Project O has been waiting to land for some time. The idea – to document and celebrate the culture of the outdoors in its many guises – hasn’t changed much since our earliest discussions. But as months became years the proposed format evolved, morphed and then morphed again.
It finally touched down this past month. A relaxed introduction of sorts in the form of a newsprint mag and an art show to boot; examples of the flexible iterations of the project that will pop up now and again to provide balance to the digital site that will eventually be Project O on a daily basis.
The idea behind the newsprint magazine was simple: to pay homage to 11 people who encapsulate the project and have provided constant inspiration. The founding fathers of Project O if you will. We called them our Acid Ramblers.
The list is completely subjective, born from many brainstorms, whittled down over time. Many of them have long since passed away. Several of them have beards. But the real connection between them all – in a project that at its heart is our attempt to join the dots between the sea, the mountains and the streets – is that they were all true originals, possessors of an internal drive to create, to explore, to challenge and to do so on their own terms.
The Acid Rambler contains 11 short profiles, written by myself and Michael Fordham, all beautifully illustrated by different artists commissioned for the project. The art show, held at the 71a Gallery in Shoreditch, features this artwork.
For me the writing was a pleasure. I got to spend time again with some of my favourites, re-evaluating their contributions and contemplating their brilliance. Research meant watching footage of Coppi, listening to Monk, re-reading Muir and getting blown away again by the exploits of Messner. The hardest part was to channel my enthusiasm into a few hundred coherent words.
The Acid Rambler features Henry David Thoreau, Miki Dora, Thelonious Monk, Fausto Coppi, Brian Wilson, Yvon Chouinard, Gary Snyder, Reinhold Messner, John Muir, Mark Gonzales and Mickey Smith.
FAUSTO COPPI: THE STYLIST
In the rarefied air of the professional peloton, style and substance has always been the holy grail: the perfect combination to appease the devoted legions that demand sacrifice, the offering of blood and sweat as a daily ritual – but then asks too if it can all be done with a heavy dose of panache and a keen appreciation of aesthetics.
Fausto Coppi didn’t need to be asked.
As a cyclist, as a man, he encapsulated an effortless, detached cool that will never look old. A look that transcends times and trends and fashions; a way of being on the bike and off that was refined, deeply elegant even but still, importantly, rooted in the truth. That he came from nothing. That he worked for everything.
Given that road racing is the most unforgiving of pursuits, never actually giving a flying fuck about style, most riders defer to offering the aforementioned blood and sweat, comforted by the fact the record books, the top of the mountain pass, the finish line have never proffered points for simply looking right.
But we care. And this is why Coppi lives on. His palmares runs deep of course. Grand Tour victories. Classics wins. A demon against the clock. Only Merckx has a better claim on being the greatest of all time. The substance of Coppi is indisputable.
But it is the style in which he achieved the victories and in which he endured the losses – the defeats handed to him by his Italian rival Gino Bartali, the death of his brother Serse – that are the reason why his portrait still hangs in every bike shop in Italy over 50 years after his death. The reason why he is not just a champion but the champion. Il campionissimo.