We kicked off the cyclocross portion of Squid World Tour early again this year in August. After a successful weekend of UCI racing Down Under in Melbourne’s winter cyclocross conditions, we made our way up (way up) to Beijing, China for the 6th Edition of the always hot and muggy Qiansen Trophy Cup. In the past the majority of the races have been held in the outer rings of the capital city. This edition, however, the events would be held at all new venues outside (way outside) Beijing. The Squad was excited for all new courses, new roads, and a whole new Chinese adventure.
It’s been a while, but after a good amount of prep and construction, Shanghai’s Factory Five have just opened their new space. They converted a 150sqm shell into their new storefront and design offices, while leaving the perimeter open to bring in natural light.
Factory Five carries their own frames, PAUL, Restrap, Mission Workshop and others.
Head to their Flickr to see more photos!
When someone says the following words, in any order, I get chills: bike, China, race. Especially in Beijing! Big Dirty threw a rather intense race earlier this year: Tianjin to Beijing, 130km in 35C weather. Count. Me. Out!
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.
I still have so much leftover film from China, with some of my favorites being the roll of 220 I shot in the bamboo forest on the Mamiya. The guys from Factory 5 rode up to the top of this mountain range on their track bikes and I was on my cross bike, getting shots along the way.
Photos by Sean Murphy
As one of the first people to test out the new cycling gear from Mission Workshop, I greeted it with as much apprehension as enthusiasm. Surely, there were already a lot of options for urban cycling gear out there but were these new pieces strictly for cycling?
Not at all. In fact, while I enjoyed riding in the clothes, I didn’t feel like there was anything in particular that made it cycling-specific and that’s a good thing. The side utility pocket has everyday applications and the cut certainly fits on the bike. In the end, this is made in the USA, high-tech, high-quality clothing from a company that is no stranger to those traits.
I’ve started to post some of the film photos from China that didn’t make it to the Ends book or photo show up on the Norse Photo. Most of which are riding shots, something I love taking but for whatever reason, didn’t make it into the Ends.
Mission Workshop still has a few copies of the books left and we’re working out international shipping rates as well… More on that this week.
Tools of the trade:
Shot from a moving bicycle
Mamiya 7ii / 65mm
Kodak Portra 400 / high res scan
Couldn’t make it out to the opening party of The Ends at Mission Workshop? No big deal, yesterday I shot some photos of the pieces and they’re all displayed in the Gallery. At this point, I’m exhausted from this whole process of going through 800 drum-scanned photos and narrowing a selection down to around 30 photos. The theme is apparent here, if you take the time to soak it all in and I’ll be posting more about The Ends over the next few weeks…
This show will travel to Eurobike and Paris later this summer, as well as Interbike. We’re still trying to figure out what pieces will be displayed where, but in the meantime, the photography book is available at Mission Workshop. Also, you can contact Mission Workshop if you’re interesting in purchasing one of these handmade, high-quality photographic prints on Fuji paper.
Here’s a video trailer promoting a series of webisodes that Mission Workshop is working on with the Werehaus, showcasing our bike tour in China:
“Setting out from Shanghai, John Watson and Mission Workshop began their cycling tour of China’s Yangtze River Delta. Using both film and digital formats, Watson photographed the surroundings and encounters with the local community. Led by their friends from Factory Five, they headed into a frenetic network of massive residential complexes, large industrial parks, and super highways. At first glance, the route seemed straightforward, however, the reality of the 1,000km trip was far more intense than anyone expected.”
I jokingly said the other day to a friend that the hardest thing about my trip to China with Mission Workshop wasn’t actually being in China, it was sorting through all my photos. Over 20 rolls of 220 film, 10 rolls of 35mm were accumulated in the three weeks I found myself in Asia. Imagine having to sort through all that and pull together a concept.
a short preview of the book
This is “The Ends”, a book of photographs that is being released at my photography show at Mission Workshop this Saturday, June 15th. You can Pre-Order the book now and it’ll ship Monday, June 17th. We’ve already got the copies and they look amazing. Each copy was printed in Oakland.
“75 page soft-cover book showcasing John’s photographs from the 1,000km bike tour.
Setting out from Shanghai, John Watson and Mission Workshop began their cycling tour of China’s Yangtze River Delta. Using both film and digital formats, Watson photographed the surroundings and encounters with the local community. Led by their friends from Factory Five, they headed into a frenetic network of massive residential complexes, large industrial parks, and super highways. At first glance, the route seemed straightforward, however, the reality of the 1,000km trip was far more intense than anyone expected.
The following photographs from their trip were taken by John Watson, depicting his impression of what is meant by “the ends justify the means.”
This is The Ends.
Available for sale online and at Mission Workshop San Francisco. Ships Monday 6/17.”
Please spread the word, buy a copy of the book for $35 and roll through the show this Saturday!
This is the sixth layout of the 2013 PiNP Calendar, entitled “Into the Void”. The camera, lens used and location are noted on the bottom left of the document.
During my tour in China with Factory 5 and Mission Workshop, we often found ourselves riding into the unknown. When visibility is low and you can’t see more than half a mile ahead of you, who knows what lies ahead. Part of that mystique is what made that trip so unique and photos like this barely scratch the surface of what it was like to ride through the countryside.
Right Click and Save Link As – 2013 PiNP Calendar: June
Here’s a photo of Jeff from Factory 5 riding down an open road somewhere west of Shanghai. After all the smog (which is still visible in the background), trash and shitty roads, sections like this were a gem… I’m ramping up to my book release and gallery show in SF on June 15th. More details to come.
Tools of the trade:
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.
Another one of the Factory 5 track bikes that was on the bike tour was Tyler’s. This 61cm frame has quite the component kit on it. Most interestingly, one of five pairs of H+Son carbon fiber wrapped Formation Face rims. The aluminum rims were thinner, to compensate for the wrap, resulting in a lighter rim. They’ll never see full production, because they were a pain to fabricate, but they look great laced to Dura Ace 7600 36h single side track hubs. Tyler’s also riding Paul Royal Flush cranks, which he’s had for over four years in China with no issues.
This is the third prototype of the forthcoming Factory 5 aluminum low pro frame, with smoother welds. The final version will still have a few revisions. Factory 5 has been working on this particular model frame for over a year, revisiting the geometry before making the final version. It makes their motto “We Build. We Ride” even more fitting.
I wanted to photograph his bike after the tour, muddy and all, as a recording of how fucking dirty his bike got riding through China. I’m going to miss hanging out with Tyler. He’s like my metal brother in China…
Check out Factory 5’s current frame offerings here and more photos in the Gallery.
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.