2018 Ronde van Vlaanderen
Sunday April 1, 2018 | Antwerp to Oundenaarde
We’ve been documenting Road Racing for seven years now.
2018 Ronde van VlaanderenI
I Dear Cycling
We’ve been documenting Road Racing for seven years now. When we started, if we’re being honest, we didn’t know shit about you really. We were life-long-ish participants, we’d worked in the “bike” industry, we’d raced here and there, and we could pick Jan Ulrich out of line-up, but that was about it. I mean, we had a sense that you were a big deal, an internationally relevant, oft-romanticized sport that potentially transcended athleticism and competition, like maybe you were a metaphor for humanity, maybe not—but the point is we didn’t really know how you worked or what made you tick. In fact, in part at least, that’s why we created Manual for Speed. To learn you. To make a contemporary study of your speed and spectacle, to figure you out.
But what does that mean; figure you out? I only ask because all these years and races and interviews and teams later we still don’t truly know shit about you. We’ve created High Points and Low Points, Fan Clubs, Human Athlete Visual Showcases, Typologies, Race Reports, so many Race Reports, Yo! MFS Cribz, Knife Fights, Most Animal Moments and on and on and on. We’ve lurked, peeked, watched, Othered, Gonzo’ed and all kinds of documented you pretty consistently now for years. And still, nothing. Strange, right?
What makes the whole thing even more curious is the fact that we’re professional documentors, this is what we do. This is, allegedly, our thing. Not only are we personally professional photographers and writers, we have crazy good access to videographers, website builders, graphic designers, illustrators, artists and musicians. To that point, over the years we’ve spent so much money and time and resources collaborating with countless talented artists to create some kind-of commentary or digestion or observation or whatever you would call it, about YOU. So it’s not like we didn’t try. And don’t let the sneaker obsession, selfie fetish and expensive leather hats fool you, we’re serious about this kinda shit, so it’s not like we didn’t care either. In our own way we’re trying to be preeminent.
So here’s where I’m at; I think maybe we suck at journalism. Hear me out. I don’t think we suck at what we do, but what we do, it turns out, isn’t journalism. And when you dig into it a bit, it all kinda makes sense. We don’t love facts. We don’t care about the details. We don’t even necessarily love reality. We’re all about the vibe. We’ve been vibing on cycling this whole time. Which, that’s fine, vibing and news are kinda the same. Kinda.
Sometimes at night when it’s late and Keiran’s asleep and my laptop is handy and I’m feeling sad and unloved and suffering, probably, from nearly-clinical low self-esteem, I do what’s commonly referred to as a Deep Dive. On Manual for Speed. I basically take stock of all the shit we’ve done in the last seven years. And dude, there’s SO MUCH SHIT. We’ve done so much shit it’s insane. Anyway, the other night I was doing that, trying to figure out why we’re still doing this project, why so many of our more recent initiatives have faltered or failed or fallen flat, why our readership is down, why our relevancy is down, why we even bother. Why, why, why. Why? And in that moment I had a revelation. An epiphany. Essentially, for the last seven years or whatever we’ve been making a sprawling, semi-episodic, multidimensional, fictional-non-fictional multimedia, performance-based Fan Art odyssey.
With that in mind I started to think about our core competency. We’re good at being fans. Really, really, really good at it. So good at it. We’re good at loving cycling for emotional and irrational and non-linear reasons. We’re good at sharing our thoughts and ideas even if often they’re suspect or unpopular. And we’re good at art-type stuff. We’re okay at publishing.
So this year here’s the deal, we’re going to focus on one project. Everything else, every other aspect of MFS, except race reports like this one, is cancelled. That one project is called Dear Cycling, We’re Fans. Episode One is hella forthcoming.