An interview with one of cycling's colorful characters, Ben Brown—The Pixel Puncheur—whose digital kit pics lend themselves to esports.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you live, and what do you do for fun? Family life, that sort of stuff.
I’m lucky enough to live in the home of the Tour Down Under—Adelaide, South Australia. My two biggest supporters are my wife and 11-year-old son. We are a cycling family, so I guess you could say that is what we do for fun.
What is your educational, design, and artistic background? What do you do, and how does your background influence you professionally?
I have always loved to draw for as long as I can remember. I studied for a Bachelor of Visual Communication at university but have never worked in the field. I’m currently working in IT and nearing the end of a Masters degree in Cyber Security. I make time for creative projects to achieve balance in my life, hence Pixel Puncheur.
Buy Ben a cup of coffee and get your own Pixel Puncheur avatar and follow Ben on Instagram— @pixelpuncheur
What is your cycling story? What are your competitive history and most significant cycling accomplishment?
I started cycling as a junior, around 8 or 9 years of age, through to 16, when I moved away from the sport. I returned to cycling as an adult and have enjoyed watching my family become involved in the sport. Having joined a local cycling team mostly consisting of middle-aged dads, my most significant cycling accomplishment sometimes is just getting up for the early Saturday morning training ride!
What is your virtual cycling story? How and when did you get involved in esports, personally and professionally?
I’ve been a Zwift user on and off for many years. However, like many people, COVID gave me the opportunity to step up my esport game. Zwift, for me, is mainly a training tool. However, I recently participated in my first Zwift race. I was stoked to finish second, only to find out I’d been disqualified for exceeding power to weight. Obviously, I have a bit of learning to do!
What inspired you to create pixel art? When and how did you get the idea?
Pixel art is a style I stumbled across in about 2015. I’m always keen to try different creative mediums, and pixel art is easy to learn but hard to master. It is a form that lends itself well to creating avatars and simple animations, so it is the perfect way for me to combine my love of cycling and my need to create.
How did you arrive at the name Pixel Puncheur?
Pixel Puncher seemed appropriate as it perfectly combines the art with cycling, and who doesn’t love a good alliteration?
What steps does it take to create your signature pixelated cycling characters? What is the process, and how long does it take?
I start with a reference picture of the person and their kit and generally work top to bottom. The head is typically the hardest to get right. Once I have the pixels how I want them, I will add details, such as sponsors, using vector graphics. The process is always evolving, and the time it takes can vary.
Who did you create your first Pixel Puncheur character for, and what was the reaction? What has the evolution been?
One of my earliest public creations was an animation for an Orica Greenedge/Bolle competition during the 2016 Tour de France. It included Adam Yates and Didi (the devil). The reaction was positive as I won a pair of Bolle sunglasses!
My style has evolved since this early work, and I’ve now created two autograph books for my son featuring every rider in the Tour Down Under, and I get many requests to pixelate professional and recreational riders.
Why do you feel your art has caught on and become wildly popular in the cycling community?
The increased popularity of esport is where I have found a lot of engagement with my work. Pixel art lends itself well to a retro gaming aesthetic and seems to be the ideal advertisement for esports.
List your top-ten favorites and tell us why they're significant to you.
Some of my favorites are drawings I did of cycling legends from the 1990s, such as Miguel Indurain, Marc Madiot, and Alex Zulle. These were the guys I looked up to as a junior cyclist, and it was great to pay homage to them. Picking a top ten, though, is difficult as they all have meaning to me in one way or another.
Name some of the famous cyclists that display your signature work.
Marco Haller and Jensen Plowright have their Pixel Puncheur avatars on Instagram. In the esports world, James Barnes greatly supports my work.
Do you have a favorite story involving one of the Pixel Puncheur characters?
Marco Haller has really engaged with his pixel character. Each year I have produced an updated version for him, and it was great to have the opportunity to meet him this year at the Tour Down Under. He mentioned he loved my work which is pretty amazing.
Do you have an ultimate get? What cyclist, athlete, or individual would be your holy grail?
The beauty of pixel art and social media is that I can draw anyone! The best part is that it doesn’t matter how famous or not the person is, I always seem to get great reactions and engagement.
Do you pursue any other art genres?
Between work, study, family, and Pixel Puncheur, there isn’t much time at the moment.
What does the future have in store for the Pixel Puncheur?
I plan to continue evolving Pixel Puncheur and have an exciting collaboration happening with some big supporters of my work. The crew at the new cycling media outlet, Escape Collective, have me on board to create something special for their life members. I’m really stoked to be involved.
Thank you, Ben!
Are Pixel Puncheurs cool, or what? Do you want one of your own?
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!