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Saskia Martin / From behind the lens

Harvest hills of golden wheat. A below-table tangle of bare legs and bib shorts. Helmeted heads silhouetted by shadow. Themes that feature regularly in Saskia Martin’s carefully observed and playful photography.

Having spent the past decade documenting her rides in and around London, commissioned projects have followed as Saskia combines her passion for the medium with the professional requirements of delivering a brief.

Interspersing a photo essay of recent work, Saskia frames this creative journey with references to her own riding, the visual language she employs in capturing a moment, and her innate love of telling stories.


Riding

This time last year I’d boxed up my bike before travelling to southern Spain. I’d lost my cycling mojo and decided the best place to find it again was riding the Badlands route with my friend Kat.

My mojo proved elusive on the dry, dusty trails so I guess I’m still working through a mid-bike crisis. But treating myself to a new mountain bike has proved motivational in terms of wanting to use it. My first time out, riding up a hill, I had this sudden moment of clarity—like I was sitting in a favourite armchair.

Work

One of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make was leaving my role as Product Developer for Rapha after three and a half, happy years. As you can perhaps imagine, lots of tears.

I’ve left behind what feels like a family of colleagues but it just felt like it was time for a change. And as I’m now working for Apidura, cycling continues to play a huge part in my life.

We’re a fairly small team based in Camden and I just love it. There’s a real focus on functionality – solving design problems which is very much me – and as I ride to work each morning through the city streets I look forward to what each day brings.

Picking up the camera

My introduction to photography was through my iPhone. Taking pictures of friends out riding or at a coffee stop. It’s rather a cliché but I just love storytelling and this translates to certain rules I have when posting multiple images on social media. They have to be in chronological order and not every photograph necessarily needs to include someone on a bike. I get a kick out of portraying the little details that inform the bigger picture.

I’ve since upgraded to a mirrorless camera system as I transition into commissioned projects. It’s been quite a creative journey since my first ever photographic gig shooting my best friend’s wedding. I felt like I was getting married with the amount of stress I was feeling.

Inspiration

I love making a brand’s vision come alive and delight in the outcome of the process—that first pass through the images and the editing that follows. But then you also have the occasional crisis in confidence which, talking to established photographers, isn’t that uncommon. Looking back and thinking how you would change this or that.

I get a lot of inspiration from how the cinema portrays light and colour. And I’m instinctively drawn to what some might consider to be imperfect images—if there’s a blur or the composition isn’t classically two thirds. I have a penchant for capturing parts of people rather than a full head-to-toe shot. Hands are so expressive and my friends are now accustomed to me photographing their legs and feet.

I’m not one for grandiose statements but, to me, my pictures feel like curated art and artists always title their work. So I do carefully consider the words I use to accompany a post. I’m not particularly comfortable in front of the camera but I’m happy to be seen through my work. And maybe this combination of words and images can engage or even inspire for a moment?

All images with kind permission of Saskia Martin

María Guðmundsdóttir / Full gas and see what happens

Beaming a broad smile towards the camera, María Guðmundsdóttir’s personality is writ large on her playful social media posts. A passionate advocate for more women cycling and multiple Icelandic National Cycling Champion, the past year has seen her racing a series of events with the Café du Cycliste Gravel Team. In a conversation punctuated with laughter, María discusses the reasons she rides, the joy she finds in time spent outdoors and why we should all dance a little more.


cyclespeak
You’re at home in Iceland. Is that where you usually work?

María
If I need people around me, I just go to a coffee house but most of the time I work from home.

cyclespeak
I’m intrigued by your family name: Guðmundsdóttir. Has this got a special meaning?

María
Here in Iceland – we are not many [laughs] – and every girl is named daughter of their father. 

cyclespeak
What was it like growing up as a child?

María
I was born on the west side of the island. Quite remote with high mountains and hard winters. I lived there until I was 20 years old and spent most of my spare time skiing. I just loved bad weather as it meant more snow.

cyclespeak
Do you have any personality traits that are typically Icelandic?

María
In Iceland, everything depends on the weather. You can make a plan but the chance of it not working out as you imagine is huge. So it’s really Icelandic to not think too much about things and we have this phrase Þetta Reddast that basically means ‘it will be fine’. And that’s very much the kind of person I am. I love to have my life open to whatever comes to me.

cyclespeak
You mentioned growing up skiing. So where does the bike fit in?

