Seven Shots with Fergus Tanaka

“Seven Shots” is a new series from photographer Ryan Le Garrec that takes an unconventional approach to storytelling by exploring the narratives behind a selection of images that might otherwise be rejects. In the first installment, Ryan takes a ride around the French capital with Ritchey’s Fergus Tanaka ahead of the 2023 edition of Paris-Brest-Paris…

Words by Ryan Le Garrec and Fergus Tanaka, photos by Ryan Le Garrec

Editor’s Note: In this new series, photographer Ryan Le Garrec explores storytelling through images in a new way, a sort of “behind the lens” of what happened before or after each of seven shots.

Introducing the project, Ryan said, “Sometimes, the best pictures have no story left to tell, while some missed shots have many more background anecdotes to share! Expect shots that might be blurry, poorly framed, overexposed, or plain taken with the wrong settings. I think all the magical accidents along the way are what fascinate me the most in any creative endeavour. Maybe I just don’t have great self-esteem, but I find my best work comes from accepting these accidental results as being better than anything I was trying hard to make intentionally!”

For our first installment, Ryan follows Fergus Tanaka of Ritchey Design on his bike in Paris a few days ahead of the iconic 1,200-kilometer Paris-Brest-Paris randonneuring event, which took place over the summer. —Lucas Winzenburg

Shot One

Sleeping Beauty

Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Beneath the blanket of August, Paris is dormant this morning. Her alarm clock is set for two weeks, when she will reveal her true rhythm again. She will move and hunt at a different speed, and the clock will go faster. From dawn to dusk, she’ll make all kinds of noise and roll the dice a million times per day. She’ll make many beat the streets and walk faster. Don’t look right, don’t look left. Just look ahead.

She’ll get rows of workers rushing to grey buildings, smokers on a hasty cigarette break, coffee shops throwing coffees around, to go, in many directions, and everyone running after. She will be fuming and pressing, pushing, pulling giant arms of concrete and rusty machinery to make her pulse unbearable for the quiet ones. She will grind and keep on grinding, only sighing exhaust fumes and resting between the time the sun rises and the streetlights turn off, that fleeting second passing by.

But, for now, she stirs slowly from her summer dream, the haze making her reluctant to leave the bed. This week, there are probably more tourists than locals here; most Parisians would agree this is a good thing. The city feels better when you can hear the birds and taste the air.

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

I came from Brussels by bike. I’ve been on the road for three weeks now. I started in the Iberian peninsula and went all the way to Belgium to see friends and family. I’ve been on my way back for two days with plans to meet Fergus Tanaka here. I once called this city home, and it saw me grow from a teenager to a young man. The best thing it did for me was probably to let me leave.

It took me 15 years, after leaving and coming back many times, to find the key to the motion nightmare of Paris: A network of dark commutes in subways through never-ending tunnels, crowded tubes with nowhere to hide the common grumpiness of the city, a slow adventure by bus outside and a costly city to travel slowly by taxi in unending traffic. Walking is barely an option as everything is far. Most of the time, you’ll walk a lot already, anyway.

I always saw Paris as a constraining nemesis of movement until the day I brought a bike back. Right there, right then, I fell in love again. Fast tarmac, logic in traffic (as compared to when I was working as a messenger). A buffet of golden hours and past glory shining all the way, made for every commute. A welcome adventure through memory or beautiful architecture. I had the keys to the castle now, and the map of the labyrinth was always in my head. No matter where I would end, I knew I would find my way instinctively. I was never lost, and I felt free again moving within its avenues and smaller streets at all hours.



Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

The very first shot I made of Fergus. We had been together for 15 minutes but already on the bike for around 10. We were now passing on Place de la Republique, and I took the opportunity of a low-traffic day to make a few shots from the bike without risking myself too much. This is not the best shot at all of Fergus riding his bike, but it’s definitely my favourite for the simple fact that it is the first one. It’s as shy as I am, observing Fergus from behind without saying a word, glancing at his calf tattoos and admiring his style on the bike.

