2023 Bikepacking Awards: Film, Photography, Writing, and Art

In the second installment of our 2023 Bikepacking Awards, we celebrate the work of inspiring content creators with 34 awards spanning 10 categories, including Best Feature Film, Best Trip Photography, Best Event Documentation, Best Writing, and more. Find the complete list of winners in our ninth annual awards here…

In acknowledging the noteworthy achievements within the bikepacking community this year, we present the second of our three retrospectives, paying tribute to the individuals, teams, brands, and products that left a significant impact in 2023. Following the Gear of the Year roundup in part one, where we celebrated impressive products and handmade gear, part two focuses on films, photographs, writing, and creative expressions that served as a wellspring of inspiration for our community throughout the past 12 months. These efforts have showcased the enchantment of traveling by bike, both nearby and far-reaching, and encouraged individuals to creatively document their own rides.

Without further ado, we present the awards for the most inspiring films, photography, writing, and art. Most categories feature three winners with gold, silver, and bronze badges, determined by votes from 10 of our editors and closest contributors. They submitted blind ballots based on nearly 100 nominations. Additionally, a Collective Choice award for Best Film is included, reflecting the votes from our global community of Bikepacking Collective members.

We readily admit to grappling with each decision, as every entry deserves recognition. We invite you to take a moment to appreciate and relish their endeavors, just as we have.

Best Film

This year offered a wealth of outstanding films, and as usual, it was challenging to pick the winners for this category. After a healthy debate, here are our top three picks.

Broken Bike Blues

By Brady Lawrence. “Broken Bike Blues” is a stirring film from Brady Lawrence that shares the story of his dad’s recovery and return to cycling after a tree fell directly on him while he was out on a ride. Join Brady and his dad, David, on their first bikepacking trip together through North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the 10-minute film below, and find our original coverage here.

Next Top Picks

Balkan Express

By Philipp Becker/El Flamingo. “Balkan Express” is a visually spectacular new film that follows German mountaineers Jochen Mesle and Max Kroneck on a 2,500-kilometer bikepacking and skiing expedition across the Western Balkans, where they take on some of the continent’s wildest mountains. You can read more, find photos, and watch the 40-minute film here.

Not a Hero’s Journey

By Catherine Dunn. “Not a Hero’s Journey” follows young climate activist Jessie Stevens on a 600-mile ride across the UK to attend the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow. Find the original story of Jessie’s People Pedal Power movement and follow her ride with other climate-concerned cyclists here.

Best Cinematography/Editing

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.

Balkans Mirage: A Journey on Wheels

By 7mesh. Inspired by Wes Anderson, no doubt, “The Balkans Mirage: A Journey on Wheels” is an incredibly fun film directed by Nicolas Bellavance. It documents four friends on a wildly entertaining trip through the beautiful Balkans. Find the original coverage here.

Next Top Picks


By Montanus. Montanus visited one of Earth’s most isolated and little-known places earlier this year. Socotra is a small island in the Indian Ocean that harbors a breathtaking landscape full of surreal endemic flora and fauna. “Socotra” is a short film that follows their ride around this remote and extraordinary place. See our exclusive coverage here.

Home Sweet Home

By Anthony Komarnicki. Anthony Komarnicki takes backyard adventure to new heights in “Home Sweet Home.” This visually stunning 15-minute film documents three weeks of bikepacking and paragliding in the Southern Alps, all within 60 kilometers of his front door. Find the original post with photos here.

Best Route Documentary

For the second year in a row, Best Route Documentary awards videos and films that showcase particular bikepacking routes and help inform and inspire folks interested in experiencing them.

Annapurna: Not as Planned

By Mick Turnbull. Featuring his usual stunning cinematography, Mick Turnbull’s “Annapurna: Not as Planned” chronicles his bikepacking trip around Nepal with partner Danielle O’Hara, following the renowned Annapurna Circuit. Find the original coverage of their hectic adventure here accompanied by a collection of photos and a written introduction to the trip.

