Photographers' Blog

Building the world’s fastest bikes

Skale, Slovenia

By Srdjan Zivulovic

When streamlined bicycle designer Damjan Zabovnik brought me to the garage of his family home, in the Slovenian village of Skale close to Velenje, I thought there would be a hall or small workshop nearby where he could work on and test his masterpieces.

I was wrong. Damjan proudly opened the door leading to the garage, where a mid-sized car could hardly fit. Once inside, he patted his new bike and told me that it was ready for this year.

The garage was filled with bike-related parts, including various gear wheels, tools, his training bike and the bike itself. Damjan is used to facing challenges when building his 19 kilogram (41 pound) pearl among bikes, and had constructed this one from scratch. As usual, putting together the special transmission gear that he designed and manufactured himself in his father’s metalworking workshop was his major difficulty.

Damjan is both a bike designer and a cyclist. While studying the problems of mechanics and aerodynamics, he took a break, lay down on his practice bike and completed a training session. Immediately afterwards, he returned, with incredible ease, to his technical challenges: gear wheels, and the problem of power transmission to the rear wheel.

While on his bike, Damjan remained lying down and drove backwards. He could only see the track in the small rearview mirror fixed to the interior of his streamlined machine. Through his passion for these strange vehicles, this young man with a great heart has achieved his childhood dream, both in his small garage, and on tracks all over the world. He is the current low-altitude world record holder for the 200 meters (yards) flying start, having achieved an average speed of 107.2 kilometers per hour (67 mph) on the Dekra Test Oval in Germany.

Racing greyhounds fall between the cracks

West Yorkshire, England

By Chris Helgren

I met Alice at a rescue center in West Yorkshire. She was skin and bones, flea-ridden, and half the weight of the dog she should have been. Alice was a greyhound bred for racing, who was picked up wandering the busy Doncaster Road, the victim of an uncaring owner who had dumped her rather than continue feeding her. She was brought to Tia Greyhound & Lurcher Rescue center, a sanctuary sited on the edge of a moor near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.

Tia was borne of the need to house dogs which were either abandoned or whose owners or trainers could not find space at regular welfare kennels. The Retired Greyhound Trust is doing an admirable job in housing and arranging for homes for about 4,000 dogs per year through their 72 branches, but their space is limited to about 800 kennels. Also, kennels charge up to 300 pounds for a new dog to be admitted. What happens in the cases seen by Rothery in Yorkshire is that if a greyhound owner cannot place their dog in one of these kennels, the pressure is on to move it out of their care in other ways, such as by advertising via websites Gumtree or Preloved. These new onward owners are not vetted, and there is no return policy if it doesn’t work out.

Debra Rothery, who runs the Tia center, said that at any given time they house 80 dogs which would “otherwise be dead”. The animals coming into her care are from a region surrounding the center, where there are six regulated and non-regulated racetracks. She said that about 50% of her greyhounds were abandoned, the remainder brought in by owners and trainers. Rothery said that the operating costs of Tia, which run at £1000 per day, are met by donations.

Los Galgos Guapos (The Handsome Hounds)

By Erin Siegal

I’d never really known a galgo, or greyhound. To me, they were simply those weirdly skinny creatures in the NYC dog runs that looked like yawning alligators when panting, so rail-thin that they practically disappeared unless they turned sideways.

But now?

Well, let’s just say that I think Dreamboat’s name is pretty accurate.


“Dreamboat,” a.k.a. U.S.S. Dreamboat, enjoys a bath.

In Tijuana, Mexico, the Caliente racetrack is famous. In the city’s heyday, high-end thoroughbreds charged past glamorous crowds of onlookers; photos of the horses still adorn the walls in the casino’s basement administrative offices. Today, however, a different kind of animal bursts from the starting gates each day: American greyhounds.

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