María
Naturally I had a bike as a child. But every child can cycle in Iceland because if your parents cannot provide a bike, the Government will. And when I got pregnant in 2007 after I’d moved to Reykjavik, I decided to buy myself a bike as a present for giving birth to my first daughter [laughs].

cyclespeak
That seems fair.

María
And then I saw an advertisement for the biggest mountain bike race in Iceland—the Blue Lagoon Challenge. How could I have such a fancy bike and not participate? So I signed up and that’s how it all started.

cyclespeak
Did you enjoy the race?

María
The course was 60km and it never stopped raining. I was really tired and covered in mud when I finished but I’d never felt more alive.

cyclespeak
You mentioned the weather. Can you ride year round in Iceland or are there distinct seasons?

María
I ride all year but there are many days when you just have to turn around and head home because of the crazy weather. Last winter the snowfall was so heavy that it was difficult to ride anywhere but on the snow ploughed streets. So I went out during office hours when people were at work and made sure I was home before 4:00pm when the roads got busier. And they usually keep the cycle paths in Reykjavik pretty clear. If they don’t, the people quickly let them know about it [laughs].

cyclespeak
This year’s race season got underway with you riding for the Café du Cycliste Gravel Team at the Traka.

María
I’ve been working with Café du Cycliste on their photo shoots for almost three years. And then late last year they contacted me to ask if I wanted to compete in the Roc d’Azur gravel race out of Nice. That went really well – I came second – and they explained how they were building a gravel racing team and asked if I would be interested in joining. My first thought? Do they know how old I am?

cyclespeak
Maybe they were focusing, not on your 41 years, but on your 20 Icelandic National titles?

María
Possibly [laughs]. And this was a serious venture. They explained how I needed to be in good shape and train but also keep having fun on my bike. So I thought, well, the last condition is easy enough.


cyclespeak
So you joined the team.

María
I did. But at first I’ll admit to feeling a little shy about racing for Café du Cycliste. It was the first time they’d had their own team so it was a big honour to be asked.

cyclespeak
With the greatest respect, I’m finding it difficult to imagine you feeling shy [smiles]. You always appear so in the moment and relaxed.

María
When they asked me, I didn’t even tell my boyfriend right away [laughs].

cyclespeak
Café du Cycliste is a brand with quite a unique design aesthetic that I’m guessing appeals to your sense of fun?

María
I was already a huge fan and loved how they made fashionable cycle wear that also performed brilliantly on the bike. And I can remember when I first talked to them, how I explained that I was a little starstruck.

cyclespeak
With your personality, you make a great combination.

María
I guess so. And it’s perfect for Iceland. I look at the weather and pick an appropriate outfit.

cyclespeak
Once again riding for Café du Cycliste, June saw you line up for Unbound—considered by many to be the calendar’s biggest gravel race. But I believe the logistics of travelling to the US were also pretty testing?

María
That’s a crazy story. My journey began to unravel before I’d even left Iceland when I was standing in the wrong queue and nearly missed my flight. I had to run [laughs].

cyclespeak
You were flying to Newark?

María
And then the plan was to take a connecting flight to Texas and finally Kansas. But first I had to pass through US Immigration Control. After two hours of queuing, I finally got to the border officers and they asked if I had any foodstuffs. I answered, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I’ve got a banana and some other things’. So they immediately took me to one side and started to search all my bags which meant I missed my flight. So I had to wait in Newark for hours and to end a perfect day the thunderstorm came. And everything just stopped [laughs].

cyclespeak
I remember the storm was on the news.

María
After spending a night sleeping on the terminal floor, I had to quickly decide which flight to take. Choosing a connection through Denver, I finally got in the air again only to discover I was flying over Kansas [laughs].

cyclespeak
Not what you call perfect preparation for a 200 mile gravel race.

María
It took me 39 hours in total from leaving home to arriving in Emporia and when I did finally get there I had no luggage. No clothes, no helmet, no shoes, no bike. It wasn’t until the Friday evening, 12 hours before the race start, that my bags turned up. But even though I was desperately tired, lining up at the start line was pretty awesome. 

cyclespeak
How did you find the race? Did you – and I’m quoting a post you made – cry halfway round in all that heat? And was there an ice cream waiting for you at the finish line?

María
I started well but after two hours I was just empty. So when I got to the first aid station I stopped. I wasn’t sad – I didn’t cry [laughs] – because everything had been such a mess and it just wasn’t my time.

cyclespeak
And the ice cream at the finish?

