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Monday, January 20, 2014

My Bike Be Like...a Monster Art Show

This event was kind of like a bike-centric First Fridays all under one roof. It was an art show that started when Vincent over at Velo+ put out a Facebook feeler for art to display on the walls of his new shop. I guess he got more offers than he had space for, so he took down most of his merchandise and set up a gallery opening for at least a half dozen artists, including the Poet Laureate of Lobsterland, Corinna West.

I think Corinna was the first offer, and it had originally been conceived as a show of her art being the first of a series, then morphed into a multi-artist show.

Velo+, is a relatively new bike shop here in the KC area. It's in Old Town Lenexa, by Jerry's Bait Shop where I sometimes sneak off to watch football games since the Chiefs got good again (having ditched my own TV a couple years ago).

Most suburban bike shops leave me cold. The emphasis tends to be on selling people impractical bicycles that combine discomfort for the rider with great expense. Bicycles that are great if you're going to race a road criterion, but which only a dedicated few can really get the benefit of. Casual, novice riders buy these things, as far as I can tell, 'train' on them for events like BikeMS, then after four or five years of meaning to ride them again, put them up on craigslist for sale. Sometimes these shops will at least push big guys towards mountain bikes instead of road bikes, but still with an emphasis on high performance stuff that makes little sense for a lot of people.

It's great to see Velo+ offering more commuter-friendly stuff (as well as all the crazy things you could want if racing is your heart's desire). Bikes that can take a rack or two, have clearance for fenders, some of them even have chain guards so you don't have to tuck your pants into your socks like me.

And I'm impressed, too, that these guys seem astute enough to figure out what a given customer wants and needs. Fat bikes, racing bikes, mountain bikes, etc. Plus, Vincent is a frame builder and does really neat bespoke builds.

A lot of the people who came out for it where folks I knew from Critical Mass, Kickball, the Velo Vixens zine party, or just around town.

Corinna really had to pace herself because of the TBI issues she's still dealing with from her bike crash last summer, but I was under no such restriction. A lot of these folks I mainly see on Facebook lately—between the cold weather (which doesn't keep us from riding but does tend to discourage loitering on streets when we meet) and my several month hiatus for open heart surgery.

The art was great, too. There was more than one piece I'd have bought if I didn't have that open heart surgery to pay off.

Food, beer, there was coffee, too of course. Vincent is also into roasting coffee and brewing in the shop's down time. I think he's still trying to get everything officially certified so he can sell his coffee, but in the meantime he gleefully brews it for anyone who will accept a free cup. They post to Facebook when they're going to be firing up the brew kettles, too, to encourage people to come hang out on brew day. I've never seen a bike shop in this area use coffee and beer to promote their shop this way, but cyclists as a group seem to be big consumers of both these beverages, so it makes a ton of sense.

I was honestly surprised that Corinna even made it to the event, let alone performing. She paid the price for it the next couple of days, and expressed frustration that she hadn't known better than to push herself, but while her TBI might have needed even more rest, everything else about her needed to do this event, reconnect with these friends, get up and do some of her poetry.

My friend Jamie was one of the artists showing, and she'd posted pics to Facebook of some of these chainring paintings. For some reason I pictured them being big, perhaps 4 feet square, and I don't know why I thought that: she obviously used actual chainrings as templates. A four foot diameter chain ring, who could pedal with enough torque to turn it? And if you were strong enough, how would you do it without sawing your groin apart?

And of course I had fun with my camera. I've been playing more and more with the aperture. I discovered that narrow depth of field thing when I got my Nikon and hooked that 35mm lens to it. It's a beautiful thing, the way you can isolate a subject and really show something. But I've also ruined a lot of shots by not having adequate depth of field. I read a piece on the subject that showed some great bokeh achieved even at apertures as tight as f5.6—kit lens territory, but with the subject isolated form the background by distance. Shooting fast still seems to pay big dividends on a lot of shots, and it allows you to shoot at a lower ISO, but check this shot out:

I forgot this woman's name (sorry, not great with names) but I'm really happy with the way the shot turned out. The ISO was cranked to 3200, pretty darn high—it tends to get noisy up there. There's noise in the shot, but it tends to be a pretty satisfying graininess. The aperture is pretty open, f2.8, but you can see by how extreme the bokeh is in the background, I probably could have tightened that down a couple of stops and still made it obvious that the nameless brunette was the subject of the photo. She might even look a little sharper around the edges of her hair at f5-ish.

I shot this guy at f2.8, too. I'd been debating, when I do have some disposable income to put towards glass for my camera someday, whether an f1.4 50mm lens would be worth the extra money compared to an f1.8 50mm prime. Of course I want the option to shoot all the way out there at f1.4, but the price difference is half way to another prime lens or a good speedlite.

One of the most interesting bikes they had on hand was this Genesis. The frame is carved out of mahogany, talk about a pig to ride. But it's not so much for riding, this is the form they use to make an injection mold for a monocoque carbon fiber frame. I gather there is some dispute about who perfected the technology first, but as it's name indicates, the Genesis is in discussion. I'd never realized that was how they did carbon frames, with a bladder/injection mold. I pictured fiberglass layup techniques like what I learned in model rocketry circles to make the tubes, then to join and fillet them.

I'm not really a fan of carbon fiber as far as it being anything I want for myself, but I love stuff like this proto-mold or whatever you'd call it.

I also think it's great when someone finds their power animal and just leans in. Like the lobster and me, but Taylor's thing is cats. She has a lot of cattitude. And even a cattoo.

She claims she only has three actual cats, but with those stockings, that tattoo and that skirt, I bet in a decade or two that will be a three with a zero after it.

Jamie found herself a fatbike and rocked it. She makes it look even bigger than it normally looks, but I could tell she was getting a kick out of bouncing on those low pressure tires. It's a funny thing, there was no such bike, what, ten years ago? But everyone who gets on one seems to love it. You can ride up to a curb and instead of hopping it, just crash into it, the tire will just freakin' roll over six inches of concrete like it was nothing. Tree roots and rocks on the trail? No problem when you're rolling on high volume, low pressure like that. And the rolling resistance and weight aren't nearly the issues you'd imagine.

Plus they're great on snow and sand. We don't have a lot of beach riding here in the heartland, but we do get a little snow.

Anyway, the whole thing was top notch, one of the best Friday nights I've had in a long, long time. You should rush out to Velo+ right now and check out the residual artwork. Buy yourself a fatbike while you're there—you totally need one.

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