The brief was nice and simple, "document the Kinesis UK ride out, based at The Velo House". Usually I approach these with the same format, drive to the location, shoot the coffee shots, follow the riders in my car (wishing I was riding too) and then follow them around like a lost puppy back at the coffee house while listening to how great the ride was - watching that bond form between strangers - where an experience has been shared between like minded folk.
I wanted to play this one differently, as all photographers will strive to achieve - find a new angle. Luckily the brief was kind enough to allow me to be creative with my approach. I am a rider as much as I am a photographer, they are both very important to me and provide an equal amount of escapism. It only makes sense to merge the two together, after all this is how HARDYCC was born in the first place.
The pitch was accepted and the night before I charged my camera batteries while also packing tubes and checking tyre pressures. I knew this approach would support the images I had in my head. I wanted to create the feeling of the ride rather than those 'sportive' car shots you see plastered all over Instagram - it was too easy to shoot from four wheels, two wheels is always the answer!
I arrived a tad early, enough time for Glen (The Velo House magical mechanic) to once again show me how to get my stubborn winter tyres on the fresh new Kinesis rims - for the record I am none the wiser, I am sure there is a whole new blog about how many times I have punctured! A usual start to most rides quickly took place, sips of quick caffeine explosions while introducing themselves and their bike to other eager suffer fans. I snapped away while the ever growing mind twitch had begun to manifest, "these riders look fast"! I knew that I would need to have the ability to break ahead of the group to grab a few front facing shots, otherwise the nature of the event would be lost. I began questioning myself, was this going to be possible with a group of legs that appear to have spent most of the winter cyclo-cross riding. I prayed the 'social pace' would quickly be established and we would commence our ride at a recovery leisure.
The weather was some what questionable. Temperatures had fell to the wrong side of zero and weather reports were suggesting the dusting of snow. I initially took this as a positive, the possibility of bad weather should lead to caution and riders will be reluctant to push too hard.
We set off for a 55km spin. I took the back wheel, with my camera neatly resting on my middle rear pocket, following the group out of Tunbridge Wells. I waited for the iconic scenery to come into play before I began documenting my brief but during this time I came to the realisation that my previous comforting thoughts of cautious riders were quickly replaced with concern when I saw the Garmin read a pace of 36kph - this was going to be a fast one. The country lanes dropped the temp to -3 which naturally meant our group was pushing that little bit harder to maintain warmth and try to generate feelings in the toes.
The spray from the wheel in front had begun to coat my gear, resembling brown Dalmatian style dots. I had to make sure my lens was not subject to Kent lanes, the last thing you want is that one shot nailed but get home to realise there are great big black circles all over the frame!
We pushed on through the cold, watched fresh snowflakes appear in the eye of travel - like hitting hyperdrive on the millennium falcon. We discuss the cycling scene, chatted about training and mused over popular cycling content. It was now time to get ahead of the group, jump off the bike, grab the photos and then chase back on, here we go! I picked a flat road, applied some speed while constantly checking what the road ahead was doing. I had to think in reverse. What will the view I see look like when I turn around to shoot oncoming riders? Will the background be right and will the light be kind enough through the trees.? The first break away was ok, I felt good and the images were as I hoped. I chased back to the group and sucked on a couple of wheels until my breathing was back to a talking level.
There is always that moment in every ride when each wheel, each bike and each leg suddenly feels like one. The wheels can be heard reflecting back from the trees and the road is bouncing up the sound of legs applying power to the chain. This is one of my favourite moments. Riders go quiet, neat lines are taken up and suddenly the detail is lost from your scenery. Colours merge along the road and the sport quickly becomes the centre of everything.
I plan my second break away or should I say Olly (The Velo House owner) kindly lets me know, "at the top of that hill the woods are great and will probably provide a great picture". I'm not a great climber, I do ok at punching up small crests but climbs that hide thier summit are a nightmare to me. I swing the camera over my back, right angle my elbows and dart ahead of the group. I'm not going to lie this one hurt! I jumped off the bike, pressed the shutter and chased once more.
At this point we had 10km to go and I got that dreaded feeling. Your vision suddenly gets that orange blob you usually see after looking at the sun, I know to take this warning as a sign I need some sugar. I made the rookie mistake of compromising my gels for extra batteries and memory cards. Pray to the gods, "Please please please just let me hold the wheel in front. Please please please don't let another climb appear". I watched the kms tick away, grabbed a few more 'must have' shots and finally reached our destination.
We un-layered to make the most of the cafe warmth and put in our food replenishing orders. Another part of each ride I love to shoot is the camaraderie of riders once they return from their adventure. The body is now on a high so smiles are plenty through blood shot eyes and tales of previous rides begin to develop over the smell of fresh coffee.
I got the images I wanted. I was over the moon with the ride that took place and left with a very big smile. Cycling and photography does work and I hope there are many more like this! Although I have learnt to research the riders taking part, there may be occasions where the car could be a better option!!
Kinesis, I believe, have more of these ride outs planned. Make sure you keep an eye out for future events - they do not fail to impress.