2021 Bikepacking Awards: Film, Photography, Writing, and Art
In the second installment of our 2021 Bikepacking Awards, we honor creative endeavors by showcasing the work of talented individuals and teams with 35 awards in 10 categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Trip Photography, Best Event Documentation, Best Writing, and more. Find them all here…
To recognize all that’s been accomplished in the bikepacking community this year, here’s our second of three retrospectives honoring the individuals, teams, brands, and products we believe had the biggest impact in 2021. Part one, Gear of the Year, recognized the gear and products that have impressed us, and part two looks at the films, photographs, writing, and creative expressions that have inspired our community and kept the stoke alive throughout the year. We’re paying tribute to the efforts that have shown viewers magical parts of our world both near and far, encouraged folks to document their own rides, or simply allowed the rest of us to share in the journey.
Without further delay, here are the awards for what we consider to be the most inspiring films, photography, writing, and art of 2021. Most categories feature three winners delineated by gold, silver, and bronze badges. These are ordered by vote count from seven of our editors and closest contributors who submitted blind ballots based on nearly 100 nominations. In addition, find a Collective Choice award for Best Film with votes from the Bikepacking Collective, our member community.
We won’t deny wrestling over each decision, and every entry deserves applause, so please take some time to admire and enjoy their efforts, just as we have!
Best Independent Film
The Best Independent Film category belongs to films that are self-funded and inspired by a passion for the project. There was a tie for third place (bronze) this year.
By Linus Herbig-Matten. Freedom Seat is an incredible 27-minute documentary that follows Naresh Kumar’s 8,500-kilometer journey from India to Germany on a tandem bike. During the trip, he invited strangers to hop on and join him for any part of his ride, no matter how small. His mission was to raise awareness and funds to help end human trafficking. This film is well-produced and is a refreshing reminder of how a cycling trip can restore your faith in humanity. Find our original coverage here.
Next Top Picks
It Has Become Beauty Again
By Austin Smock. Our friend Jon Yazzie from Dzil Ta’ah Adventures struggled to connect to his cultural identity for some time, leading him to lack a sense of belonging. It wasn’t until he made his way back to his Navajo home that he could regain that connection and feel at peace with himself. This beautiful film documents his journey to connect with his Native land through bikepacking and find his place in the world. Find the original post here.
The Bike’s Journal
By Diego Yanuar. Long in the works and uniquely told from the perspective of his bicycle, The Bike’s Journal is a heartfelt 55-minute documentary from Indonesian filmmaker Diego Yanuar that follows him and his partner Marlies, a couple on a yearlong cycling trip from The Netherlands to Indonesia to see each other’s home cultures and everything in between. Read the original coverage here.
A Volta Em Minas
By Fernando Biagioni. A Volta Em Minas is poignant film that reflects on the history, culture, and nature of Fernando’s own backyard, the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil. The film follows two friends on a 1,500-kilometer ride across the state in search of the most important thing in the world. It’s a touching and visually stunning film with a powerful message. Find the original story and gallery here.
Best Feature Film
This year offered a wealth of outstanding films, which made it particularly challenging to make a decision in this category. Here are our top three picks.
Cycle of Ancestry
By Ryder England. Cycle of Ancestry is a film that documents Mario Ordoñez Calderon’s 1,500-mile bikepacking trip across the Yucatán Peninsula to reconnect with his ancestors and his Mayan roots. The film follows Mario and Ryder on an incredible 38-day bikepacking journey from Mexico City and across the jungles, mountains, and beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula, ending in the small town of Muna, where Mario’s parents grew up and many of his family members still live today. Cycle of Ancestry is a heartwarming story of connection and a testament to how bicycle travel can provide a uniquely immersive experience. We’re also proud to support this one. Find the story and photo gallery here.
