photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock
Combining biking and photography is a fantastic way to keep fit mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even if no one else ever sees any of these images, the mere act of making them, everything involved in making them, benefits my art and my life.
I may be waxing philosophical here but mind, body, and soul is more than a concept. It’s the reality for so many artists I know - photographers, musicians, sculptors, authors, dancers, teachers. Teaching well is a beautiful art form, by the way. Hello, all you teachers!
Getting back to combining photography and biking, since it has the potential to do much good for a person’s overall health, and since it can lead to truly outstanding images, I like to plan my photo treks in order to maximize the potential. Here are some tips that have worked for me.
Tip 1: Plan to Be Spontaneous and Flexible
photo by stockstudioX via iStock
In order for photography to be truly successful, it is beneficial to treat the plans as an outline instead of a script.
If you have done any sort of public speaking, you learn that reading from a manuscript is generally not the most effective method. You want to hit your main points but you also need room in your notes to adapt to the audience.
Same principle applies to photographic treks. You want to reach the place you planned on, perhaps cover a specific range of miles, and gather certain types of images. But leave room for following your instinct when you see a challenge you want to accept. A challenging bike trail or an awesome subject for photography.
photo by cdbrphotography via iStock
However, just as with that public speaking example, you do need an outline. In regards to a photography trek, the outline would be your overall plan. Take care of the major variables.
Variables include are you going to drive to a spot and then bike? Or are you going to bike all the way? Is this a day trip, half day, or overnight with camping? Will you be taking your own food or is there a spot you know is open for getting food? Are there fees or regulations where you’re going, such as trail or park rules or campground fees?
Tip 2: Research Where You’re Going
photo by GibsonPictures via iStock
You may be very familiar with the area you're travelling to, perhaps you’ve been there multiple times or it’s nearby. Even if it’s your very own Walton’s Mountain that you’ll be biking, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary bookwork before heading out.
Online searches are often the best method to find out needed information. For instance, Google Maps can also link you to photos of the area that others have uploaded to Google Photos.Those Google Photos can sometimes link you to the public websites or social media accounts of the people who took those photos.
This is a great way to stay up to date with favorite locations as well as search out new places to visit. As an example, Winter Park ski resort in Winter Park, Colorado has a fine website of the mountain trails they have open for biking during the summer. Searching Google Photos for pictures made by visitors may lead you to other spots nearby but outside the borders of the resort.
photo by lzf via iStock
By the way, if you’re an avid biker - mountain biking or road biking - and you have yet to visit Colorado, you might consider it for your next long trip. Colorado is very bike friendly and there are lots of awesome photographic possibilities. California, Texas, Washington, and Maine are some other spots with surprising opportunities. Tell me your favorite areas to go to in any state, I want to try it out!
In your research, some other sources are online groups. As a mountain biker, look for forums of mountain bikers. But also look at forums for other bikers, for campers, hikers, and nature photographers. Many of the trail riders I know also share other interests. This information can be included in making your own plans, adding variety and maybe some new ideas.
Tip 3: Decide On Your Gear
Check your gear and clean your derailleur! English as a first language lets me try to be funny, sorry.
For a bicycle photographic trek, your gear will include your bike and accessories, your camera equipment and lenses, tripods, filters, any camping or overnight gear, clothing, and safety equipment.
My bike of choice is the Trek Remedy 9.9.
I was a Specialized bike enthusiast for a long time, and I enjoyed each bike I had. But, man, the Remedy 9.9 is next-level awesome.
For starters, I appreciate the carbon frame because it’s both lightweight and strong.
Speaking of strong, the FOX factory fork and Bontrager carbon wheels keep the ride comfortable without sacrificing strength. Add in the SRAM X01 drivetrain and the RE:aktiv with Thru Shaft damper, and you have the makings of a mountain bike that can go just about anywhere and do just about anything.
Of course, aside from the fancy specs, I really appreciate just how comfortable this bike is. Whether I’m tooling around my neighborhood or biking in the mountains, I’ve found the Remedy 9.9 to be a perfect companion for my adventures.
Needless to say, I’m loving this bike, and based on my experience I’d encourage you to do as I did and visit your local Trek dealer to see why the Remedy 9.9 is the ultimate adventure bike.
Regardless of the gear, we will run our safety and preparedness checks at the same time. For the bike, making sure it’s clean and everything operates as it should, lube if appropriate, double check air pressure and safety gear.
photo by Momolelouch via iStock
Deciding on the camera gear, I tend to take the best quality camera that I’m comfortable with using in rugged conditions. Plus a back up if I have one available. So, if I choose my current mirrorless full frame camera, I might include a waterproof point and shoot as a fallback.
I’ll probably have my primary lens for this outing already mounted on camera and perhaps have one other lens in the bag. A lot of the time, my primary will be a fast wide to normal or ultra wide zoom and my extra lens a fast telephoto zoom. Two lenses that can cover about 80% of what I generally shoot.
photo by EKKAPHAN CHIMPALEE via iStock
In my heavy duty camera bag I will have extra batteries, already charged up, extra memory cards, a remote release, filters, usually as a filter holder system so I’m instantly ready to change filters as needed, and a versatile travel tripod with ball and socket head.
In my other gear, I try to have extra socks and undergarments, preferably moisture wicking, my favorite multitool, water, and some tasty energy food. Camping and cooking equipment depending on my plans, and a solar charger for my smartphone. Terrain maps, road maps, and trail maps round out my stuff.
Tip 4: Bring a Friend - Or Not
photo by Pavel1964 via iStock
An experienced shared is sometimes an amazing experience. Other times, we may be seeking some alone time for ourselves. I’m good either way. I do enjoy being with others who share my likes, but sometimes I just want to be me, my bike, my camera.
Here’s my big PSA safety tip about lone treks. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and the timetable you have planned. Maybe also have a regular check in time planned.
A minor mishap can become a life threatening issue when you’re stuck somewhere, perhaps injured as well, for an extended length of time. In extreme weather or climate, hot or cold, that could mean hours instead of days.
Tip 5: Check the Weather
photo by GibsonPictures via iStock
Long term weather patterns can give us an idea of what could be in store for us around the time of our trek, short range forecasts and current conditions are vital as well. In addition to online weather pages, I also use a couple of smartphone apps to stay on top of it.
As an additional sub tip, if I’m going out of my local area for the bike photography trek, I will search social media for local TV news stations that might have their own apps.
For instance, in Oklahoma, known for turbulent, rapid changes in severe Spring weather, the major TV station apps can give you street address locations and to the minute timing of active storms. Similar, though different, situations exist in multiple areas across the US, so local coverage is often the best way to stay informed.
Tip 6: Don’t Worry, Be Happy
photo by RyanJLane via iStock
Finally, with all of these preplanned tips, hints, and ideas, just go and enjoy yourself. You’re on your bike, seeing neat things, capturing images to work on later, so relax and let yourself have fun.
After all, you’re doing two of your favorite things at once, photography and biking. How could you NOT have fun?
When you’re all done, upload your images, maybe add some commentary on a blog or social media. As much as I love taking pictures, I love to see what others have done, too. I want to see your images, and share your experience as you join me to #GoByBike!