I don’t consider myself an avid bikepacker. Yet, neither I think nor talk about riding my enduro bike (which I don’t have). Terminology in general has lost meaning for me in the past years in the bike world. I guess at the same time as many of us, I got overwhelmed with all the new kinds of everything, and the speed of development and diversity the market has achieved in such a short time. I tried to back off a little and find a short of safe place from where I can observe it all. And at the same time, the kind of biking I try to practice more is also quite determined by the act of observing.
If there is one thing photography has thought me is that when in the right mood and with the right camera in my hand, I tend to observe more. I do take more time to take a photo, wait for that moment I want to capture. That talking pure photo moment, but in general, I´ve become a sometimes bit obsessed observer. Forms, shapes, looks, colours. There is detail and attraction in almost everything around us. And after years of riding my bike in a way that maybe was not so conscious about that, I think I’m slowly changing my habit and letting be influence more and more by my other passion and profession, photography.
Both biking and photography are for me two good ways of showing respect, for what you do, how you do it, with who and where… They both have quite a big impact on the people around you, I like to see it that way at least. It’s more romantic, and it will carry some disappointment sometimes as well, but the rewards and truly much better at the end. All in all, and looking at it as a long-distance race, I see both things coming with me in all different stages of my life and more and more defining who I am and why I do what I do.
When signing up to what is known as the “biggest bike packing event in the world”, I guess I could have thought about the mass, the “ a lot” and “too much” factors that surely define our society of consumption. But neither of those thoughts came to my mind at any point. On the other hand, I had a humble and slow approach to something that is interesting me more and more. Riding my bike the whole day, one day after the other. I’m interested in seeing and knowing more about where this takes me, and I thought this was a great first move. Signing up with a couple of friends was just a must for now, but solo rides are surely on the list too.
The same way photography has been throwing all kinds of surprises at me during all these years. Riding the Tuscany Trail felt a bit the same. Not necessarily because of the distance itself. A mere 470 km which is totally doable and enjoyable at an easy pace and doable for everyone, with plenty of time to enjoy views, food, chats, and all that comes with it. But more about the terrain. The Toscana, where the trail finds its start and end. It’s filled with endless little roads (paved and unpaved) of almost any width. Singletrail included. Making for endless possibilities of riding. Decent climbs, usually to villages built long ago on top of step hills in order to be able to observe and protect the area around them, are the most common challenges you will find. Of course with the mandatory stop for lunch or whatever the time of the day suggests, but you will never have the feeling the climb was for nothing. The worst-case scenario will see you enjoying a nice ride down again, to the next nice village where you will surely enjoy a deserved rest.
Once the route was well underway, it was like opening the “Pandora’s Box”. The variety, the excitement of what the next pitch of dirt road, trail, or hill will look like. Would it go there to the left or to the right, is that hill the biggest climb of the day, or that village our lunch break spot. All these elements, thrown at you through a GPX file on your GPS device and a simple map provided at the start leave a lot of room for the imagination. And I think that it’s really beautiful, especially in a time where we are overflowed with information and we always want to know more of everything at any given time. The contact with the people around you becomes a deciding factor as well. It might be the time almost “after pandemic” we are in now, or it might be the Italian flare or maybe the fact that everyone you see on the bike is just enjoying him or herself just because, well, they are just doing something they like. But I truly think it’s more than that. Even if not all of us can see it or feel it all the time.
There is a special atmosphere to this event, and maybe to all of its kind. I guess I will find out with the time, but one thing I’m sure of is, the observing process will not leave, not stop and come along in all these next plans and excursions of any kind that are to come. And the same time as it has brought me to the point where I’m now, as a person and as a photographer, I hope it does as well as biker. Although I hope I never become neither a bikepacker nor an enduro biker…