Bikepacking isn’t the slightest bit a novel idea. Late nineteenth century black and white photographs of cyclists with bedrolls and framebags heading out into the countryside or on months long trips over international borders show that the bicycle has always been for freedom and exploration. If anything is new in the current enthusiasm for bikepacking, it’s firstly that specific and optimized gear is now widely available for it, and secondly and more importantly, there is a critical mass of the aesthetic sensibility to make it within the imaginative grasp of all of us.
This project with Conservation International attempts to harness the deep and longstanding cycling culture of Colombia to highlight the need to look after these paramos.
I’m loving that it’s so dark. By which I mean the towering colossal stupid.
Juxtapositions are a unexpected source of warmth and attentiveness. Kilometers of rolling dirt paths between farmhouses, images of an idyllic shire in mist gusting half light, and then a heap of rusting military vehicles, abandoned at a crossroads like children’s toys.
Into the countryside, we’ll link spomeniks while harassed by sheets of rain that turn the track into mud and leave us shivering wrapped in grey. Unphotographed moments that have now only retrospexistence, which can often be truer.
Munich to Marseille Route Link
Munich to Marseille Route Link
The Spomeniks of former Yugoslavia are future thinking, political, and mnemonic. They are notable in how their materiality achieves spirituality. To me they have a powerful beauty and they continue to speak even as they decay and are in many cases neglected.
A line that in this part of the country doesn’t follow something natural like the Rio Grande but instead is a cartographer’s dashed euclidean creation. Maybe that’s more honest with respect to the contingency and arbitrariness, maybe it doesn’t let us off the hook by encouraging lies about the separation and the essential unalloyed luck of being born on one side or the other of it.
[Originally published in Bikepacking Journal no.2, 2019 with photos by Logan Watts. Shared here with my photos.]
We were in Ethiopia for twelve thousand minutes. The only tiny thing we gave back, all we could, is that we respect that we’re alive together and making meaning together and writing and rewriting memories. We are not owed anything, not kindness or regard or being taken care of. If these things are not given, we still owe our own herculean colossal effort of understanding.
This ride breathes and coils. Sometimes big climbs, other times flick woodsy singletrack turns. Logan’s route inscribes dirt road motifs in a more expansive land’s humps and berms and valleys movement.
We say it matter of factly, and the facts are just bricks, our talk mortar—one could build walls or a paved path.
In Japan we followed roads in the densest cities with glinting rolling boxes and chirping screens and orderly crosswalks as if from a polished wood future, roads swaying up peaks into greys greens with pavement glinting from recent or hinting rains, some roads that are hardly intact anymore, forlorn tracks between trees.