Friends, we’d like to introduce you to an important member of our family.

We’re thrilled to hand over control of our social feed this week to¬†our¬†multitalented friend Gideon Tsang.¬†Given our history with Gideon, and how much we love his work, it’s crazy we didn’t think to do this earlier!¬†Not familiar with Gid? Well, keep reading! We sat down (virtually) with him to ask a few questions, which easily progressed into to a long, flowing convo covering an incredibly wide range of topics. Normally we’d¬†abbreve the heck out of this, but since most of us have some extra time on our hands these days,¬†we’re just gonna run with the long version. Hope you enjoy!¬†

2019 Blowout Sale!
Let’s start by introducing yourself and telling us where you’re from.¬†¬†Hey there, eh? My name is Gideon Tsang. I hail from Toronto originally, but have lived in Calgary, Paramaribo, Hong Kong, Chicago, Detroit, and for the last 20 years I’ve been calling Austin home.

Whoa, you’ve gotten around.¬† But 20 years in Austin says a lot. I imagine you’ve seen a lot of changes in that time. What‚Äôs kept you around?¬†¬†I sometimes describe living in Austin as¬†being tied to the tracks while the train of capitalism is barreling through. What’s been not-so-great is that many parts of the city are becoming Anywhere, USA’ed;¬†as in, when you’re standing on any corner around downtown Austin, it feels like you could be anywhere in the USA. We’re losing our aesthetic and the soulful references that make our city unique…

… On the other hand, what’s great about it is I’ve met some wonderful people who’ve moved here in the last 20 years. I’ve seen my friends that own restaurants, bars, and small businesses, and who are artists and photographers, grow with the city and become successful. Also, Austin’s always been a city filled with lowbrow art, where everyone’s in 3 bands and making something. But recently, we’ve gotten some highbrow installations in the last few years from the likes of Ai Weiwei to James Turrell to Ellsworth Kelly. So that’s f**kin’¬†cool too.

What was the Ai Weiwei installation?¬†¬†It’s called¬†Forever Bicycles,¬†located at the Waller Creek Delta, consisting¬†of over 1,200 bicycles transformed into a playful, spectacular monolith of a sculpture.¬†It’s pretty trippy to see in person, looks like the bikes are coming at you. It’s a bit of an optical illusion.

Speaking of bikes, the Austin¬†scene is well-known and seems super strong. What’s behind that and has it¬†changed over the years too?¬†¬†Austin is known¬†for its BMX scene and road racing. Lance–for whatever opinion you may have of him–really put the spotlight on us. The Driveway Racing Series has done a lot in unifying the cycling community. It’s a weekly crit a few miles from downtown on a professional auto racing track. Every Thursday from March to September, we race bikes and it’s a weekly party. Even if you aren’t a roadie or crit racer,¬†there’s food trucks, free beer, and all your cycling friends. I find that because of the Driveway, there’s less siloing between different cycling scenes. Like roadies, commuters, campers, cyclocrossers, mountain bikers, we all hang out together.

Ten¬†years ago, if someone rode by on a nice bike, there was a 95% chance I knew that person. Now, I’ll see someone ride by on a fender Crust, with Swift bags on a front rack.¬†and¬†think to myself, Why don’t I know you? Why aren’t we friends?¬†

Here in Seattle the climate is regulated by seawater, which hovers around 45 degrees for most of the year. So when air temps get over about 70 it can cause some Seattleites to melt. But word has it summers can get kinda warm in Texas.  
Yup. Heat. IT’S A THING. It starts to get hot in May, and stays hot all the way through the end of September. The key to beating the heat is to start early and find water. We have lots of natural spring-fed swimming holes sprinkled around Central Texas.

Swimmin‚Äô holes are what PNW summer dreams are made of. You just have to brace yourself because most of our spots are made of water that was actually snow just a few hours earlier!¬†¬†But come on, the PNW in the summer is where it’s at, swimming holes or not!

