RCC x Geoff McFetridge
From sculpture to snowboards, Calgary to California, catch up with LA-based artist Geoff McFetridge as he explains the influences behind his latest kit design to his fellow Rapha Cycling Club members.
In cities around the world, the signature stripes of the Rapha Cycling Club form part of the setting. The Club’s members are connected by their kit, so any deviation from the original design was always going to be a daunting task. If there was one member up to the task though, it had to be celebrated artist and member of the Los Angeles Chapter, Geoff McFetridge.
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Geoff’s start in the world of design came in a sport very different from cycling. “The line that drew me most directly to where I am now was making art for zines and snowboards when I was a kid,” he told us. “I was the guy who could make the poster or the t-shirt and, to some extent, I’m still just that guy.”
What started as a side hustle adorning the undersides of friends’ skateboards and snowboards soon became more as Geoff started working for a small company named Barfoot Snowboards. “That brand was around at the dawn of snowboarding. The sport was invented when I was like sixteen years old and snowboards needed graphics.”
“I drew my first full-size snowboard in pen and ink in my parents’ basement but when Barfoot asked me to start doing all their snowboards, I knew I had to figure out another way of doing them. I did scratchboards because I wanted them to all look different but I drew them on a computer and produced digital artwork, which, as it turns out, was totally unusual back then.”
Aided by his early adoption of modern design techniques, Geoff was also helped by an old snowboarding friend. “At around the same time, one of my friends turned pro and asked me to do graphics for him, just like the ones he’d seen me draw onto skateboards. It went very quickly from skateboards and Sharpies to this proper printed thing.”
“The best kits feel dimensional like a race car livery, or a Henry Moore sculpture.”
At this time, Geoff was spending most of his winters with snowboarders, but his summers were dominated by mountain biking, which was enjoying a similar genesis. “My friends and I would go riding on trails through the city on loops from home, you know. This was late 80s, so it was always better to find a hidden trail on your doorstep than it was to head into the mountains.”
“That’s the kind of riding I still like now,” he continued. “I like a road ride better for it having a gravel section added into the mix.” After a pause of a few years, Geoff returned to the sport older and wiser, swapping his knobbly tyres for slicks on the road.
But when asked why he rides, the artist is confused. For him, the fact that there isn’t a point to it, is what attracted him in the first place: “I would never pollute cycling with some greater creative purpose, or contaminate my experience of cycling with the idea that it’s useful for something.”
“I guess the point is keeping your eyes wide open to the world around you. My artwork is so much about looking inward and cycling helps me stay exposed and keep looking outwards. Having it in my life has always felt like a gift – it is so cathartic. I start a ride worried about something and end it without any worries at all.”
When it came to designing the new RCC collection, Geoff was more focused on what had gone before than his own personal experiences of cycling. “It was a long process and I was constantly revising the project even as it went to press. That was out of respect to Rapha because the brand is built on products that are so beautifully simple and never use graphics.”
It was that historic absence of graphics that occupied Geoff’s thoughts the most. “When you’re creating a design for a company that is famed for using very reserved graphics or not using them at all, there’s a certain pressure,” he laughs. “When I first started cycling, it was impossible to find any clothing that didn’t look completely crazy.”
“I could have done a really reserved collection but decided instead to take on the challenge of creating something that was a little loud but still wearable. It was a tall order, which is why I changed it so many times.”
As well as dialling in the graphics, Geoff also had the physical form of a cyclist to consider, something he freely admits is a challenge. “Painting is simple but designing a cycling kit is like sculpture. The best kits feel dimensional like a race car livery, or a Henry Moore sculpture. Bad ones look flat like a print.”
As for the specifics of the design itself, Geoff prefers to leave it to the interpretation of his fellow members but did let slip that he was influenced by the meeting of man and machine. “Conceptually I found that interesting,” he mused. “A bicycle is unmoving and the ways we contort ourselves to conform to it are pretty cool.”
“It’s one of the things I love about cycling. The act doesn’t make me more human, it makes me more machine-like in some ways. It’s like yoga AI. What are the figures doing? Dancing? Praying? Doing yoga?”
So far as Geoff is concerned, there’s no straight answer to that final question. Just make sure to form your own opinion in case you’re asked next time you ride with the Rapha Cycling Club.