Passing High

Project exploring the relationship between cycling and mountains

The mountain is there and you have to confront it alone
— Gino Bartali

In the late 1980s, when I started cycling, it seemed more simple than today; riding for riding's sake, pure escapism, no data and no rules. I remember watching the Tour de France for the first time, seeing the climbing stages and being enthralled. From that point on my inspiration to ride would come primarily from the mountains. Since then not only has the popularity of the sport increased dramatically but the way it is conducted has shifted. The ability, through fitness apps, to constantly monitor and measure detailed metrics means riding is becoming less about being in the moment. To me this change is counter to the simple means of escape that is such a fundamental part of riding a bike. 

Riding in the mountains typifies this escapism. Ascending a high pass by bike is a sensation that is hard to match. The activity forces focus, effort and restraint, yet allows the mind to wander, random details stick in the mind and become memories of the experience. Kilometre after kilometre, it is at once painful and enjoyable, intimidating, enticing and meditative, a careful management of energy and a solitary endeavour, even when in the company of others. 

Since I started making this work in 2010 I have begun to appreciate the time when riding was a more basic pleasure. Through these images I look to convey both a sense of place and the essence of the experience. The process is simple; I first ride the climbs, allow the experience to sink in, then return with my camera. Sometimes the next day sometimes much later. A mix of the immediate and the monumental, the photos challenge the traditional notion of landscape beauty to explore the relationship between rider, road and landscape and through them I hope to offer a rider's view of these majestic and iconic places.