Words: Clive Forth
Photos: Frazer Waller
Having brokered a deal to produce my first book, The Mountain Bike Skills Manual, in the autumn of 09, I set about gathering images to go in said book. All was going well and I planned on getting the riding shots done the following summer when the backdrops in the UK would be more inspiring.
A call from the publisher came in and an excited voice told me that the US had bought the language rights, “Woo-hoo!” I screamed down the phone. Charlotte then paused and continued, “The only thing is…well they have requested an earlier release date.” Bum!
Not wanting to let down the might of the US mountain bike fraternity and miss such a golden opportunity I boldly, and perhaps slightly foolishly, said, “No worries, pretty sure we can make that happen.” Left with nothing but winter and maybe a bit of spring to pull everything together I conjured up a plan to head somewhere sunny to gather riding shots for the skills sequences.
Spain was an obvious choice and a good friend put me onto La Fenasosa Bike Park as a potential good venue. The maps came out, the van was packed and I hit the road south with snapper Frazer onboard HMS VW T5. As we rolled through countless downpours in the north of France the trusty and allegedly bomb proof T5 decided to have a storm of its own. Upon inspection via Exposure Joystick and dirty knees I found a water leak. Bummer part deux.
An overnight stop in the van followed by map inspection the next morning led into Le Mans. We hit the strip of car dealers knowing that even if we couldn’t find a VW dealer, somewhere in Le Mans would be able to assist. Luck behold, a commercial service centre and some rough translations got us booked in, inspected, fixed and motoring once more.
The kilometres rolled by as we passed more stormy weather over the Pyrenees and into Spain and the long haul down over the deserts and into Valencia seemed to take forever; the most boring sections of road I have ever driven.
Another over night stop in the mighty ‘dub’ and up early to scale a hill and check out the terrain: great trails, great light, but freezing cold. We snapped away. This was a long haul to ride turns and do wheelies and hops but it was worth it. The next day we drove around and found a few more spots before rocking up at a closed La Fenasosa Bike Park. A Spanish speaking friend back in the UK tracked down the owners and they kindly drove out and let us in to spend the night, the following day we were given a guided tour of the site and left to ride and shoot to our hearts’content.
With all shots bagged and just before the rain of the plains in Spain caught up with us from we hit the road, back up through FA land and over the mountains, 8 hours in and sleep deprived we started the toughest game of I-spy known to man. The rules were simple: you had to call the most obvious thing possible, bear in mind it’s pitch black and raining on the Auto Route how hard could it be? (VERY.) Time passed and multiple rounds of I-spy led onto the creation of other road trip games like virtual connect 4 and virtual battleships. We desperately needed rest but our ferry was waiting so we fueled the van and sunk another tasty (not) roadside coffee.
Luckily the remainder of the journey went to plan and night time driving paid off, clear roads and a hassle free lap of the M25 (who’d have thought it?!) linked us to the M1 and onwards North. Back at base Frazer got to work tweaking images while I made us gallons of tea and we hit the deadline. The Mountain Bike Skills Manual made it onto the shelves on time but what a journey it had been en-route to its publication.
Clive Forth. MTBSkills, Transition Bikes.
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