When did you start riding?
I’ve been riding bikes as long as I can remember – and one of my first memories is my dad taking off one of my stabilisers and then riding in a circle on the patio at the back of the house before he took the other one off. More seriously though, I think, was when I was a teenager. I bought a GT Zaskar frame, chose the parts, and built the bike up myself. I had a bit of a break after university (don’t we all…?), and another one when the Zaskar got stolen, so would say I got into road shortly after that – so serious cycling from about 2006 onwards. I was always on a bike though, and cycling always meant something ‘more’ to me than it seemed to to most other people…
What bike do you ride or ride the most?
I’m supposed to ride my fixed the most, as it’s my commuting/town bike, but the hills in Brighton have meant it hasn’t been ridden quite so much. My ‘serious’ bike is a Bowman Pilgrims. It’s what Bowman call ‘Road Plus’ – so all those roads you go past and wonder ‘where does that go…?’, you can explore, whether it’s just a rutted and potholed road, to full on farm tracks and bridleways. It’s got the geometry of a road bike, but has slightly bigger clearances so you can fit bigger tyres to go exploring off the beaten track.
Is there anything special about your bike?
My fixed is a Mercian – it was built in either 1955 or 1962 and is beautiful. It has Nervex lugs and is the comfiest bike I’ve ever ridden. I had it resprayed at Mercian a few years ago and it’s now in a pearlescent white with a green barber pole, so of course I’m now terrified of leaving it anywhere. A purist would probably turn their nose up at the fact I have a mix of vintage and modern parts, Campagnolo and Shimano, but it’s lovely to ride, and that’s the most important thing. My knees hurt though…
Have you got a favourite ride or place to ride and why?
There’s a 30-mile loop of the New Forest that never gets boring – you start on heathland, and you go through forest, scrubland, winding roads, long climbs, picturesque villages… You can take your time and relax or you can push yourself a bit. More locally, I’m really enjoying discovering the South Downs Way – there are so many points you can join it and you can go on for 10, 20, 30 miles and further, before looping back home (or catching the train…). Just recently I’ve been going out in Stanmer Woods in Brighton, and there are these little bits of singletrack that are a lot of fun on a cross bike, and lots of loops you can go out and ride quickly if you don’t have much time – there’s always somewhere to discover, and that’s the best thing for me. I went up the Col d’Ornon in the Alps a couple of years ago, and that was my first proper mountain ride, and that stands out in my mind as being something really beautiful – more beautiful than Alpe d’Huez, which nearly killed me. In the end though, I don’t think I’ve found a favourite yet – maybe none of us really has…?
What is the most amazing thing you have done on a bike?
I cleared the corner doubles at Iford BMX track in Bournemouth when I was about 17.
If you were to go on a cycling adventure where would you go?
I keep seeing amazing photos of the west coast of the USA, but more locally I’d love to do some exploring in the Lake District – and I’ve managed to arrange to write and shoot something for a magazine there. I also did a shoot in south west Ireland for Cyclist last year, and I’d love to go back and have some riding time there.
Why do you ride?
I could either write some long philosophical answer to this, or say what comes into my head, but doesn’t sound as interesting or exciting. I’ll go for the latter – I just do. There’s no reason for it.
How do you feel when cycling?
Have you got a favourite view?
No. While a lot of the work I do is cycling photography, the most amazing thing for me is how a thousand views unfold in front of me as I ride – the vista at the top of that hill or round that bend might be beautiful, but for me it’s the way these things reveal themselves to you as you approach them that excites me, and that’s always different depending on how you feel at the time.
How do you capture the views?
Well, it’s my job to take photos of cycling, so on ‘professional’ shoots I use my Nikon, but on normal rides I just have my phone in my jersey pocket like everyone else. It can be frustrating sometimes seeing something amazing and being limited by your iPhone – I hate that I can’t expose things properly, or use a different lens, and I probably delete more shots than I’ll ever post on Instagram – but sometimes you have to let go of that and remember you’re trying to capture a moment rather than taking a magazine-quality photo.
Words and photos by @jamesisaphotographer