Next Top Picks
All Bodies on Bikes
By Shimano. All Bodies on Bikes is a moving film from Shimano that dives headfirst into hard conversations about weight and body size, following Kailey Kornhauser and Marley Blonsky, two cyclists who self-identify as fat, on a two-day, 65-mile bikepacking trip through the beautiful Oregon Coast Range. Equal parts hilarious and touching, Kailey and Marley celebrate their shared accomplishments and offer poignant insights about their experiences with society’s weight obsession, growing up fat, and disordered eating. Find the original post here.
Never in The Way
By Anthill Films. Never in the Way is a short film that follows Chicago-based bike messenger and racer Nico Deportago-Cabrera on a meandering ride from Flagstaff to Phoenix, Arizona, that pieces together as many bikepacking routes as possible for a winter getaway. The film beautifully captures the perspective that can be gained through bikepacking and the juxtaposition of the city and the vast Arizonan wilderness. Find the original post with a brilliant photoset by Sterling Lawrence here.
The Best Cinematography/Editing category recognizes films for their videography, editing, and style. In their own way, they’ve all helped define a new standard in the quality of filmmaking in the world of bikepacking.
By Gaëlle Bojko/Bombtrack. Whiteout is a meditative film from Bombtrack that follows 23-year-old bikepacker Gaëlle Bojko on a 900-kilometer solo journey across the vast expanse of Siberia’s Lake Baikal in the dead of winter. The film is beautifully shot, capturing her audacious solo ride and unpacking some of what the experience meant to her. Find the original post featuring an interview with Gaëlle here.
Next Top Picks
The Further Away, The Better
By George Marshall. Splicing together images of bicycle trips across Iceland in 1933, 1958, 2015, and 2019, The Further Away, The Better focuses on 86-year-old Rough Stuff Fellowship member Ron Bartle as he recounts the tale of his 1958 expedition across the interior of Iceland. This beautifully constructed film evidences how the same spirit lives on today, even though the bikes and gear have changed. Find our original post here featuring an interview with the filmmaker.
By Montanus. Vivid, the latest film project by Montanus, follows Francesco and Giorgio on a two-day bikepacking trip to a remote hut in Italy’s Apennine Mountains, retracing their first bike adventure back in 2013. This film redefines what’s possible in a bikepacking film with some of the most crisp and amazing footage we’ve ever seen from the duo, who are constantly raising the bar. Find it here.
Collective Choice: Best Film of 2021
We asked our members for their input again this year, sending them a whopping list of 16 film finalists and putting it to a vote. The people spoke, and here are the top three winners of the Collective Choice award for Best Film of 2021. A warm thank you goes out to all of our members for their participation and continued support!
The Alt Tour
By Rapha. The Alt Tour, one of Rapha’s “Gone Racing” films, follows professional cyclist turned bikepacker Lachlan Morton on his monumental “Alt Tour” this past summer. During the tour, he rode the entire 2021 Tour de France route and all the transfers in between, racking up an impressive 5,510 kilometers (3,424 miles) with some 65,000 meters (214,895 feet) of climbing. Not only did he accomplish his goal of finishing the remarkable ride, but he beat the peloton to Paris, despite riding around twice the distance, and raised £500,000 ($688,487) for World Bicycle Relief in the process. Watch the film and our original coverage here. Also, dig into our Tracker documenting his ride.
Next Top Picks
All Bodies on Bikes
By Shimano. Coming in second in the Collective Choice vote for 2021 is All Bodies on Bikes, as featured above.
Cycle of Ancestry
By Ryder England. And third, as highlighted above is Ryder England’s excellent Cycle of Ancestry.
Best Trip Photography (web)
This category recognizes the best photography we’ve published on the site that was captured by bikepackers while out riding. These awardees all reflect the ability to capture trips in a unique and intuitive way.
Milan to Armenia
By Evan Christenson. We loved following Evan Christenson and Bo Shan Go’s five-month ride from Milan to Armenia this summer and fall, and were happy to be able to share a small collection of Evan’s gorgeous photos and dynamic writing throughout their ride. Don’t miss Redemption in the Dolomites, his Rider’s Lens feature, and Armenia in Review to get a sense of their trip through some incredibly scenic and culturally rich regions.
