The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of Hicksdesign.

A Taste of the Track

Photo by Leigh Hicks

This week I went for a Track Taster Session at the Olympic Velodrome at Lee Valley in London – a present from my lovely wife Leigh. Track cycling involves riding a fixed gear bike, and this was my first time – no coasting, no brakes and a high gear. To slow you change your pedalling accordingly, and try to kick back, upon which you can really feel the bike kicking back against you.

When we arrived, the camber of the track at the highest points was rather scary. I couldn’t see how it could be done without slipping off. The tutor was great though and once over the initial slow laps, I was more confident. Riding the sprinters line was actually really exciting – as long as you kept the pace up. Towards the end of the hour session my legs were starting to hurt, and the advice was to stay off the top line once you felt tired – otherwise you would slip.

It was really, really fun. Once you trained yourself to not worry about anyone sudden braking (because they couldn’t) it was exhilarating. While I’m not going to do the next 3 courses to become accredited (that’s if you want to race Track) I would definitely do it again.

If you’re planning on doing the taster session, I would really recommend hiring shoes, or if you use Look Keo cleats, bringing your own. I plumped for using trainers with toeclips and straps and it was a bloody nightmare. Not only very uncomfortable, but squeaky too, and my left foot kept trying to come out. At one point it did, and I had no choice but to let the toeclip scrape along the track floor until I could finish the lap. I wish they’d said it was so much harder work than cleats.

Trying fixed didn’t make me want to add a fixie to my current stable of bikes. It’s not something I would ride around town, but I would ride it again in a velodrome.

Troika #5: New Gaze

Troika #5: New Gaze

Back in the mid-90’s the British Music Press had decided that Shoegaze music was finished, and that if you weren’t Britpop or Grunge you deserved to be mocked. Bands like Slowdive disbanded and explored other genres, but it had left enough quality work to inspire the next generation of bands, nastily called ‘Nu gaze’.

We start with ‘Blackout’ by Amusement parks on fire, a great one for the ‘wall of sound’ guitars. The next one is a little different, more poppy perhaps. Alcest are a french band that I’ve recently come across, and they started life as a Black Metal band. They then mixed in elements of Shoegaze and invented yet another sub-genre called ‘Deathgaze’ that spawned bands like Deafhaven. By their last album all traces of Black Metal had gone, and the result is a rather uplifting pop song. Its one that I’ve had on constant loop since I discovered it.

To finish we’ll have The Cheatahs, and a track from their new Sunne EP called ‘Controller’. Happy Easter everyone!

  1. ‘Blackout’ – Amusement Parks on Fire
  2. ‘Opale’ – Alcest
  3. ‘Controller’ – Cheetahs

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #5: New Gaze as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.

Troika #4: Light Music

Troika #4: Light Music

So welcome to Troika Episode 4! This one is all about a genre called ‘Light Music’, a form of orchestral music that was at its height in the 1950s and 60s. These were shorter, lighter, more whimsical pieces of music, often used in the soundtracks of films and Pathe News reels. That opening music was ‘Puffin Billy’ by Edward White, and is probably the most widely known of the genre. Even if you don’t what it is, you’ve probably heard it. Pixar used it in one of their early ‘shorts’ Tin Toy. It says picnics and ginger beer to me.

It has a certain ‘British’ feel, but wasn’t a ‘British’ scene exclusively, as the second example shows. It’s from French composer Roger Roger (Rogeur Rogeur?) who created the BBC test card music that was used in the 70s! He was also an electronic music pioneer, and developed Moog synth music under the alias of Cecil Leuter. You can hear this crazy work on YouTube. It sounds like Squarepusher from the 1960s! Anyway here he is with ‘Place de Clichy’ which is kind of the soundtrack in my head when I’m walking around town.

The last piece is from Dennis Berry (who is featured on the cover of this episode, at the top of the group) called ‘Bright Lights’. His themes cover quite long period, and can be heard in places as diverse as Little Britain and Spongebob Squarepants, and also collaborated with Roger Roger.

Till next time, pip pip!

  1. ‘Puffin Billy’ – Edward White
  2. ‘Place de Clichy’ – Roger Roger
  3. ‘Bright Lights’ – Dennis Berry

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #4: Light Music as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.

Troika #3: Music for Cycling

Troika #3: Music for Cycling

I’m not a fan of Kraftwerk at the best of times. I have friends who adore them, but they leave me cold. I was listening to one last week that was all about using a ‘Pocket Calculator’ – “adding… and subtracting”. Gripping stuff eh? In particular, when there is a Cycling related programme on telly, the likelihood is that they will end up using their ‘Tour De France’. Its feels about as far removed from the experience of cycling as I can think of. I love electronic music, but for me it doesn’t have the right feel.

I think Rapha have got it spot on. They’re a high-end cycling clothes brand, but to promote their range they regularly publish videos of their rides. If you were cynical, you’d say these are just big adverts, which they are in part, but they’re also very inspirational. It was watching these videos that made we want to get a proper road bike and head out into the countryside. Maybe they’ve twisted my view of what ‘music to cycle to’ should be, but these are the sounds in my head when I’m riding.

Here are the three tracks, with links to the videos they were used in:

  1. ’The Climb’ – Keegan DeWitt (Rapha Continental Tour of California)
  2. ‘Stokkseyri’ – Jonsi and Alex (Rapha Continental Movie)
  3. ‘Mighty Rio Grande’ – This Will Destroy You (Rapha Rides Little Switzerland)

How to get this episode

Listen using the player above, download Troika #3: Music for Cycling as an mp3, Subscribe to Troika with an RSS reader or via iTunes.

All music featured is the copyright of the respective artists.

The Hickensian is the journal of Jon Hicks, one half of the creative partnership Hicksdesign. Take a look at the work we do.

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