That’s true, and it’s gotten a lot harder to keep that a secret, haha!¬†Just thinking about it makes me jones for summer gang rides. I hope we get to do that this year. What do you do for work &/or what kept¬†you busy prior to the shutdown?¬†I founded and run a non-profit called Vesper. It’s a collaborative art space in East Austin. Several non-profits anchor the space as their home and we host varying visual art, photography, poetry and fashion shows. We try to make Vesper available to the surrounding community at a low cost for neighborhood associations, mentoring programs and other community functions as well. I also lead a spiritual community that intersects spirituality, mythology and psychology towards holistic healing.

That’s an amazing way to be connected to the local community.¬†I assume everything‚Äôs on hold while we’re dealing with the pandemic.¬†¬†Yup, we’re scrambling like everyone else. Trying to see what resources and help we can access. Fortunately, we’re a pretty small operation so that allows us to be nimble. It’s a crazy world we’re living in.

And then on the spiritual side?¬†¬†Religion and spirituality tied to tribalism have done so much damage throughout history. We believe that it’s necessary to still maintain some healthy spaces for people who are inclined to spirituality. The metaphor I use is if most Western spiritual spaces are like fast food, it’s important to have spaces that offer healthy alternatives.

That’s a great analogy. So apart from maintaining a solid spiritual foundation, how are you going about handling these challenging¬†times?¬†¬†Like everyone else, I’m just doing my best to hang on. I’m living solo for the first time in 25 years. There are good days and there are hard days. I’m such an active person and all my hobbies are outdoors, so I’m trying to find some new indoor¬†hobbies. So far that’s just been lots of listening to records, reading, and pushups, haha.

I should¬†add¬†pushups to my meditating and reading routine! What do you have¬†on heavy rotation on the¬†turntable? And what are reading?¬†¬†I’ve been listening to a lot of¬†Arthur Russell, Moses Sumney, and Balmorhea. Currently reading The¬†Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino.

Hopefully you’ve been¬†able to get out on some rides too?¬†¬†That’s really the only thing keeping me sane!¬†You can get out of town pretty quick in Austin, so riding solo out in the country is a nice respite.

We haven’t covered how you’re¬†connected to the Swift family yet!¬†

Well, we became friends, I wanna say, around 2015, when¬†I reached out before our 2nd Superstoke Weekend to see if we could collaborate. That didn’t work out, but Martina was already busy brewing up the Swift Campout, and sent us out on a recon mission for that. And¬†the rest is history! Since then, Seattle and Austin have become BFF cycling cities. Swift’s Seattle crew has¬†come to Austin twice, and we‚Äôve gone up there¬†to tour the San Juans, and we’ve also hung out in Tucson for the last couple years. It’s quite a love story.

Martina is the master connector! She gets a feel for someone remarkably fast & then doesn’t hesitate to smash whatever barriers there might be¬†to befriending them, or working with them, often in a much deeper or bigger way than people expect. She’s like the Altoids of connecting & community building–curiously strong!

So, tell us¬†about Superstoke Weekend. It’s a pretty big deal¬†around the Swift office.¬†¬†It’s such a special tradition. It started 6 years ago when John Watson, of The Radavist, lived here in Austin. The idea was that since everyone’s busy watching¬†the Super Bowl, there are less cars on the road, and since none of us watch football, let’s go do a big ride. The first year someone casually called it Superbro Weekend, playing off of Super Bowl. Since then we’ve done it every year in February, and changed the name to Superstoke.¬†Seattle’s been involved the last 4 years. Ronnie Romance used to live in Austin and joined us in its 4th year, and then we ended up moving¬†it to his neck of the woods (Tucson area).

Ah, hence the fun portraits of you & Ron. He seems to be one of those¬†“right place at the right time” kind of people.¬†He’s a good down to earth dude. This past Superstoke I was sitting at the campfire and Ron¬†had just gotten done showering. Then he decides¬†to dry off naked around the fire with his junk and ass at my eye level, turning himself in front of the flames like a bronzed rotisserie chicken. People pay good money for a show like that!

