Scene: The Culture Club

By Don Stefanovich
Photo by John Gibson

Brendt Barbur was never a part of the bike industry. According to him, he still isn’t. Growing up in California, he surfed and skated, but never considered himself a cyclist. He never raced. He just rode a bike to get around. But then in 2000, he was hit by a bus in the Big Apple. Outraged by the reaction of police and EMTs—it was his fault for being on a bike—he wanted to do something. He mulled over politics, protest and advocacy before settling on art.

In 2001, The Bicycle Film Festival was born. “I just wanted to try and do something positive for bikes. So I just did what I know—art,” says Barbur.

“I wasn’t a filmmaker, but I wanted to make a movie, and things just kind of grew organically.”

The 2012 BFF kicks off on June 27 in New York City and will include over 25 cities across 15 countries. It has grown to encompass art shows, concerts,
parties and, of course, bike rides, but with a fierce underground ethos, it still swears off any allegiance to ‘the industry’.

“It’s never tried to please the industry, but it has tried to please people who ride bikes,” says Brian Vernor, a California-based photographer and filmmaker who has been participating in and documenting the BFF since 2004. “You won’t see any industry edits. It’s more ambitious than that.”

But the festival has counted to its credit submissions from the likes of The Collective, Jorgen Leth, Lucas Brunelle and even Spike Jonze.
“Something practiced by every guy with a GoPro was pioneered by Lucas Brunelle,” says Vernor.

But it’s more than that, he says. It manages to prowl the fringes, nodding to culture and tradition rather than product lines and brand identity. Vernor laments the narrow demographics attracted to most races and contests. As anyone who has been to BFF can attest, the audience is equally as diverse as the films, representing communities— Barbur hates the term ‘scene’—ranging
from urban to road, BMX, mountain—even moto. But it’s not exclusive.

“If only cyclists show up to a screening, I’m…disappointed,” says Barbur.

“The Bicycle Film Festival is the broadest community of any bike event I’ve ever been to,” says Vernor. “It’s asking people to reconsider the bike.”