María
Of course! And because my team is so awesome we celebrated the race at a typical American bar with country music, dancing and everyone wearing cowboy hats.


cyclespeak
Is Unbound unfinished business?

María
I don’t know.

[Pauses]

Some people need to tick boxes. I don’t.

cyclespeak
After Unbound you raced on home soil in the Rift. As a 20x Icelandic National Champion, does that bring with it a sense of expectation on how you’ll perform?

María
Yes, I suppose it does.

cyclespeak
Is that a good or bad thing?

María
In the past I thought about it a lot but now? I’m riding for myself and there’s less pressure.

cyclespeak
Maybe that comes with age. There’s less of a need to meet the expectations of others?

María
I can see that. And I wonder if María is changing. I love racing and pushing hard but I also enjoy just riding my bike purely for pleasure. Taking in all the surroundings rather than staring at the wheel in front of me [smiles].

cyclespeak
Your boyfriend is also an Icelandic National Cycling Champion. Do family rides ever get competitive?

María
No [laughs]. He’s faster than me.

cyclespeak
You’re fast enough to get second place in a recent race in Italy which means you’ve qualified for the UCI World Gravel Championships in October. That’s kind of a big deal?

María
But I’m not nervous.

cyclespeak
No?

María
Just excited. Which means I have no expectations and will just hit it. Full gas and see what happens [laughs].

cyclespeak
Leading such a busy life, is timetabling a challenge you welcome?

María
Yes. And that’s my problem. I like being busy. But I recently made the decision to only work part-time as I need time with my girls and time to ride my bike.

cyclespeak
No matter whether you’re riding, racing or on a photo shoot, you always have the biggest smile.

María
It’s how I am. Often my boyfriend says, ‘María, you need to cool it down’ [laughs].

cyclespeak
And you also love to dance?

María
I do. I dance a lot. With my girls, by myself. If you allow yourself to move – and I’m not a good dancer – then you’re more open to all kinds of situations.

cyclespeak
Does this same sense of movement apply to your bike?

María
Before I go to bed and when I wake up, I often go outside and [Maria breathes in deeply and exhales]. For my sense of wellbeing I need to spend time outdoors and cycling gives me that. It just feels so good to be pedalling.

María

All photography for Café du Cycliste including images by Benedict Campbell, Christophe Flemin and Violette Franchi

Dominique Powers / Telling stories

In the late summer of 2021, Dominique Powers loaded up her hatchback with camera gear and camping equipment, attached her gravel bike to the rear rack and set off on a three week, 3000 mile road trip. Stopping off at parking lots, trail heads and open prairie, she set up a portable backdrop before awaiting the arrival of each next subject. The photographic series that resulted – The Leaders of Gravel – was subsequently published on The Radavist to great acclaim and set the pulses of commissioning editors and marketing directors racing.

Over a transatlantic call we discuss this breakthrough moment and Dominique’s passion for storytelling. How she fell in love with cycling during the pandemic and, with a life lived on the road, the simple joys of coming home.


Dominique is taking our call at the kitchen table of the house in Los Angeles she shares with her partner Ken. On the drainer sits a ceramic coffee dripper, sunlight is filtering through the windows and if I’m not mistaken I can hear the squawk of parrots. “Oh that’s just LA,” she confirms with a smile. 

During the course of our conversation, Dominique mentions a time from her childhood when she left a library book out in the rain. The outcome of a meeting between her Mom and the librarian was deciding between paying for a replacement or volunteering in the library until she’d cancelled her debt. A voracious reader, Dominique chose the latter and it wasn’t until two years later that she found out her Mom had promptly paid the fine on her behalf.

An everyday story but one that illustrates how Dominique, even from an early age, understood the importance of owning the moment. An attitude she applied to her years as a digital technician working on high fashion and advertising campaigns.

“As with anything you do, your past experiences inform the way you approach new experiences. So all the time I was investing in being the best digital technician I could be, it taught me what working hard feels like.”

“But the longer I worked as a technician, the further away I felt from making that shift to being behind the camera. I was taking photographs the whole time but there were months on end when I wasn’t creating images with presence and purpose. And it took a sense of getting a little bit bored to prompt me to make the move.”

Continuing to work as a technician paid the bills and allowed Dominique the freedom to choose the stories she wanted to tell—in many cases the paycheck coming second as she set out to find her own voice and sense of authenticity. A process further guided by Dominique discovering cycling.