Whether it’s the way he’s dressed or how elegant his pedal stroke is, Fergus has a natural flow on the bike. When I see this shot, I can remember vividly that first impression. Riding a bike in town can be a dance, and Fergus had some nice dancing shoes. It looked to me like ice skating, in a way. Everything was power-saving yet extremely efficient; there was a flow I have only seen in very few riders, most often messengers with a track cycling background.

We’d never met before, but Fergus and I had a few common points to agree on and start a conversation that quickly drifts away from small talk:

“Would you agree that being a bike messenger is the best job in the world, like ever?”

“One hundred percent.”

“There is no other profession where you can—well, at least when I did it, now it might be different—go to another major city, see someone that looks like you on a bike that looks like yours, tell him what you do, and you immediately have friends, you have a place to stay, and you know all the coolest stuff. It’s like a secret path!”

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

We both loved being messengers, we both love steel bikes, and obviously, we share the same taste for Ritchey bikes. “Well, don’t get me wrong, whenever I see someone on steel bike, whether it is a Ritchey or not, I find it interesting. Even if they are on a Surly, which are great affordable bikes, it’s a stepping stone. It’s like they learn how good a bike can ride, and then there is actually a big chance they will end up on a Ritchey later.”

By now, we are having coffee at a small independent Japanese overpriced roaster, but the coffee is good!

“It’s funny, coffee shops like these, they almost look stale, but they make coffee to a science. But coffee is one of those funny things, as John Steinbeck wrote about. It was like this kind of workers’ drink, you know, sort of ubiquitous,” Fergus says.

I’m recording our chat on my phone. We’re seated outside in the quiet, small street, and our table takes half the sidewalk. A guy rolls in front of us, his bike, a pretty beaten-up steel commuter full of rust and stickers, catches our attention. It’s a commuting beauty, an old steel bike with the sole purpose of getting you places. In a way, it’s the workers’ coffee drink, which gives it all its soul. It has style, but just from the fact that it has maintained its essence through the harshness of time.

The owner doesn’t spot us looking at him, but he spots our bikes. He stares for a while at them, and I’m expecting a conversation to start, but he only gets his phone out, takes a shot of the bikes, and rolls away. I tell Fergus that maybe a van will come in two minutes and take our rides away. I am only half joking, and half paranoid, maybe, too. I just love my bike; it took me all the way here, to this moment, and many more. It’s a commuting vehicle before all, and this one took me across half of Europe by now on its first-ever outing!



Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

After visiting two bike shops uptown, we had to go down south to another one. I decided we would take this street in Beaubourg, home to the Centre Pompidou. Its architecture is fascinating, with massive tubes going all around in bright colours. It’s an exception in Paris architecture, a bit like the Louvres pyramids or other brave architects’ moves. There is a 12 Monkeys feel about the building—like a gigantic breathing machine making sure the city gets its oxygen needs met. It hosts numerous exhibitions and a library.

I knew Fergus would be impressed. But what I didn’t anticipate was the lack of traffic. This street is usually packed 24/7, but in the middle of August, we had it all to ourselves, and that made this shot from afar possible. As we were approaching the end of the building, this woman raised her arms, screaming. I can’t remember if she was hailing for a cab or telling the world something more important, but I remember there was something odd in the scene, and as I accelerated to catch Fergus and hunt for the shot, I could feel this was a great opportunity. I could make the shot two lanes away from Fergus, which would give a bit more of a tension in the image and show more of the vast emptiness around us.

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

When Paris is empty like this, you notice all the wacky stuff a bit more, the poverty even more. There is something about the crowdedness here that mutes the extremes, the whole noise of it, it’s like white noise on top of all the crashes and splashing, you know. You see things in the summer that you don’t notice the rest of the year. I wasn’t aware of that because, as a Parisian, you only discover the “holiday Paris” when you have left for good. And you only realise how twisted the city is when you have experienced something else.

