Cali is not California with John Prolly


Words: Jeremy Dunn – Photos: John Watson

In May we headed out with photographer John ‘Prolly’ Watson to see what we could of the Amgen Tour of California. Certainly, we would be looking for some of the high stakes bike racing that is associated with that race. However, along the way we would meet and ride with some of the fantastic people that make up the California scene. As John was taken to saying half way through the trip “Cali is Not California.” What that means we are not really certain, but he did a fantastic job of capturing some of the characters that we met along the way.

John has been prolific in his blog posting and photo taking for a number of years, most recently with his contribution to the Survey — Austin, Texas — section of the Rapha site. In that style he has adequately brought together a moving portrait of this State that we love so much — California. You may recognize some of his Survey subjects as they are friends, family, co-workers and people that have been featured here before. However, the other common thread that they share here is the love for the bike and a penchant for using them in the cities they share.

The ATOC route for 2013 started in the South and progressed North with stops in every major cycling spot along the way — except Los Angeles. Now, if you have not heard, LA is a great spot to ride your bike. Do not listen to the cars and do not listen to the weather, just ride your bike. So, we decided that even though the Tour would not be going through that way, we should still pay a visit.

Jesse Carmody is a photographer himself and it is not often that the roles are reversed. Well, this was a common theme for the trip as we met up with a variety of different photographers throughout the week. Jesse also runs his own coffee company Pump Cold Brew, which is available at Golden Saddle Cyclery in Silverlake. Jesse is also a fan of motorcycles and may be spotted at any moment cruising around LA on something very cool looking, but that does not mean that his bicycles do not function in much the same way.

The Silverlake area of LA is one that is increasingly filled with creative, fantastic looking companies. Everything from Intelligentsia Coffee to the Dangerbird Records… Well, Jen Abercrombie has been there for eleven years with her women’s lingerie store Panty Raid. She is also a fan of cool bicycles and has a few of her own, like the Harry Havnoonian city bike that you see here. Jen, interestingly enough, was one of the first ever Survey subjects when she was photographed with this very same bike by Steven Nereo — Hey Harry.

Just after the riders had rolled out of Santa Barbara, we caught this guy hanging around the start line. He was accompanied by his compatriots as they looked for coffee and prepared for their daily ride. He was more than excited that we wanted to capture a photo of him with his Specialized Venge complete with the special edition Tom Boonen saddle designed by Garret Chow (see below). This man was very proud of his bicycle and rightly so.

We left Santa Barbara in a sprint for the finish line, wherever it was that day. Well, it wasn’t so much of a sprint, it was more like a pizza stop that happened to have a fast section in the middle. We cut it close, too close actually, as the Amgen Tour Tracker app (which works very well, by the way) was telling us that the riders were quickly approaching. After missing our exit and being shunted into a forced stop by the local police we were left watching the race from a random exit on HWY 101. That was where we ran into this little guy testing out the dirt roads with his gravel racer. A future Rapha Continental rider perhaps?

Picking up Marc Marino and Garrett Chow in Santa Cruz is one of the better moves that we made on this trip. Not only are both an endless source of entertainment, but they are some of the strongest riders we ran into. Garrett had the knowledge to help navigate us through the hills over to the TT stage in Livermore, Marc had the legs to keep everyone on their toes. By day he is a barista, serving up some of the finest coffee drinks that SF has to offer, by night San Jose Hellayer track racer.

The funny thing about having such a fancy bike is that people want to take pictures of it wherever you go. That is a problem that Garrett Chow has to deal with when he rides his custom painted Venge. The paint itself is based around the FEA chart (Finite Element Analysis) for the actual bike. He will have to explain more (and check out more photos here ) but it is suffice to say that this bicycle is a “head turner.” That, and the always rides on tubular tyres which makes even the grouchiest among us smile and nod in agreement. Garrett is one of the creatives and designers behind the MASH phenomenon, which he helps run with Mike Martin.

And providing the humor for the trip was our French counterpart — Julie Krasniak . She is a fan of all things cycling, coming from a family whose cycling heritage goes back further than any of us could possibly fathom. She knows what the race is going to do before it happens and how the racers will react. “Don’t worry about this break, they will never stay.” Or, on the first day when favorite Peter Sagan missed the final move to the finish line she responded in a similar (French) fashion “you can’t win every time.” After an early morning start at Crissy Field, the teams departed and we made our way back through the hills of the Marina where this photo was taken.

The search for Survey — San Francisco, California — led us to another photographer by the name of John Reiss (see above in header). Residing in San Francisco and working as a bike messenger for TCB Courier has given him more by the way of location scouting than anyone could ever imagine. But this shows in his work where rooftops are the norm and doorways become a thing of art. We traveled out to the Sea Organ with Jon to shoot photos and listen to the sounds of the waves as the sun beat down on the city of San Francisco.

Emily Haddad (in the sidebar with the Bianchi) used to run the Rapha Cycle Club in San Francisco. She now works for Mission Workshop, the fantastic bag company that is run out of the neighborhood of the same name. She is a fan of all things outdoors, especially riding bikes and rock climbing. She is also a fan of good food and has become a constant source of what is good in San Francisco. Her time with the Cycle Club and Four Barrel Coffee Roasters has also equipped her with the ability to make a mean, mean latte.

Mission Workshop themselves are a bustling space tucked away down an alley, behind the fantastic Pancho Villa taco shop. Their offices are reminiscent of early Rapha days on Mississippi Avenue. Back before we had air conditioning, or room to breathe. But, everyone is happily buzzing around and showing off the proofs to John Watson’s first ever photo book The Ends. Which chronicles their trip with Watson to ride and explore China*.

And just as quickly, the race and the trip itself is over. Tejay has taken the ATOC cake and that seems to be enough for everyone involved. And for all the rushing around, what do we have to show for it? A bicycle race happened in there somewhere. But, more importantly, a whole lot of other bike riding happened as well. To see more photos from all parts of the globe check out “the sartorial street cyclist, observed” >>> Rapha Survey.


Do you have Survey style photos? Use the hashtag #RaphaSurvey to add them to the growing list of people and bike photos on Instagram.

  • The book release for The Ends will take place this Saturday June 15th, 6 – 10 pm. 410 Rondel St, San Francisco, CA
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