Podcast Review: Humans Invent

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Humans Invent podcast

One of the enjoyments of the Tour de France is the additional coverage given to this race. Instead of a few lines in L’Equipe there are five pages or more every day and the same is true across all of the cycling media. It’s not just the depth of news and analysis, it’s the variety with extras like podcasts. Only the Humans Invent podcast from the Tour de France has kept going after the race and now has a near-settled weekly format.

It’s based around a trio of British writers: Lionel Birnie, Daniel Friebe and Richard Moore, each prolific writers with plenty of experience in the sport. They meet up to record the show, often in a cafĂ© or pub and this is reflected in an easy conversational style. Imagine three friends getting around a coffee or a pint of British beer rather than just sitting around a microphone. The subjects are what the podcast calls “talking points”, so news and current events. You get thoughts on the Tour de France route after the journalists have been to the presentation in Paris; this week it’s their take on Ryder Hesjedal and how Jonathan Vaughters is running his team.

The contributors are all knowledgeable and informed with good powers of recall for past events, often because they were there in the hotel or at the finish line. Better still each of the trio has subtly different styles and angles, for example Friebe is more Euro-centric with references to Italian cycling or the new generation of French cycling.

Humans Invent?
humansinvent.com is a website dedicated to invention and innovation. As a fine invention obviously the bicycle has a place here and you’ll find some clips on the website about Grame Obree. The connection to pro cycling seems to come about via Sharp Electronics. They sponsor Garmin-Sharp and the humansinvent.com website so there’s the overlap and having sponsored some Tour de France podcasting in July the show lives on.

I have a small hypothesis that says cycling writing is flourishing in Britain and our trio want to hone their broadcasting and audio skills. Being a knowledgeable writer is one thing but with live audio there’s no delete button or edit function and talking to a topic is harder than it sounds. Take the latest episode with Lionel Birnie discussing Bjarne Riis’s deal with Oleg Tinkov as “being in bed with a loose cannon” and this mixed metaphor gets gently mocked by Richard Moore. It’s the kind of thing we could all do over a coffee with friends… but in a broadcast interview it’d stand out. Everyone wins, the listener gets a free show. And for the most part it sounds accomplished, even when recorded in a London pub the audio is good.

Any criticisms?
It’s Brit-centric at times, the recorded interviews tend to involve British riders. But British cycling’s big these days so it’s a relevant insight into things, Moore especially has covered British Cycling and Team Sky a lot.

Besides every podcast out there seems to be run with a domestic bias. Cycling Central has more than an Australian accent, it’s got a regular focus on the domestic scene whilst the Velocast’s This Week In Cycling History makes a running joke about Cillian Kelly’s ability to squeeze in a reference to Irish cycling. But as already mentioned Daniel Friebe is often there with a Euro touch.

Conclusion
It’s easy listening but intelligent conversation. Like the book reviews on here, the point isn’t to impose personal tastes but to share something so you can try it out for yourself. If you’re not familiar with the podcast but enjoy books and magazine articles from the trio then give this a listen.

You’ll find the episodes online at humansinvent.com and audioboo and you can subscribe and download via Apple’s iTunes too.

Toe Strap November 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Great idea to do Podcast reviews, hope its first of many!
Agree with you about the relaxed style – really works well, as does the mix of chat and pre-recorded interviews.

The Inner Ring November 6, 2013 at 8:31 am

I’ve done a few before but some are out of date by now, some shows have vanished. More recent ones:
http://inrng.com/2013/01/podcast-review-this-week-in-cycling-history/
http://inrng.com/2012/09/podcast-review-cycling-central-radiovelo/

mendip5000 November 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

I’ve grown increasingly fond of this podcast. The style hits the spot with this Brit!

Friebe’s disdain for track cycling expressed in the most recent issue has me warming further to him. Good to hear a Brit writer who can be objective about that particular circus.

I’m still not sure whether the pub background noise makes it better or worse, but compared to the crisp silences between sentences in the Eurosport podcast it certainly sounds more human!

Elliot November 5, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I really enjoy this podcast. Good to see the review here – as more exposure should only increase the chance of it continuing. It’s especially enjoyable when Ciro (sp?) is around, both for further Euro perspective and the chemistry with the other presenters.

