Detour: Celebrating the Art of Bicycle Travel
We sent one cyclist to experience and document the Japanese Odyssey, a 2,600km self-supported bicycle journey through Japan. ‘Detour’, which we launched in partnership with 7mesh and Ritchey, was our search to find that person.
For us, bikepacking trips — in all of their panoramic, dramatic glory — have persuaded us to look at the world as an extended piece of art. Hours in the saddle can have an effect on anybody, but once a rider enters a certain headspace, something starts to happen: sweeping views appear as frescoes, signposts take on a sculptural quality, and stray observations suddenly take on new profundity as gears click and pedals turn in silence.
When we started Detour — a collaboration with Ritchey and 7Mesh to send one person to ride the Japanese Odyssey — we were looking to capture that feeling. Our mission, to find riders, adventurers, and creators who document their experiences of bicycle travel through art, was accomplished to an extent that we couldn’t have imagined.
We knew we’d receive some great submissions. However, we weren’t quite prepared for the sheer number of entries, the incredibly high standard of work that was put forward, or the range of artistic mediums represented.
We’ve received oil-on-canvas paintings, finely drawn illustrations, and works that combine mediums for their own unique take on bike travel. We’ve received written prose ruminating on what it means to be lost, and music to reflect the visual appearance of landscapes.
“Imagine a bike riding through the Alps as a needle moving slowly through the grooves of a vinyl: What would it sound like?” asked Carlo Maria, another entrant. His submission, Col(l) Sonification, provided the answer.
Riga-based freelance designer Marika Latsone’s illustration, Detours, stood out for its creative and succinct portrayal of a rider’s perspective. Through the act of bikepacking, a rider is enabled to emerge from the darkness and shines a light on the fairground-like twists and turns, ascents and descents, of an adventure in the outdoors. “When I am on a bicycle, I see everything from a different perspective,” Marika explains.
Otto Maria’s film A Detour is a minimal meditation on a rider’s headspace. “I created this short film project as an homage to the art of biking, and what it means to me. I wanted to create a meditative atmosphere, similar to my headspace when I’m on long biking trips.”
As well as packing an impressive range of emotions and moods into a short runtime, Otto demonstrates a palpable understanding of the connection between riding and the creative spark that being in the saddle can produce. Drawing similar parallels between their art, and their experience of bike travel, was photographer James Robertson, who spoke of the thrill of the unknown in both a cycling journey, and in experimenting with new photography techniques, in his submission, Unnamed Finishers.
In contrast to the pared-back style of some entrants, illustrator Parker Jones’ entry Viajes en Mexico is a maximalist triumph, and a tribute to a 3,000-mile ride through Mexico. “To me, traveling by bike is the purest way to experience an unfiltered, raw reality, as if releasing the kink from a garden hose,” he explained. “With no bus windows or hostel sheets to hide behind, every day you expose yourself to new landscapes, challenges, and the seemingly unending kindness of the humans around you.”
Some artists chose to reflect on travels already passed; others to dream of adventures yet to come. Many submissions were based off of real life experiences, but some – like Concrete Road’s A Certain Forest, for example – drew upon fictitious ideas that almost seem like they’re from another world. Some artists chose to depict the idea of journeying with a distinctly introspective brush, whereas others meandered their way through the physical nature of it: the views witnessed, people met, and roads ridden. For many, the beauty of bike travel is the way that these two journeys combine, and submissions that weave the two have been a joy to behold.
All that remains of the submission phase is for us to thank everyone that entered the Detour competition – which we do, sincerely. The work we’ve received has inspired us deeply, and we look forward to announcing the winner soon, before putting them on the road to Japan.