“I’m a very competitive person and grew up doing all these different endurance sports. And then during the pandemic, cycling quickly took over my life because what else do you do when you just want every day to pass? You spend hours and hours on the bike and it continues to provide motivation for the work I do now.”

These differing strands of interest and insight eventually coalesced in her Leaders of Gravel series—Dominique setting out from her home in Los Angeles on a circuitous route from one scouted location to the next. But before capturing a portrait with her medium format film camera, she took the time to converse with each subject to better understand their own experiences and stories.

“Trust takes time. You need to know, to a certain extent, the person holding the camera in order to feel comfortable lowering your guard. And I was very open about why I was doing the series and what I wanted from them. They didn’t necessarily need to smile or even be serious. It was all about who they were as a person so it was important to create a safe space where they could be a bit more vulnerable.”

With each subject’s eyes seemingly focusing through and beyond the camera to Dominique herself, she realised the profound impact the body of work had made on her own understanding of the creative process.

“On the road during the trip—even then, I knew this series would be with me forever. It was hard work – so many early mornings – but I felt this huge amount of gratitude that people agreed to do it and made the time. That they were willing to meet me at whatever deserted destination I had decided. And how this sense of magic found a place in the resulting portraits.”

“It came at a time when I really wanted – and needed – to reconnect with myself. An opportunity to explore my own sense of adventure and be present in the moment. I’d brought along my tent – fully expecting to be really roughing it – but the hospitality I experienced meant I only camped out the one time. People were so generous in opening up their homes to me that I just wanted to put that back out into the world. You can’t help but be changed by experiences like that.”

Hanging out at Sea Otter a few weeks after the story came out, every marketing director Dominique bumped into said they’d seen it—one notable outcome that followed involving another journey but one with a transatlantic flight.

“I’m very fortunate to be on a retainer with Giro and I’d mentioned this goal I had of shooting the Tour de France Femmes. They made a few phone calls and the project was given a green light. And then, knowing how establishing a relationship with my subjects is important to my work and that I’d never attended a World Tour race in Europe, we agreed that I’d spend a week with the Canyon-SRAM women’s team in the lead up to Paris-Roubaix.”

Landing in Paris, Dominique picked up her rental car and drove up to join the team on a course recon.

“It was such a blast and I’m so grateful – thank you, Mom – that I learnt to drive on a stick shift. And then once I was settled, every morning I’d show up an hour early to hang out with the soigneurs and mechanics so that on race day I really felt part of the team.”

Not having the same level of direction that she would usually enjoy shooting editorial content, Dominique quickly adapted to reacting to what was happening—building a level of trust with the riders such an integral part of the trip that Dominique was conscious of not getting in the way or asking too much.

“I went with the goal of meeting the athletes and team and to experience the culture of European World Tour racing. In effect, my pre-season training, so that when I return in the summer for the Le Tour Femme I can hit the ground running.”

Although a relative newcomer to cycling, Dominique is well placed to offer an opinion on how the sport is changing. And back home in the US, it’s gravel that is currently all the rage.

“Women want to exercise more and spend time outdoors. They want to create authentic experiences and cycling is the answer in so many ways. And because of the number of cars on the road, gravel is a perfect fit. That was how I discovered cycling and my own journey has taken me to the start line of Steamboat Gravel which was so much fun. Quite a challenge but I went into it wanting to test my metal. To see what I was made of.”

“I believe in ‘go big or go home’ so why not take a risk and roll the dice. I could have decided to line up some e-commerce photographic jobs and get well paid for my time. But I chose to do a photo series of the top women in gravel and then see what would happen.”

If Dominique does ‘go home’, right now that means LA and the house she shares with Ken. A place where she can feel emotionally open and where she disconnects from whatever outward pressures she might be feeling.

“I’m an early bird and generally wake up around 6:30am. I’ll have a cup of coffee with Ken and we’ll do the Wordle together before he starts his first morning meeting. Meanwhile I’ll have breakfast and write out a to-do list for the day. But even if I’m not working, having that early morning hour to greet the day and be reflective is really nice.”

As we wind up our conversation, I ask if she finds it easy to feel a sense of satisfaction in her work? Or whether, like some creatives, she’s always looking to the next project?

“You take the Leaders of Gravel series—that happened over a three week period and once I had all the images I needed and I’d written up the story, it was done. I don’t plan to ever go back and add to it. But I do feel this sense of forward momentum and there’s always something more that I want.”