Later, I asked Fergus by text what his take on Paris was after his first day of riding here:

“It reminds me of New York. It’s chaotic but smooth, like you’d imagine a river to be. Turbulent passages mixed with serene brooks. Paris reminds me of New York in many ways, a place where people go to be important, whether big or small. There’s a pride to the city, as any institution with age feels. The juxtaposition of powerful architecture to mundane kiosks is almost comical. How can there be a Popeye’s Chicken across from a 100-year-old square? It strikes me as a place worth spending enough time to get bored, if that’s a day or a lifetime, because ultimately, that is the value of Paris to that individual.”

I’ve still never gotten bored of Paris since I began traveling through it on two wheels. There is always something to see, and every day brings another golden hour. The city is endless.


Window Licking

Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Today is the 15th of August. Here, it’s like a bank holiday times five. The middle of August is already super quiet, but the 15th is a bank holiday right in the peak of the summer holidays. I don’t think we will find any shop open!

Fergus is on the hunt for insoles. Typically, cycling shops would have been all closed, but with Paris-Brest-Paris being around the corner, we find out a lot of the cool shops are actually open, and it seems randonneurs from all over the world also have forgotten something they urgently need for the ride!

Fergus came to Paris from Antwerp, also by bike. He is living in Belgium for three months, and PBP is maybe top on the list of his riding priorities this summer, with some big rides in Flanders too. He is on a bike I have never seen before. “It’s not top secret, but yeah, it’s secret.” It’s a prototype. I guess it’s an all-road, maybe, or rather a randonneuse, but to be fair, the difference between an all-road and a randonneur is pretty slim. This new bike is in a testing phase, and Fergus is not only the tester, but he is also giving Tom feedback on the bike, suggesting little changes here and there. “It’s near perfect. I think we’ll straighten the top tube a bit to give it more room for bags.”

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

I guess all the European rides and definitely PBP are some good testing opportunities for the bike. The first thing I noticed was the color; I called it “Tabasco,” to which Fergus replied, “Tapatio,” but I had no idea what he meant. I just agreed he knew better and googled it later.

I find it incredible that people can feel and point out how a detail in geometry affects the ride feel. The simple fact that they can feel it and know where it comes from already amazes me. That they can anticipate the feeling of it and how such small details will change a bike just makes me think they are some kind of alchemist, so I ask the innocent question, how do you get to that level of expertise?

“I guess, at the end of the day, I get to spend a lot of time just nerding out on bikes. I feel pretty lucky about that. I got to learn through friends of mine, frame builders, or experts at Ritchey, who can understand how bikes work better than I could, and then you ask a lot of questions, and you ride bikes a lot, and you start to get it a bit more and more. It’s pretty obvious when you know, for instance, that Tom does all his thinking and conceptualization on the bike.”



Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Once again, the perfect dissociation between a shot and a moment. This image wouldn’t make the selection on any photographer’s shortlist, but it’s again all about the souvenir it carries, and that is what makes it worth it for me. When I am riding around town with Fergus, I try my best to be a good guide, to take him to the nicest spots, whether Beaubourg with the Centre Pompidou or here when we tackled the roundabout of the Arc Du Triumph, famous for being a classic feature of the tour de France’s last stage.

For the story, I missed the right-hand turn to go down the Champs Elysees as the pros do, so we had to take the roundabout twice, but I knew Fergus wouldn’t mind. It might be a classic for pro cyclists, but it is also a classic for messengers. The roundabout is a good way to summarise the optimum behaviour of the ideal messenger: be fast, pass before being noticed, chose your line, and commit to it. You can’t ride this place if you hesitate for a second; you have to go with the flow but know that the traffic can’t and even shouldn’t have to notice you. It’s fairly chaotic. You go in between everything and get out of there ASAP, fast and ideally discreetly. It’s great fun if you dig urban riding.