I would also welcome more podcast reviews from the ever-reliable inrng.

Cheers, and much appreciated

The Inner Ring November 6, 2013 at 8:32 am

That’s Ciro, Ciro Scognamiglio of La Gazzetta dello Sport, he’s a guest from time to time.

Sam November 6, 2013 at 10:19 am

Ciro is a legend :)

Rob H November 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

An excellent podcast, I was very happy when they decided to keep it going post-Tour.

baden November 5, 2013 at 11:18 pm

How do you think this compares to velocast? Which is better in your opinion.?

The Inner Ring November 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

I like this and the Velocast. The good thing is you don’t have to choose, you can listen to them both.

Scott November 5, 2013 at 11:42 pm

It’s by far my favourite cycling podcast for the reasons you mention; well informed, interesting and with a relaxed style. More importantly, the contributors present the show without any of the pretentiousness or arrogance that the guys at the Velocast seem to have adopted since they became a full time set up.

Lee Kaliski November 7, 2013 at 7:42 am

Scott….I take issue with your last sentance. Having listened to the podcast since its very beginning, I can’t personally see any change whatsoever in John’s or Scott’s style or comment. They’ve both called it as they see it….that is to say without either the “pretentiousness” or “arrogance” you seem to find. I think that alonside this blog here and the Humans Invent they provide some of the most insightful, thought provoking and bang-on commentary in the cycling world that none of the print media get close to. For one, I think Cookson could do well to take on more than a few of the pointsa raised both here and on the podcasts.

JC November 6, 2013 at 1:39 am

This is certainly a highlight of my multimedia intake. Lionel Birnie & Richard Moore’s depth and experience make for an entertaining and educational listen. Only Friebe’s jerkish remarks detract from the experience.

MD November 6, 2013 at 3:00 am

Its fantastic that they have continued with a weekly instalment, it is thoroughly enjoyable listening to their opinions – and the three bounce well off each other and end up giving a well-rounded point of view. British centric – yes, but they do include guests such as Ciro (sp?) bringing a small bit of multi-culture.
With no real racing until the TDU it will be interesting to see what content they come up with. If they can continue until the next season it looks hopeful that the podcast will continue for the foreseeable future… I for one hope it does!

Andrew November 6, 2013 at 3:00 am

Not a podcast, but under the Humans Invent banner, they ran a video about the management efforts behind Dan Martin’s TdF stage win a couple months back: http://vimeo.com/72820136. While not exactly objective analysis, getting the subjects’ take on the factors at play was some of the more interesting advertorial content I’ve seen in a while.

dw November 6, 2013 at 3:40 am

Also love the podcast. The intro/bridge/outro music from the tour edition put a smile on my face every day.

World's #1 Friebe Fan of All Tilme!! November 6, 2013 at 3:47 am

@ JC – I do like Friebe’s comments. Friends do give friends hard time.

T3 November 6, 2013 at 7:20 am

Velocast is the best cycling podcast, hands down. I don’t agree at all that they are snobby. That said, I also appreciate the HI podcast. Like others, I like the feel. The 3 men have a comfortable vibe & I like that they continued after the Tour.

Anonymous November 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

My fiver’s on it being Scott. John’s too classy, and there’s no Irish reference, so can’t be Cillian.

Cillian Kelly November 7, 2013 at 2:29 pm

John? Classy? Pffft….

Anonymous November 7, 2013 at 9:51 pm

SOS, typo. Was meant to be gassy.

Alex222 November 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

This is my favourite of the cycling podcasts, and have been very pleased that it has continued since the TdF. Bringing in guest contributiors helps keep it varied and, as has been said above, the relaxed style is attractive.

jackseph November 6, 2013 at 9:55 am

The HI podcast is a good listen, but for me the Velocast / Eurosport podcast win it for me. As for claims of arrogance since they went pro, I don’t see it. I like the fact they care, have an opinion and don’t sit on the fence.

Sam November 6, 2013 at 10:26 am

Love the Humans Invent podcast. The added knowledge built up over years in cycling journalism really does add a hell of a lot that ‘casts by (lets be honest) fans, doesnt. And when they’re debating an issue between them, there’s no ranting histrionics – just measured debate. The interviews they line up with riders, DSs, managers etc also helps the podcast to stand out above the others.