Next Top Picks

The Pictish Trail

By Tommy Wilkinson and Salsa Cycles. Created by Annie Evans and Huw Oliver, the 750-kilometer Pictish Trail bikepacking route traverses Scotland’s ancient Pictish kingdoms as it connects the mainland’s most northerly point to the country’s capital, Edinburgh. In conjunction with its launch, Salsa Cycles and Tommie Wilkinson released a film documenting the mixed-terrain route and its incredible landscapes from the wild north to the southern Cairngorms before reaching the big city lights. Find more on the route here.

Sage and Saddles

By Neil Beltchenko. Sage and Saddles is a week-long bikepacking route that travels through the incredibly diverse landscapes of Gunnison County, Colorado, from the high sage desert to the Sawatch Mountain. During the final scouting trip along the 220-mile route, Neil made this video showcasing the route and why Gunnison is such a great starting point for your next bikepacking adventure. Find details on the route here.

Best Event Documentary

The Best Event Documentary awards films and videos that were created during a bikepacking event to tell an individual’s story or chronicle the event.

All At Once

By Catherine Dunn. “All At Once” is a film from the Steezy Collective and Alt. Film House that follows seven women as they endeavor to complete the most grueling bikepacking race in the UK, the esteemed Highland Trail 550. Find our original coverage of the 17-minute film with behind-the-scenes photos by James Robertson and a written introduction from director Catherine Dunn here.

Next Top Picks

Our Torino Nice

By Michael Drummond. “Our Torino Nice” tells the story of three friends who met through ultra-distance racing reuniting to take on the storied Torino-Nice Rally through the Alps. Given the event’s non-competitive nature, they assumed they were in for a relaxed experience, but the demanding route along some of Europe’s most stunning alpine tracks had other ideas. Find our original coverage with the 20-minute video and an accompanying photo gallery here.

Racing the SRMR

By Josh Ibbett and Ryan Le Garrec. The Silk Road Mountain Race has been on Josh Ibbett’s radar for a while, and he finally got to participate this year. During the race, Josh captured a wealth of stunning film photos and video that was later edited by Ryan Le Garrec and turned into a feature film. Find the original coverage here, paired with Josh’s written reflection on the experience.

Collective Choice

Collective Choice: Best Film of 2023

We asked our Bikepacking Collective 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 2023. A warm thank you goes out to all of our members for their participation and continued support!

Balkan Express

By Philipp Becker/El Flamingo. “Balkan Express” is a visually spectacular new film that follows German mountaineers Jochen Mesle and Max Kroneck on a 2,500-kilometer bikepacking and skiing expedition across the Western Balkans, where they take on some of the continent’s wildest mountains. You can read more, find photos, and watch the 40-minute film here.

Next Top Picks

Mind Mapping: Solo Around the World

By Finley Newmark. Earlier this year, Boru McCullagh started bikepacking around the world to experience new places and continue his battle with a major depressive disorder. “Mind Mapping (Part 1)” is a must-watch film by Finley Newmark that documents the first leg of Boru’s journey between the UK and Turkey. Find the film, a candid reflection from Boru, and a collection of film and digital photos here and see part two here.

Annapurna: Not as Planned

By Mick Turnbull. Featuring his usual stunning cinematography, Mick Turnbull’s latest video chronicles his bikepacking trip around Nepal with partner Danielle O’Hara, following the renowned Annapurna Circuit. Watch their hectic adventure unfold in “Annapurna: Not as Planned” here accompanied by a collection of photos and a written introduction to the trip.

Best Trip Photography

Baja Divide Series

By Evan Christenson. We were floored by Evan Christenson’s four-part documentation of his extended bikepacking trip along the Baja Divide route in Mexico. He took a photographic deep dive into all things Baja, introducing us to the riders, the landscapes, the locals, and so much more. His immersive body of work from the storied peninsula takes the award for Best Trip Photography this year. If you missed them, be sure to catch up on parts one, two, three, and four.

