I landed in Australia the day before everyone else arrived and did a little exploratory ride to check out the area and the viability of a couple roads. There was a little intersection not too far from our lodge that we stayed at, and I kind of tucked it into my mental rolodex of Nice Places To Take A Photo. We started shooting with three riders – Pat Drapac, Katya Crema, and Hamo Low – and I feigned a mechanical in the same spot so that they would stop for a picture. It was a white-hot summer day and the sun was already high in the sky, so I had to do some Ansel Adams zone system exposure work to get the tones where I wanted them. It was a sweaty, hot, insanely bright and squinty day.
In January, while everyone else in Adelaide was in hot pursuit of the pros, we dispatched four of our local wear testers into the surrounding hills for two days of riding on remote roads, in record-breaking temperatures of over 40°C. Photographer Jake Stangel was with them – here’s what he had to say about the shoot.26 February 2019
A big part of what makes a picture compelling to look at is the emotion – you ask yourself, are the riders having fun? Does what they’re doing look like something I’m missing out on? There are different ways of making this kind of moment come to life.
My overall goal shooting cycling, or anything for that matter, is getting a mix of intimacy and a feeling of first-person participation – that feeling you’re right in the mix. I love having someone else act as a foil, so the subject is fully engaged elsewhere and not with my camera, it lets things flow in a way where you’re getting the most absolutely natural expressions. It’s great when everything is clicking: smooth road, gradual descent, effortless pedal strokes, wind on your face, sun on your skin. Pure joy in riding.
If the people in the pictures are important, so too are the locations, but travelling to new places and working on short schedules must make finding the right spot difficult. How do you approach shooting in a new place?
We almost never do location scouting, but sometimes it’s helpful to ride a trail or road beforehand to get a sense of where the good angles are, where there might be a good vista or switchback curve to document. Some locations are impassable to vehicles, so I’ll ride and shoot off the bike. I remember one painterly vista where everything was tranquil: grasses calmly bending and swaying in the breeze, the road cutting a perfect S-curve through the landscape, a moment to just stop and revel in the place.
Keeping cycling photography interesting is a challenge – it’s an established sub-genre in its own right now. What are some of the things you think about to keep it fresh?
Definitely movement, always. Oscillating in and out, macro to micro, sometimes it’s the expansiveness of a vista and sometimes it’s the curve of an eyelash. I think it’s how we create memories. They’re never at a fixed distance, they’re always a cascade of moments, sometimes intimate and sometimes incomprehensibly vast and wide; I definitely bring that ethos into the projects I shoot. Without sounding absolutely, eye-rollingly cliché, I think a lot about making photos that feel like they’re part of your memory of an experience, but captured in real time.
Often Rapha shoots bring together riders who’ve never met. Do you get to see friendships blossom often on shoots like this? What difference does it make when riders truly get on?
Pat and Hamo definitely struck up a beautiful bromance on the trip to Adelaide. Not to keep waxing on and on about the wonders of cycling, but it’s truly such a terrific way to quickly get to know a group of people. It’s one thing to meet a stranger over coffee and have a limited canvas to share experiences and commonalities, but on the bike, there’s immediate camaraderie and teamwork and a lot of care you need to show for one another. I can learn more about someone on a two hour ride than I could in a day of sitting in an office or eating meals or sitting in a car with someone I just met.
We’re often expected to be solemn and serious, yet your work is full of fun. What does cycling mean to you?
One of the things that’s kept me rolling out the door with my bike for over twenty years, multiple days a week, are the sensory – and in turn – emotional experiences that hit you in waves when riding. You can never be numb on a bike. You’re always feeling something, whether it’s the magnificent sensation of picking up speed on a twisting descent, a meditative slow roll to the city coffee shop, the absolute pain and fatigue during a race, or the sun toasting the tops of your forearms. All things felt on the bike that I try to bring into cycling photography.
