Freshness Feature – MASH SF Rider: James Newman

By - September 12th, 2007

Freshness Feature   MASH SF Rider: James Newman
Freshness Feature   MASH SF Rider: James Newman

Interviewed by Tom Bradley
Photos by MASH SF
Produced by retrogurl

It is described as an aesthetic choice to ride without brake-lines but there’s more there, there has to be a deeper logic to the insanity of voracious pedaling without even the concept of stopping short should something get in the way. Describe it, what its like and why it has to be that way.
I used to tell people that riding a track bike would make you look into the future. You have to look farther down the road, where your line of trajectory is going to take you. Since you can’t stop as fast, you have to plan ahead. The line you would take through traffic on a road bike would be much different than the way you would go on a track bike, because of this. For example, maybe someone steps out in front of you while you are riding down a road doing 25-30 mph. What do you do since you can’t hit the brakes? You just turn. You turn a little, avoid the pedestrian, and keep going. You slowly begin to expect that people on the road are going to do stupid things, they are going to throw open a car door in front of you. They aren’t going to see you most of the time. You just have to be ready for anything.

And most importantly, for people thinking about starting to ride a fixed-gear bike, leave that front brake on there for as long as you feel good about it. Besides, then you can do fresh nose-wheelies.

With the recent spike in interest regarding your passionate pastime and the tools of the trade have there been any ill-feelings toward newcomers and is the original magic being diffused at all by the new wave of riders/enthusiasts?
There used to be a huge level of animosity between messengers and anyone else on a track bike. As the real pioneers of riding track bikes on the street, messengers felt like they owned the right to ride these bikes, and it was an underground thing. Nobody knew at all what a track bike was, even 4-5 years ago. It felt great riding a track bike as a courier back then, because you were getting paid to do something dangerous and fun. It felt like you were getting away with something. Then other people started to catch on, and I think the messengers felt like their personal relationship to track bikes was being somewhat stolen or exploited. It’s always been a funny thing.

But these days, in SF, it isn’t like that at all. You never know what random dude on a track bike is going to have some great style or new trick. Everyone is upping the ante today, and I am glad that the issue of “fakengers” and hipsters and all that nonsense is over with. Everybody is establishing themselves as representing maybe one of these types of styles,
but retaining their own personal style as well. That kind of thing can not be duplicated, and I think that helps put to rest the whole issue of style-biting.

I know that in other places, like Seattle, there still is some rift between these groups of bike riders. The problem is that when you come on to a scene fresh and brand-new, you must show respect to the people that have already been there for a while. Respect is the issue. Nobody really gives a shit what color your deep-v’s are, or how uneven your haircut is. Everybody gives a shit if you are a humble and solid person who shows respect for their elders.

What would you like to see happen in the coming months/year with MASH SF?
I am excited for whatever happens in the near future, and I am super-proud to be a part of MASH. But the most important thing for me is getting on a bike that I can really get down on. I am trying to get more gnarly. I know that the style and geometry of track bikes is going to
change a lot. MASH should be a huge part of this, especially in the research and development aspects. For me, the standard racing-geometry steel track bikes I have ridden for 6 years now are not enough. For riding, they are great, no change needs to be made. But for tricks, and for riding interesting new terrain, they just don’t cut it anymore.

And as far as skateboarding goes, I think the best comparison to be made between track bikes in the city, and skateboarding, is the technology. In the 70’s, skateboards look way different than they do today. And obviously, most of the styles and tricks that people do now were not possible on the older skateboard technologies. I am feeling the new stuff that we don’t even know about yet. I can’t wait to see what kinds of bikes start to come out to accommodate these new styles of riding. There will be new bikes designed for tricks, which I know are coming out pretty quick, and of course, bikes that can take more abuse.

Interview with MASH SF Rider: James Newman

Interview with MASH SF Rider: Jonathan Burkett

Interview with MASH SF Rider: Chris “dirt’ Collins

Interview with MASH SF Rider: Massan

For more info:
MASH SF
MASH SF Blog [Honeyee.com]

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