Evan Christenson, Baja Divide

Next Top Picks

European Divide Trail

From Strangers to Friends

By Jacob Martin. Although he set out for a solo ride on the 4,700-mile European Divide Trail, Jacob Martin’s documentation of his budding friendship with a fellow rider he met on the first day made for a uniquely heartwarming story (and a printed photo book!), all shot on 35mm film. Read his story here.

Tour de Zielona bikepacking overnighter, Poland

Around Zielona Gora

By Wojtek Waloch. Wojtek Waloch always astonishes with the wonderful photographs he produces around his home in Zielona Góra, Poland. However, this year was extra special and included a new overnighter route, a beautiful Solstice group campout, and several Weekend Snapshots.

Cycling Alaska to Mexico, Greg McCahon

Cycling to Argentina

By Greg McCahon. We’ve come to love Greg McCahon and Ana Victoria Cedillo’s “Cycling to Argentina” series on YouTube. Greg’s exceptional photo and video recordings of their ride from Alaska to Mexico and his unassuming presentation style make make this a standout series a gem that’s second to none. Find all 14+ episodes here.

Best Event Documentation

2023 Tour Divide

By Eddie Clark. It was a nail-biting and action-packed Tour Divide this year, and no one better captures it than photographer and writer Eddie Clark. His three-part series and steady stream of photography kept us enthralled and enchanted with this legendary event. Use these links to find part one, two, and three.

2023 Tour Divide, Eddie Clark

Next Top Picks

2023 Arizona Trail Race Update One

2023 Arizona Trail Race

By Wyatt Spalding. We sent photographer Wyatt Spalding out into the Arizona desert to document the 2023 Arizona Trail Race for us, and he knocked it out of the park. Wyatt captured some stunning portraits and candid shots of riders at their best and worst in the grueling event. Find all of our 2023 AZTR coverage here.

Paris-Brest-Paris 2023, PBP 2023

Paris Brest Paris 2023

By Stefan Haehnel. German photogapher Stefan Haehnel’s film photos from the 2023 Paris-Brest-Paris event transported us to the iconic event in all its chaos and beauty. The images are stunning on their own, but even more impressive is that he managed to shoot them while still finishing in the top 25 of more than 6,500 riders! See his coverage here.

Chris McClean, 2023 Atlas Mountain Race

2023 Atlas Mountain Race

By Chris McClean. As seen through Chris McClean’s lens, the 2023 Atlas Mountain Race route led riders through a spectacular swath of Morocco, leading to some truly arresting photos. Chris is consistently among the best in the game when it comes to photographing bikepacking events, and you won’t want to miss his latest report here.

Best in Art/Multimedia

Slow and Sandy

By Mark Chester Harding. Following his two-week, 1,300-kilometer solo bikepacking tour along the Australian Outback’s Anne Beadell Highway, Dylan Kentch put together a reflection that weaves together the past and present. To help bring it to life in print, we worked with Australian artist Mark Chester Harding to produce an amazing set of illustrations in his signature style. Find them in issue 10 of The Bikepacking Journal, and logged-in members can read the expanded digital version here, complete with a map of the route. If you’re not yet a member, consider joining the Bikepacking Collective to access our archive of digital features and receive upcoming issues in your mailbox.

Slow and Sandy

Next Top Picks

Bikepacking 101

Bikepacking 101

By Dean Liebau. One of our biggest accomplishments this year was launching the revised Bikepacking 101 Handbook, a complete resource for newcomers planning their first bikepacking trip and seasoned bikepackers looking to brush up on helpful information. We were thrilled to work with illustrator Dean Liebau on this project, who drummed up an amazing set of illustrations that helped bring it to life. Dig in here.

Patrick Astilla

The Illustrations of Patrick Astilla

In a Rider’s Lens feature earlier this year, we shared a vibrant mix of illustrations by Patrick Astilla from the Philippines. Flip through his sketchbooks, browse a selection of his mixed-media creations, and read his thoughts on how riding and sketching can remind us to slow down and soak in the present moment in one of the most wide-ranging editions of the series here.

