Since moving to Spain, the more clement weather has encouraged me to combine my interests in Cycling and Photography.
Cars vs. Cycles
Here’s the thing – when I drive, I spend most of my time looking at the road and when I do see a photograph I’m usually way past the spot. So I return, on my own, sometimes several times before the weather and the light cooperate to give me the conditions I need to get a decent photograph.
When I walk, as I do to locations I know within a mile or so of my house, then I see different things, I have more time to see the landscape around me and more time to pick out the things that make a photograph work – repeating patterns, leading lines and so on. But its hard work with a camera and three lenses and it doesn’t happen as often as it might!
So I borrowed, from Dave Mellor Cycles in Shrewsbury, an electric bike. It was a revolutionary moment. It seems to me that I can cover a lot of ground on an electric bike and still have time to see the photographs. On my return to Spain, I set about researching the type of bike I need.
As someone who photographs in cities and countryside, I needed a bike that would go happily off-road and on, with suspension on the front wheels and a comfortable saddle. As a new resident of Spain, I wanted to support a Spanish business so I picked a Spanish company, Orbea, which is perhaps not as well known as Trek, Giant or Specialised but has accumulated a lot of plaudits from pro riders.
After much head-scratching and financial contortion, I elected to buy a hardtail Orbea Keram. electric mountain bike. It’s a brilliant bike and I’ve been riding it around the valleys and mountains of the Alpujarras where I’m staying for the next month or so.
Fitness, Cycling and Photography
Of course, as a sometime tennis player, a lapsed gym addict with several minor but chronic injuries to feet, back and various joints as well as being a very technical photographer it was inevitable that my attention would be quickly diverted to the fitness aspect of cycling. The thing about e-bikes that may not be immediately obvious is that you can choose the extent to which you let the bike do the work. The result is e-bikers tend to do much longer journeys than pedal-powered cyclists.
A nice feature of Strava is that it has a social aspect. You can upload photographs of your ride which can be seen by your friends. It’s a nice touch. The app automatically syncs with the Garmin Edge.
Strava on its own relies on the phone to get the GPS coordinates. This is ok, but I cracked the protective screen of my phone pretty quickly by absent mindedly sharing the pocket with a bunch of keys. Once I added the Garmin Edge to the bike I was able to sync the two apps and see my stats in real time.
I discovered that the Apple Health app automatically imports the data from Garmin Connect which is another bonus and one that led to me investing in a Garmin Instinct 2. A watch that measures things like blood pressure, stress and sleeps so that you can measure your fitness as it evolves.
Dear God, as if photography wasn’t enough! With great passion comes great expense and bikes are no exception.
Security is a big issue, so locks, I favour the D lock design provided by Abus. A large chunky lock that is resistant to bolt cutters, crowbars and even freezing. One large one locking the back wheel and frame to a secure railing, one small one securing the removable front wheel to the frame of the bike. When I’m riding the bike? Well, I’m risk averse.
As a second line of defence, a GPS tracker on the bike itself. The Invoxia Bike Tracker locks onto the bike and the price buys you a three-year subscription to the Sigfox low consumption network that provides real-time tracking via an App.
With great distance comes greater risk of punctures, so I’m steeling myself for a reacquaintance with the puncture repair kit. I doubt if they have moved on much from the ones I used as a teenager but hey ho.
Bags, Cycling and Photography
Anyway, I digress. The point of this was to enable more photography. In a recent article about camera bags The Best Think Tank Camera Bag, I mentioned in a slightly throwaway comment that one of the benefits of a bag I recently bought (the Retrospective 15), is that its lack of depth helps to keep the centre of gravity close to the rider if worn on a bike. Keeping your centre of gravity compact and close is absolutely essential in biking off-road. It’s reasonably important on road too, but maybe more controllable.
Off-road, with unpredictable surfaces, gradients and obstacles you need your balance and when you’re carrying an object as fragile as a DSLR with you, you really don’t want to risk a fall. So a backpack that stays close to the body is perfect.
Anyway, there’s a lot more to come. I hope to find some new locations around the Lecrin valley and the Alpujarras. Watch this space!
Check out Ruta de las Fuentes y Atalaya de Conchar, it’s a challenging ride, more suited to walking, but spectacular.
Picture of Orbea Keram courtesy Orbea.com
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