Turning iconic ride data in to art

CYCLING art can be pretty dull and mundane at times. Let’s face it, if we’ve seen one cartoon version of Wiggo, Froome or whoever else, we’ve seen them all. Right? Well, prepare to have your cycling socks blown clean off.

MassifCentral, who we bumped into last weekend at Eroica Britannia, have come at artwork from a completely different angle. Instead of pretty pictures of endless fields of sunflowers or some alpine climb, those clever chaps take the data files of iconic stages and turn it into artwork. Simple yet brilliant.

Howard Smith, from MassifCentral, said: “The company grew out of the desire to document the experience of a bunch of mates cycling the length of Italy back in 2011. A couple of years later James – one of the riders – decided to illustrate the trip as a gift for the other and started trying to reconcile the data they had collected from the ride with a traditional map.

That didn’t work out well, so he began to look at other ways of illustrating the data that could stand alone as an artwork. The first few prints were long, fairly painful processes as he invented the look and feel of what he wanted to achieve as he went along.”

Once the first bespoke print was complete, they turned their attentions wider and decided to tackle something iconic like the Tour de France. Since then, the business has grown and they create illustrations of other famous pro-races as limited editions.

What’s even more cool is their bespoke service. Basically, the boffins take your ride data from, say a favourite route or ride of yours, then turn it into a rather epic-looking print to hang on your wall and impress your mates.


Howard added: “We’ve linked up with the Haute Route and 1330Cycling to provide rider prints for their sportives and are now looking wider and wider each day. Generally the ‘heart’ of the print is the elevation/profile data. This defines the length and difficulty of the route.

We then array all the geographical and performance data around in concentric layers. We can locate photos that were taken along the route. In some cases, we can add in personal comment layers for all the wonderful stuff that the Garmin can’t record – the meals, the jokes, the views, the people.. It all just adds to the story.

We added a narrative layer to our 2015 Giro d’Italia print for the same reason. It was such an epic edition, with something utterly compelling happening every day, that the figures alone didn’t really do it justice.

We use the best quality paper and print techniques to get really detailed images. This allows us to be really bold with the graphic part and let the data recede a little from a distance. It comes back to life as you get close to the prints.

For shorter rides, we drop paper size and simplify the graphic so that the images still remains uncluttered. Our Spring Classics collection was a chance to look at how we might illustrate shorter achievements and to play with some colour.”

One of the more ‘iconic’ prints on offer is the visual data from Wiggo’s Hour Record – complete with facts and figures of other riders who have taken on the clock. Not forgetting the cool Mod logo slap-bang in the centre to top it off Wiggo-style.

Howard said: “The Hour Record print was something of a personal love affair for me. We both love data and info-graphics, but I do like a bit of history as well. So telling the story of The Hour visually – showing how it has progressed in increments -was something I really wanted to do.

Combining the history with the performance data of the current record holder seemed a natural fit. Illustrating Wiggo’s laptimes in the centre was a key part of the print – we would love to add more stuff like heartrate and the like, but it’s hard to get hold of.”

MassifCentral limited edition prints are available online at http://themassifcentral.co.uk and range from £35 for an A3 to £125 for an unframed A1.

Bespoke prints are roughly £50-£100 per riding day (it’s better if you’re in a group as these costs can be shared) for the art-working with the print(s) costed normally after that. We are building up a database of popular routes and rides which can be more readily personalised so drop us a line via bonjour@themassifcentral.co.uk


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About james 65 Articles
Editor of Spin Cycle Magazine

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