And more stories to tell, I ask.

Dominique pauses for a second and smiles broadly before answering.

“That’s really what it’s all about.”

Feature image and video by Alex Colorito

All other imagery with kind permission of Dominique Powers / dominiquepowers.com

The Leaders of Gravel

Canyon-SRAM

Journeying with Fara Cycling

We’re a relatively small company but that makes us very personable. Every customer and every bike we build is so important to us.”

Speaking over a video call from his office in Taiwan, Jeff Webb has an easy manner that suggests he’s just as comfortable solving problems in the workshop as he is sitting around a boardroom table in his role as CEO of Fara Cycling.

Canadian-born, when he was 19 years old he travelled to Europe to pursue a dream of racing his bike professionally before subsequently settling in Norway. Following a successful career as a sports photographer and years working in the sporting goods industry, Jeff founded Fara Cycling in 2015 with a vision of building a bike brand for a new breed of cyclists. One that’s inspired by adventure, emotions and nature.

“When I first started Fara Cycling, it was typical me—bullheaded in the face of a lot of naivety but just going at it and not feeling that I was prepared to back out. And right from the off, I wanted to make people feel comfortable and do away with any sense of intimidation, elitism and snobbery. You go to a trade show and it’s awash with all these images depicting gritted teeth and hollow-eyed faces. And I’m really not sure who these brands are talking to because at Fara we’re so far away from that. We never mention lactic acid or FTP—that’s not our world. What we do focus on is how the bike allows you to enjoy all these amazing places and experiences.”

Although Fara Cycling is based in the Norwegian capital of Oslo, Jeff has spent the past six months in Taiwan overseeing the final pre-launch phase of the company’s new bike model: the F/GR.

“Because of the various travel restrictions and the need to hotel quarantine on arrival, it makes sense to remain for a longer period rather than travelling back and forth. And Taiwan’s a nice place to be—the climate is warm and there’s so much great riding to choose from.”

With Fara wanting to own as much of the value chain as possible, their Taiwanese facility allows easy access to component suppliers – SRAM are located just down the road – and the convenience of overseeing vital finishing touches such as paint.

“We decided to keep final assembly in-house which is a little unusual in the bike industry. Even the paint we use is purchased by ourselves from the supplier who’s also just round the corner. So all this gives us a pretty unique level of control over the various stages of manufacturing.”

Now that it’s a little over five years since the dream of creating his own brand became a reality, Jeff recognises how the time he spent travelling the globe as a photographer provided the inspiration that eventually led to Fara Cycling.

“I did a lot of work with small skiing and snowboarding brands—allowing me to see from the ground up how they created their own market. So I took all these insights and started Fara in Norway – this fascinating location – because I’ve lived there for the past 25 years, I speak the language and feel socially immersed in every way you can imagine.”

“In Old Norse,” Jeff continues, “At Fara means to journey or venture. So we have this cultural thread that ties together the whole brand and I truly believe that recognising this identity was a key moment in our growth. Something that really drove us and continues to do so.”

With this initial inspiration provided by the winter sports brands he was photographing, it was the years Jeff spent heading up sales management for a large sporting goods corporation that proved equally as motivational when it came to launching his own company.

“The more I worked in this corporate world, the greater the belief in me grew that we could do things better. That we could grow a brand that spoke more directly to the customer base.”

Determined to start his own company according to these firmly held principles, Jeff contacted his friend Kenneth Pedersen—the owner of highly respected brand design agency ANTI and also a keen cyclist.

“If you peek behind the curtain,” suggests Jeff with a smile, “you might be surprised at what we’ve managed to achieve with a relatively small team. We’ve recently expanded in response to the demand for bikes during the pandemic but it wasn’t that long ago – a little over two years – that I was the only full-time employee. I was building bikes during the day and answering emails at night.”

With teams now based in Oslo and Taiwan together with a handful of employees working remotely, not only has the Fara workforce increased in numbers but the model range has grown to encompass riding styles that range from road to gravel adventure.

“We’re heavily influenced by our immediate surroundings,” Jeff explains. “So we design bikes that work in the landscapes where we ourselves ride. Which is why we had a gravel bike from day one—before gravel was even a thing. And the idea for our all-road bike, the F/AR, came about when we wanted a bike that could go anywhere. A bike that’s fast and fun that you can ride really, really far. That really resonates with me and influences the way I myself ride. We weren’t looking to dumb down the ride experience—slow and sluggish was never an option.”

