Some days, you’re the eagle, whipping past your fellow cyclists with ease, style and a massive sense of superiority. Other times, you’re the dodo - awkward, shuffling; wrapped tighter than the lunchtime sandwich you’re currently trying to stuff into a smaller than advertised seat bag (very stylish, very Italian - very expensive).
At times like these, you could do worse than take to Instagram to browse the latest work by artist, illustrator & cyclist, bicyclecrumbs. And after several minutes, you’ll probably have regained your sense of bike perspective. And laughed - a lot.
The Pedaler recently caught up with crumbs to chat bikes, art & what keeps him drawing.
You came to cycling by way of skateboarding, right?
I'm not sure what it is, but I feel like there's a natural transition here. I know a ton of former skaters who moved on to bikes. Perhaps its the design involved? Both are about pushing limits. Honestly, I think that's it. Simply trying the same trick over and over until you make it is the exact same thing as training to better your time on a specific climb. Anyway yeah, I try and still do a kickflip and one hard flip each year. I feel like that keeps me young.
What sparked your interest in drawing?
My first real drawing memories are from kindergarten. We would take that computer paper with the perforated sides that came folded, stretch out a few pages and draw different, really tall monsters. From then on it was always a part of my life, but I didn't take it seriously until I was a sophomore in high school. It was there when I saw how drawing could overlap into design on a computer. That's also when I seriously started to learn Illustrator and Photoshop. From then on I followed those skills trying to make a career out of them and getting a BFA in Visual Communications with a concentration in illustration from the University of Kansas. Although while in school, I shifted a lot to watercolour painting and thought that's where I might end up for a while. I do want to use those painting skills and bring that side of things to bicyclecrumbs eventually.
Who's influenced your style?
A lot of the time I say "I don't have a style" Bicyclecrumbs by design was made to try and create a career in cycling. I tried to just make it as unique as possible so it would draw eyes. My drawing though is super adaptable, and only recently have I started to show some of my quicker, more low brow stuff. I feel like that might be who I am as an artist. It makes me laugh, it's fun, and I love doing it. I cant say that's true for everything else I've done.
Has (your style) changed along the way? I see echoes of Mike Giant's Cinelli work in there.
Yeah, I think due to time though. What I mean by that is as bicyclecrumbs has grown I've had less and less time to devote to it. I stopped noodling so much on details no one can see and started focusing on the overall feel of each drawing. The work got quicker and better IMO because of that.
How do you choose the subjects for your illustrations? Is there a common theme or thread that pulls you towards each one?
For the reviews it's easy. I pick out my favourite detail or details of the subject. For the weird stuff, its honestly what pops into my head, I draw. A lot of its pretty common sense its just me thinking hey that shifter looks like this other thing and mashing them together.
You've had a healthy carousel of lust-worthy bikes passing through your ride stable, but which ones have earned a permanent place, and why?
I only say that I currently own one "forever bike", which is my Philosophy Cycles from NAHBS 2016. I was a part of everything on it I feel. It's exactly how I imagined, and I just haven't ridden anything better. Everything else has been really good. But the philosophy is on a different level. That might change as I have some special things in the works. Eventually when I work up to a custom Speedvagen that might be another one too. Right now my SV is a stock geo bike. It might be the best bike I own, but it's a pure rim brake road bike, which isn't the type of riding I prefer.
What do you make of the bike scene right now? Do you think we're in a good place?
Hmmm, that's a tough question, and I think it's dependent on location. Cycling is both the most divided and inclusive thing I've ever been a part of. My riding has changed a lot over the last three years, and I don't care to be a part of any group. When I got really into cycling, I took training seriously and was kind of a dick about riding. I realised I'm not super into that. One thing that bums me out is the celebration of negativity online. Anyone can be a dick - it's easy. But taking the time to care about something and put real effort into what you do - that is something I respect.
And what's this obsession with pre-90s Cannondales all about?
This goes back to growing up! In 1st grade, I lived in Colorado Springs. Someone in the neighbourhood had one (at the time I didn't know what it was); I just knew it looked like a race bike just like it could go a million miles per hour. That memory stuck, and once I got into bikes, I quickly realised what it was so long ago that I couldn't forget. I found one on craigslist, restored it from the ground up, powder coating the frame and building it with full Shimano Sante. Then it was on. Whenever one would pop up on craigslist for a good price, I would buy it. I think aesthetically they are the best. They look so fast for being 30ish years old; they were American made back then too. Honestly, it's hard to pinpoint. They're not the best ride, nor super comfortable, and a lot of them were pretty basic, but nostalgia is a powerful feeling!
Which bike brands would you point to as doing especially good work right now?
OH I LOVE THIS QUESTION.
- Speedvagen (shameless I know) but I'm continually impressed and proud of what we are putting out.
- Easton - they have stepped it up over the last few years. Their crankset is one of my favourite components available.
- Allied - I'm just super impressed with what they are doing it has me considering a carbon bike for the first time.
- Quoc! The Gran tourer is a seriously impressively well made I only hope it rides as well as it looks!
- I love Richard Sachs and everything he stands for in frame building.
- Sim Works!
- Industry Nine.
- Andrew The Maker.
- I would love to own a bike made by Chris Bishop.
- Timmy from Rowan is amazing!
- Outer Shell.
- Rodeo Labs.
- Stanforth - uncompromising in what they do. Good stuff.
From the True Romance to the Froome-esque schools of riding, you seem to enjoy a broader than usual spectrum of riding?
I think that's true. There's something special about bicycles. They can make everyone suffer, or they can bring great joy. In the end though, I think I'm continually chasing fun and experience. Pedaling makes me more creative and sparks ideas. Without it, my work may have stalled out long ago.
You've namechecked Laurent Fignon as your favourite rider - what was it about The Professor that you related to so much?
Cycling needs characters to stay relevant, at the time I'm not sure he was a "character" but looking back on him and his appearance if you saw him on the street there's no way you would pinpoint him as a dominant athlete in his sport. There's something cool about that.
Creatively, what keeps you drawing?
Honestly, Its the cycle I mentioned above. I can work out concepts and ideas while on long rides (often time about bikes) I then use the art as a release. Listen, if we ever meet in person I'm pretty awkward, and my brain works faster then my mouth a lot. I'm just a more fluent communicator through art.