Last year we asked Rupert Hartley, co-founder of Albion and the man behind the Albion lens, to look back at the year through some of his pictures.
It had been a busy year, as we traveled carefree across Britain and Europe shooting our gear, following races and telling stories.
What a difference a year makes.
As we look back on 2020, we’re more thankful than ever for the simple pleasure of being able to ride our bikes.
Rupert reflects on some of his pictures from an unusual year, below.
“When I looked at the diary this time last year and planned all the things I’d be photographing with Albion, to have basically been able to have done none of them is strange.
But 2020 is strange.
So this will be a little different, and perhaps more personal.
Here are some photos from a very unusual year.
The Strathpuffer 24 Hour mountain bike race was the only event we really attended this year. Held in January in the Highlands, it is commonly referred to as ‘17 Hours of Darkness’. We went to watch and support our friend Chris Pitblado taking part. I like this photo as it sums the Strathpuffer up from what I saw. Caked in mud after one or two laps and still 22 hours to go. It’s a brutal test of body and mind. It really feels a lifetime ago now.
This is Combe Gibbet. It sits on top of Walbury Hill in Berkshire, near where I grew up. I spent a lot of time riding round here in the first lockdown. The hangman’s gibbet is always there, looming over you, no matter which way you climb up. For some reason I always hear Bob Dylan singing “…there must be some way out of here, said the joker to the thief…” whenever I approach. Hendrix would probably make a better tempo for riding uphill, but it is always Dylan in my head. The riding is great round there.
We shot our spring summer gear here, and it was also the start of the trail for one of my favourite big days out of the year, a solo off-road ride to the South Coast. The view is pretty up the top too. (Below)
This is from one of my favourite bits of road. It is the longer, gradual drag up to the Gibbet. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, or how I’m feeling, I always enjoy riding through the trees here. I like the warm light coming through those trees onto Nathanial here, during the Spring/Summer shoot in May.
I’ve long been quite resistant to combining riding my bike and taking photos at the same time. Only because I thought I’d end up doing both half-heartedly and not enjoy the freedom I get from just pedalling. On this trip to Wales I had a very small camera in a top tube bag, and I think the main problem with stopping to take photos in those valleys was the constant reminder how bad carbon clinchers are in the wet. Whilst I love the deep greens of the lush valleys, I think this photo is a happy memory of a happy ride as much as anything.
Mid-Wales. Climbing the ‘back side’ of the Devil’s Staircase with Jack. The few days we spent riding in Wales in July was one of the great joys of the year. The simplicity of turning the pedals and chatting with your mates seemed the greatest luxury imaginable at the time. Albion was conceived on these roads and it is always special to be there. Jack and I once pushed our bikes up (and down) here in the snow, when it was too icy for the tyres to grip.
I enjoyed the Zoa project. Largely because it just felt quite different. This was from the trip to the Peak District. We’d spent the afternoon streaming Tao Geoghegan Hart seal his Giro victory, before dashing out to catch the last of the fading afternoon light. The sky had those lovely soft pinks and blues you get on a crisp Autumnal evening.
At the Strathpuffer you will probably see a particular rider about once an hour. They have no trackers, so as you move through the woods and around the course, you are trying to calculate roughly how long you think it will be before they appear out the trees. You don’t get much warning. So you might only get four or five cracks in the daylight of seeing ‘your’ rider. I quite like how the harsh winter sunlight coming into the trees kind of makes the forest look like a barcode.
This is from the ‘Daytripping’ film we made in August about a ride from London, round the Isle of Wight and back. It was a long day. When we got back to London I then drove an hour and a half home to Oxford, and am probably in a very small club of people who have given themselves jet lag from a trip to the Isle of Wight. This photo is from the end. Pizza and a beer after a long day. We all know how that feels.
Another from the Strathpuffer. I knew this would likely be the last time I’d see Chris in the daylight, which was rapidly fading. This isn’t a particularly difficult thing to execute, but with little warning of a subject approaching, any photographer will tell you you can feel pretty silly mucking about at a 40th of a second if you mess it up (we’ve all been there). Strathpuffer is Chris’ local race and I like to think he knows the singletrack so well he doesn’t need to look where he is going, rather that he is just trying to work out what I’m doing stood up to my waist in the bushes.
This is also from the ride in Wales in the summer. Ray, who prints my pictures, said to me “you like trees don’t you”, when I was getting a print of this done. Last year I said that forests make me feel calm, and I haven’t changed my opinion there. I like how the cloud is hanging over the tops of the trees here. It had been raining pretty solidly the whole day, and despite that I just remember being in a good mood.
This was also from the Spring/Summer shoot at Combe. Shooting in dappled light is always a bit hit and miss, especially on the move. I think I just liked how it came together here as the greens of the jersey and trees all slotted together, whilst still having some nice soft light on Kenny’s face.
Finally from the Strathpuffer. This had been a long cold night. The frost had come down, and the energy around the various camp fires was probably at its lowest. I remember walking slightly into the woods at the ‘back’ of the course, and it was silent. The dawn was just starting to try and break. After 17hours of darkness in the Highland Forest, it was lovely to see. Doubly so for tired riders I expect. I liked this lone campervan with its light on, the inhabitants no doubt also happy for the end of the long ‘night’ of support to be nearing an end.
Here’s hoping the dawn isn’t too far off for everyone in 2021.”