“Riding gravel – or whatever you choose to call it – is very much a social scene too. I regularly see groups of riders heading out of Oslo on a loop before stopping off to chat over a coffee or beer. A very different way of riding compared to ten or 15 years ago. And we saw this as an opportunity to design the whole brand – the concept and messaging – around this new style of riding.”

Another recent trend in the cycling industry is the enormous growth in online sales with Fara opting for a direct-to-customer sales strategy. A working model that sees Jeff taking a turn on customer services and replying to messages on his Instagram account.

“A couple of years ago we were contacted by a customer who had a bike that was making the most terrible noise. He’d taken it to his local bike shop but they couldn’t help so I loaded up my car with tools and spare parts and drove three and a half hours to this guy’s house. It only took 15 minutes to diagnose and fix the problem – the rear axle needed re-greasing – but taking care of this customer’s problem was well worth the time and effort.”

“We’re a bit of a ragtag bunch at Fara and I believe that one of my skills is to recognise the potential in people. So if I come across someone I feel might prove a good fit in our journey, I don’t hesitate in talking to them. I very much appreciate how everyone in the Fara team is so passionate about cycling and also the brand. And with that comes our uncompromising approach to the highest level of customer service—making sure that everyone is treated well and has the best possible consumer journey. After all, your customers are your most important ambassadors.”

Not only is Jeff concerned with implementing a robust system of customer support, his vision of building bikes that are fun to ride but also supremely capable has led his design team to explore issues of rider comfort and convenience—the recently developed integrated luggage system offering a clever method of fixing bike bags using a series of magnets embedded in the frame.

“It may appear deceptively simple,” comments Jeff, “but it’s a response to a set of circumstances familiar to many of our customers. You’re on a multi-day trip, pulling up at your overnight stop with frozen hands and you’re struggling to remove the straps of your bags. There had to be a better way.”

“So in the design phase of the F/AR – because we knew it would be used for this kind of adventure riding – it just felt like a wasted opportunity if we couldn’t find a way of integrating the luggage system. Yes, we wanted the bike to look great with or without the bags, and now that we’ve designed our first version of the system, we just need people to use it and enjoy it and then we’ll see where we can take it from here.”

For customers able to visit Oslo, the various aspects of the customer journey have been distilled into the Fara Cycling Experience Centre—the online process of picking a model to fit a particular riding style before selecting components that work with a customer’s budget complemented by in-person advice and the opportunity to see before you buy.

“Our Experience Centre offers a warm welcome and advice to everyone. We don’t care how long your socks are, if you shave your legs or whether you want to ride thirty kilometres or three hundred. All of that stuff doesn’t concern us—we’re all about the joy of cycling and that everyone should feel welcome. So the first thing you’ll hear as you walk inside is ‘hi’ followed by ‘do you want a cup of coffee’?”

Although it’s clear that Jeff still relishes every available opportunity to engage with his customer base, a typical working day as CEO can depend on a number of disparate factors with his current Taiwanese timezone proving a prime example.

“The mornings are generally quiet over here so I can go for a ride before things get a little crazy after lunch when Oslo wakes up. Then I’ll work into the evening – usually until midnight – but I don’t consider myself a typical executive. I’m just a bike guy and feel very fortunate to have lots of really talented and inspiring colleagues along for the journey. As the founder of the company, it’s really touching when other people buy into your vision.”

“Everybody in the Fara Cycling team works so hard which makes my job so much easier,” Jeff concludes. “And in return, I want to give them a great place to work and the feeling that they’re part of something that’s really cool. Money is money but a sense of collective achievement is priceless.”

Jeff Webb

Fara Cycling

Photo credits: Fara Cycling / Emil Nyeng / Steff Gutovska / Pål Laukli / Sebastian Mamaj

CHPT3 x Vielo / Just add dirt

After years spent working in the cycling industry, Ian Hughes decided it was time to channel his knowledge and experience of distributing brands into developing his own. Together with son Trevor, the pair launched Vielo in 2017 with a shared desire to place honesty and integrity at the forefront of their conversations with customers.

First with a gravel offering before following up with road, what connects both bike models is the absence of a front derailleur—a dedicated 1x set-up that pairs the range of 12 and 13-speed group sets with a boutique approach to frame design that negates a requirement for two chainrings.

