tunnels were over 1000 and I forgot my mask.
Tomorrow, we have a day off before heading back to Shanghai, via a bullet train. We’re all nice and tipsy from post-ride beer and are about to head out into town… May the Necronomicog have mercy on our souls.
Keep an eye on Mission Workshop’s (@MissionWorkshop), Factory 5 (@Factory5) and my Instagram (@JohnProlly) during the day for updates.