Cycling has never been about suffering for me. It’s about elation and exploration and shared experiences and community and self-growth, all created under your own power and often bringing you to the most stunning, faraway parts of wilderness. I’m happy that Rapha have chosen to show the type of cycling that drew me into this life and keeps me stoked to get back on the bike every time I go for a ride.
One of the photos in the set shows the riders leaving the road for gravel, shot from up above – an interesting perspective on the group ride. How do you find these angles and go about making them?
There’s an obvious metaphor here about ‘finding your own road’ or the adage of ‘searching for stoke yadda yadda’, but there’s something that’s admittedly very exciting about popping off smooth tarmac onto gravel lightly crushing underneath your tires... that feeling that you’re heading somewhere a little off the beaten path, less cars, more fun. The top down angle was just a way to depict this in a cleaner manner, and was obtained by me taking off my shoes and jumping onto the roof of the van. If you stand on the roof of a rental car wearing socks, the rental agency will never know, but they might try to charge you if they see sneaker marks up there, as I’ve learned.
This is also the first Rapha shoot with a mountain bike in it. How did it feel to be the one to cross that bridge?
I’m honored to be the person who documented it. Honestly, we had a blast the entire time. Rapha shoots are never work, they are simply amazing trips to faraway places, rounded out with a stellar group of excellent humans who head out on some phenomenal rides and enjoy our time together in the homes we stay in as well.
We’re all in it together, whether we’re in front or behind the camera. We all cook and clean and enjoy being in one another’s company. I love to cook, and did make a meal or two for the crew, including one that Hamo’s virgin Australian-British palette found extraordinarily spicy. I think he drank a thousand glasses of water and his face turned bright red. Sorry, Hamo!
Made for pushing the limits of endurance
The Explore collection incorporates technical innovations that push the boundaries of design. The Cargo Bib Shorts and Technical T-Shirt form a unique combination that is quickly becoming a uniform for the most adventurous riders.
“The Cargo Bibs provide next level comfort, dampening vibration on uneven road surfaces and drying quickly in time for the next day’s ride.”
– Verity Copland, wear tester
CARGO BIB SHORTS
The most adept adventurers are those who can adapt to their environment. From stormy Scottish sea lochs to the pampas of Patagonia, the Cargo Bibs have been tested in all weathers. Made of a lightweight, water-resistant material they provide weather protection without compromising breathability while expanding mesh pockets on both legs and the back carry everything you would usually keep in your jersey.
New for this season, the Women’s Cargo Bib Shorts incorporates a completely redesigned Explore chamois pad which, despite being our most supportive pad ever, dries rapidly in time for the next day’s ride.
"I wore the Cargo Bibs under the Tech T, having the choice to wear a t-shirt feels like you're cheating the system."
– Pat Drapac, former professional and wear tester
Two pockets on the legs and two on the lower back of the Cargo Bibs allow far more versatility in dressing for exploration.
Shake the storm
Our proprietary Shadow fabric sheds water in all but the most concerted downpours and is extremely hard-wearing, while remaining breathable in the heat.
Fast-drying fabrics and a perforated chamois pad mean the bibs will always be ready for your next ride.
EXPLORE TECHNICAL T-SHIRT
On all day cross-country adventures or multi-day cycling trips, there are times you'd rather not wear a jersey. For those moments, there’s the Technical T-Shirt, offering an alternative approach to dressing for your next ride. Made from a lightweight fabric that wicks sweat away from the body and promotes airflow, you’ll stay cool and dry even when working hard in the saddle. Hidden reflective trims also help you stay visible on the bike.
"No matter what material your cycling jersey is made from, there’s no way it’ll feel as good as a weightless, pocketless t-shirt."
– Katya Crema, wear tester
Loose fit creates cooling airflow to keep you more comfortable in the heat.
Hi-vis and reflective dotted bands make you visible in low light.
On the hook
Integrated hanger loop for quick drying post-ride.
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