Buy this product here: Praise Him With The Sound Of The Drums Shirt, hoodie, tank top
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Praise Him With The Sound Of The Drums Shirt, hoodie, tank top
For the uninitiated, Deer Creek is a two-mile twist of California road that veins the hills north of Malibu, dropping riders down an 11 percent pitch that, like most of the canyon roads out there, T-bones into the one-lane traffic along the northbound side of the Pacific Coast Highway. As far as L.A. Canyons go, it isn’t one of the most technical, and yet the way Safa Brian rides it leaves little room for error. The stakes are high, the threat of a crash sometimes looming only a tire’s length or two to one side of the road. This might be the video’s defining feature, but it is not the sole appeal. There’s an artistry on display beyond the skill required to ride at such high speed. You see it in the soft light, the sound, the vibe, the flow, all of it belonging to a vision that feels as dialed as the dude’s descending. In many of Brian’s videos, a soul-restoring sense of beauty mingles with the specter of serious injury or, in the most white-knuckle of them, maybe even death. This tension charges each clip with an immediacy not otherwise found in a sport whose romance has long been defined by the slow-burn sufferfests spent riding up mountains, not down them.
WATCH: SAFA BRIAN DESCENDS DEER CREEK
“I get called crazy all the time. Mostly in a friendly way. But I think it also kind of diminishes what I do,” Safa Brian tells me over Zoom in early March from his apartment in West Los Angeles. His real name is Brian Wagner, and he shares the place with his wife, Ninna, and their cat, Gatito, a stray the couple rescued while living in Mexico City.
All I see today, however, are bikes hanging on a wall, most notably his Scott Addict RC Pro, a brand he’s ridden for years and now rides exclusively, per his sponsorship agreement. He speaks to me via the computer that serves as the editing bay for his popular Descent Disciples YouTube series. Typified by speed, Descent Disciples is an 11-volume body of work that’s seen the soft-spoken 35-year old South African (hence the Safa moniker) set KOMs down some of Greater L.A.’s most coveted canyons. Even without the helmet and sunglasses he wears in the videos, his scruff and long hair make him instantly recognizable. Brian might have the physique of a high-caliber cyclist, all sinewy limbs spiderwebbed by the type of thick-rooted vascularity attained through years of endurance sports, but his aura is more punk rock than World Tour.