Haha, they sure do! Mighty¬†generous of him to just give it away for free like that. But there’s more to Superstoke than Casual¬†Romantic Encounters, right? Like, it’s usually out in the country somewhere, you’re all camping, and it’s even catered!¬† It seems pretty plush!¬†¬†The curve of increased plushness of Superstoke closely follows the curve of us aging, haha! But yeah, there’s always camping, whiskey, and bikes. The catering started when we met Jasper who owns¬†5 Points Restaurant¬†in Tuscon. She’s the best!

2019 Blowout Sale!

What type¬†of riding are you¬†most drawn to, and what are you currently riding?¬†¬†I’m down to 3 bikes now!¬†I have a Tomii¬†custom steel road bike;¬†an Icarus (former builder in Austin) light touring/ gravel bike with 650B and 700c wheel set options;¬†and a Rivendell Hunqapillar 26′ rigid MTB/ bikepacking bike.¬†Big days out in central Texas with friends on mixed surfaces is my jam. I¬†enjoy road riding a lot too. Solo rides out in the countryside where my mind can calm into a zen-like state probably makes up most of my riding. I’m actually not a fan of Texas mountain biking, which is too rocky for my liking.

You mention solo rides, which can be super therapeutic, and are sort of necessary with the country under quarantine at the moment. But our society places a lot of importance on being with, or at least being seen with, other people. Being comfortable on bigger solo adventures is a skill in its own right.¬†I’m always impressed when I hear about anyone doing a really huge solo bike tour, especially if it involves backcountry riding.¬†¬†I would agree with being intimidated by¬†solo tours. My buddy Jordan Gomez did 100 days last year and his stories were incredible. He told me about riding into a 40 mph headwind, just grinding it out mile after mile going 5mph. I wanna say tears were involved and he finally relented, just laid down in a ditch for the rest of the day, waiting for the winds to die down. The entire time I was thinking, I’m not sure I have that in me, haha! You really have to be a fierce introvert, IMHO.

Switching gears .. your photography seems to have a very clean, symmetrical aesthetic. Did you ever study photography in an academic sense or are you self-taught? Who are some of your influences?¬†¬†Aww, thank you. That’s very kind. I’m self taught through trial and error over 15 years. Bryan Shutmaat, Matt Genitempo, and Jackie Lee Young are three of my favorite Austin Photographers. Other influences are Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier Bresson, Lee Friedlander, Bruce Gliden, Jill Freedman, and Gracriela Iturbide, and of course, Robert Frank. Strangely, they’re all street photographers that have a much looser style than me. I feel like my clean symmetrical style reveals the amount of anxiety I have when my environment feels out of control. Gotta keep that shit straight and clean, haha. There’s a lot of Wes Anderson osmosis at work too, obviously.

Yeah, the Wes Anderson influence is definitely noticeable in the quirky portraits and even some of the architectural imagery, especially the fascinating Hong Kong apartment complexes. What’s the story behind those?¬†¬†It’s where my parents are from, I lived there in middle school and my sister lived there for 25 years after college. Hong Kong is one of the most unique cities on earth with a fascinating history and complicated politics. The Brits fell in love with tea and started trading with China for silver in return, eventually draining Britain of all their silver. The Brits then snuck opium into China and got a large portion of their population drugged out. China took all the opium dumped it into the ocean, starting what’s now known as the Opium Wars. China lost and gave Hong Kong, a sleepy fishing island, to the Brits for 100 years. And in those 100 years Hong Kong became the financial center of Asia. And now it’s super fucking complicated, lol. I was last there for my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Exploring that city on foot with a camera tickles my brain.

You also manage to get a lot of good shots while out on rides. Finding the motivation¬†or time¬†to see shots while you’re grinding out a lot of miles, or at the end of the day when you just want to crumple up into a pile & have a beer, is something I always struggle with.¬†Thanks! Yeah, shooting on a ride is combining the two things I love the most, photography and bikes.¬†I just shoot from the hip and trust my intuition. I love letting people feel like they were on the adventure with us.

Thanks so much,¬†Gideon! And we’re looking forward to joining along those adventures all week. Head over to our Instagram to follow along!

2019 Blowout Sale!