A conversation between Ian and CHPT3 founder David Millar added the next intriguing twist to the Vielo story with a limited-run of the V+1 gravel frame paired with mechanical Campagnolo and a unique paint design—a collaboration described here in their own words and culminating in three magical days of photography and film set against a backdrop of Girona’s finest gravel trails.


Ian
I knew David from back in my Scott days when he was riding the pro tour. He went off and did his thing with CHPT3 and I worked on launching Vielo. I’d heard that David was in London doing a commentary for ITV4 and I suggested we meet up so I could show him what we were doing with our bikes. He explained how he was looking to do a collaboration with a UK-based bike company to complement a dirt range of their apparel and this led us to discuss ideas for a gravel bike based on the V+1.

David
When I first saw the bikes, I just fell in love with the concept. Both Ian and Trevor come from mountain biking and they were approaching gravel from this point of view rather than a road cycling perspective.

I can appreciate steel bikes – Speedvagen and all that super hipster shit – but at heart I’m a pro bike racer and I like hardcore performance. And Vielo bikes are super edgy, multi-purpose and carbon.

So we began talking over the idea of CHPT3 doing a gravel bike—how it should be beautiful, fast and well-engineered. A stunning design with some mountain bike heritage but also doffing its cap to road. Once we had these founding principles agreed, we then thought about how we could give these beautifully engineered machines some personality.

Ian
We knew that Campagnolo were bringing out their 13-speed Ekar group set. And when it came to the CHPT3 bike, that had a nice link because David used to ride with Campag back in his pro tour days.

David
I got into bikes from BMXing in the 1980s and then mountain biking in the 90s. Michael Barry and I used to ride gravel around Girona on our race bikes. So we kind of hid a chuckle when gravel became a thing because we’d always done that.

We have three categories in our CHPT3 range: road, dirt and street. Road’s fast, dirt’s all purpose – it’s adventure, discovery, getting lost and then found – and street is flow and elegance. Fashion almost. But dirt is the one that’s most versatile and allows you to cross over between disciplines. You can’t go street to road or road to street. Put all this into a Venn diagram and dirt is the meeting point. The crazy place. A little bit fuck you.

So with Vielo, I was choosing a bike that fitted my style of dirt riding. And Campagnolo just made absolute sense. It’s the most mechanical thing that exists in cycling—a sense of realness, super tactile and you can feel the gear shift. And with the paint job, it was a case of just making every single bike individual. They look smart when they’re dirty and dirty when they’re smart.

Ian
We got this excited call from David after he’d visited his painter Eduard. They’d used the colour palette from the CHPT3 Dirt collection – sprayed randomly over the frame followed by a layer of black – and then Eduard was hand-sanding this outer coating to reveal the colours underneath. And the beauty of this paint scheme is that every bike is unique and we’re strictly limiting them to a run of 50.

David
This bike is very much grounded in Girona. I’ve been here for years and I see other peoples’ bikes and the trends that come and go. And the paint was my cheeky little rebellion against all of that. Anti-fashion, in a way. And then when you go and ride it; holy cow, it’s just incredible.

Ian
As a brand, we needed to do a ride photoshoot. Normally we would choose a UK location but Antonio who looks after all our graphic stuff suggested that we really ought to do this in Spain. After deciding on Girona because David is based there, we began drawing up a wish list of who we wanted to take with us and I’m looking at the numbers and thinking OMG. But both Trevor and I could see how it just made total sense and we set the wheels in motion.

We’d rented this lovely farmhouse so the whole crew could stay together. When we first arrived, a deadpan Chris [Auld] – after years of mixed experiences with accommodation on shoots – immediately commented that it was another shit place booked by the client. Our videographer Chad was loving it, as were Antonio and Claire from the agency The Traveller and the Bear. I’d already made the decision to step back and let them work their magic with the direction of the shoot and I loved the moments when both Chris and Chad showed us some of the content and I could see the excitement in their eyes.

Each evening we’d go back to the farmhouse, share some food and talk over the day—random things like Antonio getting his drone stuck up a tree and it taking us so long trying to retrieve it that the local police turned up to ask what we were doing.

David
CHPT3 is a soft goods company –  we make what people wear – so we normally partner with companies that legitimise our decision to also make hardware. One of the ways we do this is to work with partners that are super authentic and, for me, Vielo absolutely nails that brief. I love what Ian and Trevor are doing so much—it’s a proper collaboration. A mutual appreciation society.