Their discussion about Hesjedal, Vaughters and Garmin this week, was spot on. The previous ‘cast involving Teo Geoghegan Hart as a guest throughout, was also well-worth a listen.

Alex November 6, 2013 at 11:18 am

I was listening to the latest HI podcast when I read this last night, have found it to be a good addition to the other cycling podcasts available (Velocast being the current best).

My only issue with the HI podcast is the really poor sound quality – something you’d think Sharp would be able to help out with. This does seem to have improved in the last week or two though.

Just hope they don’t do a daily cast for the tours, I couldn’t keep up this year.

Yves November 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

Agree with that : “the HI podcast is the really poor sound quality” . Not so easy to understand for a the french listener i am.
But for other reason , Velocast is not so easy to understand too… It’s about the scottish accent . ;-)

Nuncio November 6, 2013 at 1:28 pm

It’s good, but it’s no Real Peloton.

Qwerty November 6, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Downloaded, thanks for the tip.

Brian November 6, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Downloaded. Listening to it while raking leaves. Good conversation. I hope it continues on.

dan November 6, 2013 at 2:19 pm

it’s by far the best podcast, they are real cycling writers, who between them have written some excellent books, whereas the velocast are just fans (i think one is a postie and the other is a designer as far as i can tell, one episode of this week in cycling history the scottish guy forgot to edit out him doing some spur of the moment fact-checking/googling…embarrassing) velocast doesn’t have any content either (ie. interviews with people actually involved in the sport), it is seemingly just the presenter’s opinions…. oh and they are always trying to push their ‘premium’ show which strikes me as a bit crass

i agree however that friebe can be a bit of a jerk

Anonymous November 7, 2013 at 1:22 am

He gives the impression of liking the sound of his voice

dan November 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm

who velocast guy or friebe?
or both?

Whiff November 7, 2013 at 5:18 am

Thanks for the heads-up as I didn’t realise they were still going – I’m constantly impressed that the likes of Inner Ring and Humans Invent keep find interesting things to talk abiut, even when there’s not much cycling going on.

Beth November 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Really love this podcast. Birnie, Moore & Friebe have an easy conversational style and they manage to nail every discussion with common sense and rational debate. The fact that they’re doing the hard yards as cycling journalists really stands out in the depth of their knowledge and ability to line up interesting interviews.

Would also like to commend Mike Creed’s ‘Open Mic’ too – I’m a sucker for a dry wit and left field view of the world, which he certainly delivers.

paddy Dunne November 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Creed is cool. Love his take on the whole Pro scene. Funny how some think John an Scott have attitude. I’d say those Inglish fellas are the arrogant ones! Personally can’t be doin with all that self righteous crap they witter on about. For me i’d ride with Creed and CK the others… Meh!

Wataboutya November 8, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Ive listened to the Velocast stuff since way back and love them but gotta admit, the HI stuff really complements it and also stands alone in its content.
Velocast used to be 30 min and a perfect lunchtime companion but when they guys went to 60 mins I started to enjoy it a bit less as I couldn’t quite get it all in one sitting…..found downcast that allows you to play it at 1.5x speed which can help – strangely I can understand two Scots better at 1.5x speed! lol
Totally agree that the HI guys have done great continuing the podcast and made themselves a pretty little slot there – Cyclingnews doesn’t get a looking these days, like the News of the World of cycling to HI’s Guardian (thats about as good as one of Lionel’s).

fitxy November 11, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Anyone like the rouleur podcast? it’s like human’s invent turned up to 11, a bit too serious about itself but I can’t stop listening to it.

HI and velocast are great though and I have a good time for Cillian in this week in cycling history, I end up spending a lot of time on wikipedia after it!

any other suggestions? The Spokesmen is another i listen to, but it can be a bit much listening to well over an hour of people who put too much stock in their opinions.

J Dunn November 16, 2013 at 10:58 am

This podcast is a revelation, a simple format cleverly executed. I’d say it’s almost required listening even with its UK bias. Moore in particular is a superb anchor, keeping the sometimes intense Birnie and Friebe in check with his avuncular style. It has real chemistry.

I really wish the BBC and World Service would put it on the radio because it would find a bigger audience beyond the cafe and coffee bike obsessives.

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