An interview with Gavin Bannerman the man behind Biking Brisbane blog and Pushies Galore Co-Organiser. This weekend Pushies Galore gets under way in Brisbane for the second year running at Holland Park Bowls Club. If you're a fan of bikes you simply must get to Brisbane and join in. Frame builders Darrell "Chainsaw" McCulloch from Llewellyn Custom Bicycles and his old mentor Eric Hendren will be there as well as Joe Cosgrove master bicycle designer, builder and painter. On Friday night there's an Alley Cat. River City Rollers are organising all the roller racing fun. There's a photo exhibition, plus a show 'n shine, with vintage bikes through to BMX and just about anything on two wheels without a motor.
This week I spoke to Gavin Bannerman from Biking Brisbane Blog firstly to find out how he became a bike blogger and secondly to find out more about Pushies Galore and how it came to be….
Is the blog a personal project?
It's just a love kinda project.
I got a Creative Sparks grant from the Brisbane City Council and Arts Queensland in 2010 to do with the project Biking Brisbane, it was just an exhibition, I just started the website to support the exhibition. It was just dipping the toe in the water really. Cycling was really topical, so I did video interviews with people because digital story telling is a big thing I do with my work ..… my State Library Work. Then I did portraiture of people and their bikes. There were lots of people doing really detailed componentry shots and I'm not from that background so I didn't focus on that, it was more the people's kinda storys. That was October 2010 and then from there sorta just by accident, I wouldn't call myself …… well maybe I am a blogger but I never really set out to do it, I ran the blog to support that exhibition and then when that exhibition finished I was like ohhhh what am I going to do I may as well keep doing it.
People really responded well to the frame builder stuff with Darrell McCulloch and afterwards I did an interview with Joe Cosgrove then Eric Hendren. I interviewed Darrell and Eric together which was quite good because Darrell learnt to build Hoffy's under Eric, he left school pretty early I think when he was sixteen or seventeen and he worked at Hoffy for a while and then went out to be a mechanic on Australian teams.
So I thought it's a niche and researching the history of things is interesting to me professionally and it's something that people are reacting well to.
I've got family in Melbourne so when I went to Melbourne I took a video camera and interviewed Ewen Gellie, Daryl Perkins and some younger frame builders, people just starting out, Tristram and Scott both bike mechanics at Commuter Cycles in Brunswick, they're making randonneur style bikes.
So they're specialised in that area?
It's less from the race aspect, it's really hard to make a race bike in Australia - competitively.
Darryll has a niche and Joe's painting bikes, they have a reputation, it certainly must be hard for the Melbourne guys who are just starting out?
They are so interesting the people who do that kinda stuff because it's not the norm, the norm is to buy imported bikes, so to make or do anything that involves labour is expensive because our wages are high and the dollar is high … so if you do it you've gotta love it, those people who do it are pretty admirable. Take Joe Cosgrove for example, he won the world prize at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in 2010 and he does it from his house at Moorooka, that should be an Australian Story.
I met Richard, I was taking portraits of peoples stables of bikes, he said 'I've got some old bikes a lot of path racers', so I went and took some photos and afterwards he said 'I'm thinking about getting together a bike swap, would you want to be involved?' I had an online presence and Richard had the idea and a good relationship with the people at the Holland Park Bowls Club. It's a bit of a godsend, they have two bowling greens and one of them is dis-used, so they let us set up the stalls on the bowling green. It's a time warp in a good way, it's like going back to the fifties, it's trying to have a kinda relaxed atmosphere.
With bikes there's group rides and activities you can do based around doing kilometres with friends, there's not as much interaction between cultural activities and bikes. I think Melbourne does it, Sydney do it a little bit with the Bike Film Festival, but in Brisbane there's not really been that much that has happened, you know you can be into bikes and you can be into whatever, but it's like why not merge the two. I really like Pushies Galore because it's got BMXer's, fixed, track riders, roadies, mountain bikers, cyclo cross people, commuters, kids the whole works. I think people like it because there's a demand for that and a demand for people to get together.
This is the second year of Pushies Galore, last year we did the big event in July and then we had just a swap in November where it was just the trade stalls swapping and selling, there wasn't any show component. At the moment at the annual version we have a show and shine, private swapping and selling, trade stalls the photo exhibition and roller races. We can only do it once a year because people need a year to get their bikes together. July's a good time of year in Brisbane, less chance of rain. We'd like to think that in the future people would come from inter-state to get out of the cold weather and have a good time for a week. It's during the Tour de France, it's good timing.
I think the internet has really changed things, you can become really knowledgeable about things in a really short period of time. It is funny, in November we had that swap, there was this kid and he was thirteen and his knowledge was amazing, just from going on the internet saying stuff to his dad like "ohh did you see that second generation Dura Ace". Somebody has probably scanned the old catalogue and the kid knows how many grams things weigh as an example. The digitised information helps make it more of an exciting experience. I think the show aspect is really exciting to people, you see the sites that show the bike porn kind of photos, but then to actually then see the real object, the primacy of the object, that's a great thing.
I can appreciate that concept of bringing it together with a visual aspect, normally we associate cycling with the act of riding and there's generally not a real visual connection, the show is a nice way of tying it all together.
What Rapha and Rouleur do, they'll have an article which spans three issues, it's real in depth reportage and the style of photography, it's really specific to cycling. It makes sense to do it in that way, you want an object you really want to hold.
I like that aspect of your work which brings together visual concepts, how does that tie in with your initial involvement with bikes.
I live near the city and in 2007 I just started riding to work, and I was like "ohh bike riding I like this," I thought it's something people should know more about because it's such a no brainer that it's a good thing to do. So I decided it's a creative avenue to do something outside of work. I could just as easily have done coffee, or anything, but bikes is what I'm putting my attention on, bikes are a vehicle for having fun.
It gives you a creative outlet through the blog or expressing it through the show, even accessing magazines like Rouleur.
It's amazing. Bikes are great, you walk up to a stranger, if they didn't have a bike with them there's no way you would enter into it, they do break down barriers, everyone's happy when they are talking about a bike, no one's unhappy, all their worries go away when they are talking about their bike.
When you first started riding was it purely from the aspect of commuting or was there more to it?
It was pretty functional, I first bought a heavy three speed bike to ride about six kays to work on. Then my dad got a Mitchell road bike from the tip, that Sorrenson's at the Gold Coast used to make under the Mitchell name. It had Shimano 600 on it and that was the first road bike I'd ever ridden, and I thought this thing can go pretty fast and you were going thirty k's an hour instead of fifteen. You can just get everywhere in half the time, it changes the way you relate to your environment, I really like that about bikes because it makes distances smaller and it changes your perspective of the city.
So the Chesini, that was an evolution, you found out about steel bikes.
I bought this green triple triangle Reynolds - it was a Repco, I don't know if it was made by Ken Evans, it was made by someone in Melbourne a reputable frame builder though. I got it out of the box, rode it, the brakes weren't working properly, I rode it down a hill and crashed it into a fence and bent the head tube. That was the first day, it had Superbe Pro gear on it. Then this guy Dave, had the Chesini frame up on the wall, it had a pantograph stem on it as well, which was nice but I liked the classic Cinelli stem which I had on my previous bikes. So I contacted Gypsy and he swapped all the parts over for me.
Photography by Robert Cobcroft Hipshots