Next Top Picks
By Ryan Hill. When Rebecca Rusch, Chris Burkard, and Angus Morton took on an ambitious mid-winter crossing of Iceland earlier this year, they enlisted photographer Ryan Hill to document their journey, and his photos paint a mindblowing picture of the three riders amid the dramatic Icelandic landscapes. See more here.
The Best Bike Ride of my Life
By Jacob Martin. The UK’s Lake District National Park provided the perfect backdrop and inspiration for a unique piece from Jacob Martin that combined his film photographs with a poetic recap of his trip to create something quite unlike anything else we shared this year. Check it out here.
North Bay Overnighter
By Emily Cheng. We selected Emily Cheng’s North Bay Overnighter as one of the winning entries in our “Fill in the Map” contest, and her superb photography that accompanied the route is also worthy of recognition. See her images of the Bay Area’s lush landscapes here.
Best Trip Photography (print)
We save some of the best trip photography for print, which made picking three for this category especially difficult. Here are three amazing photographers who blew us away with their work in the sixth and upcoming seventh issue of The Bikepacking Journal.
What Would Mary Do?
By Maciek Tomiczek. In What Would Mary Do?, published in The Bikepacking Journal 07, photographer Maciek Tomiczek joined Lee Craigie, Alice Lemkes, and Philippa Battye for a 500-mile bicycle trip to retrace 17-year-old Mary Harvie’s 1936 tour connecting a network of youth hostels throughout Scotland. As our Bikepacking Collective members will soon see, the moments Maciek captured along the way are truly inspiring.
Next Top Picks
The Devil’s In The Details
By Johan Wahl. Also in Issue 07, writer and photographer Johan Wahl’s The Devil’s in the Details documents the surreal landscapes of South Africa’s Western Cape as he and his partner make their way north. Breathtaking, to say the least. We look forward to hearing our members’ reactions to this one.
Old School New School
By Cass Gilbert. Our own Cass Gilbert stunned us with the set of images he shared in Old School New School in the Journal’s sixth issue. His photographs help tell the story of his evolution from bicycle tourer to bikepacker and convey the broader sense of joy and wonder that riding a bicycle can bring.
Best Event Documentation
A big part of our mission is to help foster the bikepacking community by sharing and reporting on bikepacking group rides, races, and local events. This award category recognizes the talented individuals capturing and documenting these events.
Switching Gears on the Oregon Timber Trail
By Conan Thai. Following the 2021 Oregon Timber Trail Grand Depart, photographer Conan Thai reflected on finding community and making the most of his time on the rugged backcountry route despite record temperatures and wildfire risks. Find his story and a striking set of images here.
Next Top Picks
2021 Trans North Georgia Adventure (TNGA)
By TJ Kearns and Kate Gates. With big events out west usually getting a lot of attention and photography coverage, it was about time the southeast’s biggest bikepacking event got proper reportage. Photographers TJ Kearns and Kate Gates took the reins on this years TNGA and produced a stellar series of race reports. See more here.
By Dan King and Maciek Tomiczek. We published a number of updates from the 2021 edition of GBDuro, a 2,000-kilometer bikepacking race across Great Britain, and were were lucky enough to have access to a wealth of beautiful images from the talented event photographers. Find all of our coverage here.
Women’s Torino-Nice Rally
By Rugile Kaladyte. Despite having seen the route several times in various formats, photographer Rugile Kaladyte still managed to surprise us with her impeccable documentation of the inaugural Women’s Torino-Nice Rally. Find her photos alongside words from Lael Wilcox here.
Best in Art/Multimedia
This category honors the art, multimedia, and creative expression from bike travelers and bikepacking-related projects.
By Isabel Del Real. We caught up with 24-year-old artist Isabel Del Real while she was on a bikepacking trip between France and Iran and shared some of the colorful artwork she’d been busy creating with pencils and watercolors. We were blown away by the quality of her work and her thoughtful outlook as a young artist. Discover more in her fantastic Rider’s Lens feature.