Gunnison Bikepacking Route Network Illustrations

Gunnison Bikepacking Route Network Illustrations

By Chris McNally. The first of its kind Gunnison Bikepacking Route Network is a model of things to come, and we were excited to see it come to fruition this year after a lot of work and planning. Artist Chris McNally accompanied us on the final scouting ride for the Sage and Saddles route, making a series of illustrations along the way. His lovely work can be found on the route badges and the guides. Find the Route Network page 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 sincere, compelling, and reflective examples of storytelling from the saddle.


By Alexandera Houchin. “Giwiizhaamin” is an honest and illuminating short piece from Alexandera Houchin that centers on her relationship with her body and how her perception of it has changed in the time between entering her first race, pedaling many thousands of miles, and seeing herself on the cover of a magazine. It’s a refreshing piece of writing that had us hanging on every word. Read it here.

Alexandera Houchin, Giwiizhaamin

Next Top Picks

A Bikepacking State of Mind

A Bikepacking State of Mind

By Tanner Arrington. This contemplative piece from Tanner Arrington offers insight into how having a bikepacking mindset informs his daily life, from remembering to slow down and tune in to the little details to making small rides across town with his kids feel like big adventures. Take a look here.

Joshua Meissner, Bikepacking Scandinavia

Shaking up the Kaleidoscope

By Joshua Meissner. Not every journey ends when you get back home, as Joshua Meissner poignantly reflects on in his piece exploring the twists and turns of getting back into the rhythm of everyday life after a solitary tour around Scandinavia. Read his highly impactful and relatable piece here.

Flint Zeigler, GDMBR

Just to Be With You

By Flint and Scarlet Zeigler. Last summer, Flint Zeigler and his 13-year-old daughter Scarlet took on the full length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Together, they penned a beautiful reflection on how they strengthened their minds, bodies, and bond. Read “Just to Be With You” 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.

A History of Bikepacking

By Joe Cruz. We were floored by the incredible detail of Joe Cruz’s piece tracing the origins of bikepacking from the 1800s to the present day. Paired with some beautiful original illustrations from British artist Brad Allsop, “A History of Bikepacking” is a fascinating journey through time that calls upon more than 30 sources to paint a comprehensive picture of bikepacking with more depth and breadth than we’ve seen anywhere before.

History of Bikepacking

Next Top Picks

Crying Wolf, The Bikepacking Journal

Crying Wolf

By Johan Wahl. The 10th issue of The Bikepacking Journal opened with a gripping story from Johan Wahl in Türkiye that picked up where his excellent web stories from Georgia, Armenia, and Iran left off. In “Crying Wolf,” Johan reflects on how he ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time and nearly missed out on rich cultural experiences by not tuning in to local knowledge.

Life on Mars, The Bikepacking Journal

Life on Mars

By Skyler Des Roches. Originally published here on the site back in 2018, we completely revised and redesigned Skyler Des Roches’s highly entertaining and engaging “Life on Mars,” which tells the story of a classic misadventure across Chile and Argentina with friends Scott Felter of Porcelain Rocket and Rick Hunter of Hunter Cycles. Logged-in members can read the expanded digital version here. If you’re not yet a member, consider joining the Bikepacking Collective to access our archive of digital features.

Stay tuned for part three of our 2023 Bikepacking Awards: People and Routes. You can also dig into #bikepacking-awards to find all of our annual awards roundups since 2015.

Do you enjoy our in-depth reviews, route guides, and stories? We’re a small, independent publication dedicated to keeping our content free for everyone, but we need your support. To keep articles like this one coming (and not behind a firewall), please consider becoming a member of our Bikepacking Collective. By joining, you’ll receive The Bikepacking Journal in the mail twice a year, industry discounts, and many other great benefits. Learn more here.

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