CHPT3

Vielo

Location photography by Chris Auld / Paint shop photography by Sami Sauri

Kirsti Ruud / Coming out stronger

In a year that has seen many of us adapt how we ride in the face of unforeseen circumstances, a new plan was needed when Kirsti Ruud woke to snowfall on the first morning of a bikepacking trip in her native Norway. But rather than any lingering sense of disappointment, the adverse weather conditions ultimately led to an experience that was not only breathtakingly beautiful but underlined the return on embracing the fickleness of forecasts.

Along with her companions Sindre Grønli and Øyvind Brenne Nordengen, the group decided on two separate rides in place of their planned overnight stop. Routes that would take them into the six biggest national parks in Norway and a landscape devoid of cars and buildings—a true wilderness of river valleys and mountain ridges, threaded through by the gravel roads they were riding.

Looking back on this experience, Kirsti reflects on the reasons she rides, how it can be rewarding to brave the elements and why the occasional challenge helps build resilience for when the randomness of life derails your best intentions.


Until 2018, I rode seriously. It was all about competition. I combined a little job here and there with my training but then I accepted a full-time position with the National Cycling Federation. I was getting more interested in working with cyclists than being a cyclist myself and the project I lead involves helping recovering drug addicts integrate back into society through cycling.

So in place of a training plan, travelling and exploring have been more a part of my summers and falls for the last two years. When I can, I cycle the hour and a half each way to work. If the weather is good, there’s no reason to sit in a car stuck in traffic. And because I’ve been working from home due to the pandemic, this year I’ve been cycling more than everenjoying riding my bike as much as I can within the restrictions.


After I stopped competing, I hadn’t ridden for months when I was invited to go to Iceland with Rapha. The trip was pretty amazing and it gave me a taste for different kinds of riding. So I asked them to let me know when the next big trip was planned and to count me in. George Marshall – the photographer on the Iceland shoot – had kept in touch, and he contacted me with this plan to ride in the north of Norway. But then he couldn’t come over because of Covid and my friend Marius Nilsen was invited to do the photography. He lives further north than Oslo and works for the National Parks.

The idea was a two day ride with an overnight stop at a mountain hut. That’s how we like to do things – carrying everything we need on our bikes. It’s what makes it a trip. And we’d come prepared with stud tyres in case there was any ice. Usually I don’t use these until December – even with regular tyres, riding in snow isn’t a problem – but we weren’t sure whether it was going to be a mixture of rain and snow and wanted to be sure we didn’t ruin our trip by crashing


But as we left Oslo to drive north, it began to snow really heavily. It was forecast but not that much. Going to bed thinking it would melt the next day, we woke to find 15cm of fresh snow. Figuring that we wouldn’t be able to get over to the cabin before it got dark but still wanting to ride, we came up with a new plan of a different route for each day.

Setting off after breakfast, I was excited. I think the worst part of the year can be the fall when it’s dark and a little gloomy. Because you can’t really tell the different textures from each other. But with the snowfall, the whole day was lit up and the mountains just looked so beautiful. The alternative would have been rain and fog.


Before every trip, I’m kind of worried about my shape. Hoping that I’ll have a good day and not really struggle that much. But even though we had a lot of wind – 17 metres per second which is enough to blow your bike over – we were all happy and laughing and just going with the flow. The light was amazing when we reached the top of a mountain and we just stood there, looking out over the landscape below, as the sun slowly sank behind the horizon.

I think the best rides I’ve had are when we’ve spontaneously come up with an idea. If you plan too much and then the weather is bad, it can be so disappointing. It can take the charm away and it’s best not to be too uptight about how your ride will be. It’s OK to let go of plans and just get out there and ride. To go far or go short—to not really know where you’ll end up.


When I was competing, I had to ride regardless of the weather. Telling your trainer that you can’t go out because it’s raining and 5°C just isn’t an option. Now that I don’t have to ride, I do appreciate the good days when it’s warm and sunny. But you can enjoy amazing experiences because of the weather. If you have the right kit, then you’re able to embrace changing and unpredictable conditions. And I do need some challenges once in a while where you feel like you’re struggling because you kind of come out stronger at the other end.

So I ride now because I want to ride. It’s my free time. My quiet time. An opportunity to reflect on things, for solving problems, to get out any frustration. Just being out on my bike gives me the space I need and I come back feeling like a weight has been lifted. It’s such an important aspect of the way I choose to live my life.

Kirsti Ruud

Images by Marius Nilsen and Rapha