Next Top Picks
Draw My Kona
By Dean Liebau. In addition to his contributions to both issues of The Bikepacking Journal this year, illustrator Dean Liebau also kept busy creating a whole bunch of interesting renditions of Kona builds for Kona’s #drawmykona campaign. See more here.
By Scavengers Studio. Still in development, Season is an enchanting new video game in which you play as a bicycle traveler whose mission is to collect artifacts and memories before a mysterious cataclysm washes everything away. We’re intrigued! Find details here.
Hunting for Surprises
By Tina Graf. Taiwanese-Austrian visual artist Tina Graf’s mixed-media artwork caught our attention when we stumbled upon it this year, and we put together a vibrant selection of her work inspired by bicycles and nature for a unique installment of Rider’s Lens. Check it out here.
Best Writing (Web)
Again this year, we’re recognizing the best community-contributed stories we’ve published on the site. These nominees reflect the most honest, gripping, and reflective examples of storytelling from the saddle.
The American Cordillera
By Mark Watson. Originally published in the sixth issue of The Bikepacking Journal, we found Mark Watson and Hana Black’s story of their four-year ride across the Americas so packed with insight and inspiration that we also shared a digital version of it here on the site. The American Cordillera does a remarkable job of distilling the key takeaways from the lifetime of experiences the pair accumulated during their multi-year bikepacking journey, and the colorful images provide a vibrant background for their story. Read it here.
Next Top Picks
Fueled by Fire
By Bjørn Olson. We’re recognizing Bjørn’s writing for the second year running, as he continues to offer a one-of-a-kind perspective from the remote Alaskan backcountry. Part guide, part reflection, Fueled by Fire shares the intriguing story of how using a wood stove allows him and his partner Kim to travel truly self-sufficiently in the depths of winter. Read it here.
By Joshua Meissner. We’re also awarding Berlin-based Joshua Meissner’s written contributions again this year, whose Time Travelers offers a valuable dose of perspective on learning to slow down and tune into the present moment, framed through the lens of an overnight getaway just beyond the city limits. Read it here.
By Ernesto Pastor. For Parallel, Ernesto Pastor mapped out and rode a track that paralleled his popular Montañas Vacías route in rural Spain but used all new roads and trails, then wrote this wide-ranging essay on how even the slightest changes of perspective can lead to vastly different experiences. Read it here.
Best Writing (Print)
Although we think every story that makes it into our biannually printed publication, The Bikepacking Journal, represents the very best in pedal-powered writing and photography, we want to highlight a few of our favorites as we look back on this year’s issues.
The Devil’s in the Details
By Johan Wahl. The opening story in the seventh issue of The Bikepacking Journal, Johan Wahl’s The Devil’s in the Details, offers a fascinating glimpse into Johan’s passion for using Google Earth to create detailed plans for potential trips, some thoughts on how the planning process can be just as enjoyable as the trip itself, and a reminder that some things can simply never be planned for. It’s a feel-good story paired with stunning photography from South Africa. We’re excited for our Bikepacking Collective members to dive into this one when their copies arrive later this year.
Next Top Picks
By Kae-Lin Wang. A deeply personal and thought-provoking piece of writing, Kae-Lin Wang’s Finding Roots tells her story of rediscovering and reevaluating her Asian-American identity in the lead-up to and while riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Find it soon in The Bikepacking Journal 07.
Where You Lay Your Head
By Jack Boffy. Shared in the spring issue of The Bikepacking Journal, Jack Boffy takes readers along for a ride from London to Hong Kong and looks back on all of the weird and wonderful places he slept on the way. It’s equal parts humorous and absorbing—especially with the accompanying illustrations from Dean Liebau.
Stay tuned for part three of our 2021 Bikepacking Awards: People and Routes. You can also scope out #bikepacking-awards to find all of our annual awards roundups since 2015. And, here are the past four Film/Photo/Art awards roundups:
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