It’s a reverse priority roundabout because it’s actually not really a roundabout. You have the priority while entering rather than when you are inside the roundabout, and that’s why it’s so messy. A lot of drivers might not know it. You just gotta make your way. Oh, and also bikes are not allowed, I once heard.

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Fergus continued: “I got to a point with being a bike messenger where I knew I had to do something else or I would stay a messenger my whole life. I knew I wanted to keep working with bikes and around that world and to eventually be in the bike industry. I went to work for two bike shops, which were completely opposite experiences.

The first one was a bit of a corporate machine, sell, sell, sell, but I was more into the passion of riding, so it didn’t really click. Eventually, they fired me, which I was offended by at the time, but it turned out they ended up doing me a favor. Then I worked in a second-hand bike shop, basically all steel bikes from the 80s and 90s, getting people stoked on unique bikes and getting stoked on bikes people brought in. That was a lot of fun.

A friend of mine from college was working at Ritchey. I applied for quite a few different positions at Ritchey, then a marketing role opened up, and I got it. I was pretty nervous because I had no real idea what marketing was actually about. But I quickly realized that many of the things I did as a bike messenger were applicable. Like making connections, advocating for messengers, and putting on and promoting events. I was one of the organizers of the NACCC in 2007, for instance.

I mean, this was kinda before the internet as we know it. I was still making flyers and mailing them to other cities, spreading the word. Analog PR, yeah! I miss it. That stuff was so cool, so punk! Don’t get me wrong, when I got the job, there was a steep learning curve, and I made plenty of mistakes along the way.

What I love about Ritchey is that it doesn’t all come from the top with directives like do this and do that. It’s more of a conversation like, ‘Here is what we see; here is what we’d like to do. How do we make this happen?’ And then we go from there…”



Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

When I left Paris, this place was just at a starting point for what it is now. As students with little income and in an expensive city where a beer on a terrace is about half a kidney, we didn’t get to spend much time drinking out unless we had decided not to eat for a week. I remember when living near the river, I would buy a bottle of wine, and some friends would come with cheese and bread, and we’d go sit on the river banks. The thing is, I was in a very posh area, and not many people did that.

Here was the opposite. It used to be a rough area, but with gentrification, it became more of a students’ area as they could afford rent here, so this little canal gave them the same idea as I had, and they started to come here with drinks and food from supermarkets to make ends meet and have a bit of a terrace at a better price. The funny thing is that I think it has encouraged new bars to come here and develop the same overpriced business as elsewhere because people always tend to wanna go out where the crowd is. Now, it’s a vibrant area with lots of ambiance.

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Once again, I wouldn’t parade with this shot around town, but when we were both sitting there, I found it amusing to think that only a few hours ago and about 60 kilometres of wandering through town, we didn’t know each other. We had never met. The bike is an amazing social accelerator, and it allowed Fergus and me to be friends almost instantly through the pleasure of a bike ride around town.

I wanted to be a good guide, but it turned out the city had changed so much that I couldn’t find a coffee place worth it, but he took me to the Japanese roaster he had found on maps, and then for lunch, he’d heard of a Thai fast food from a San Francisco randonneur friend. I was the tourist in the end, half as useful as a GPS.



Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

I’m not trying to sell you anything, and if you ask me, I’m against the whole idea of N+1. I think it’s wrong, but okay, this bike does look like a perfect transition between a Logic rim brake and a more versatile Swiss Cross. It can take quite a good-sized tire, has geometry to ride the distance, and the colour is mad. I’ve always complained about Ritchey colour choices being not so great in the past, be it the guac Outback, the grey and blue Logic, or the sun fade orange Outback. I just never fell in love with their colours, but for a few iterations, I think they have upgraded big time on that, especially the desert ascent and the new Logic. This new colour is an instant classic for me. It’s almost as good as black!

I asked Fergus how he got into the kind of cycling that eventually led him to being here about to ride Paris-Brest-Paris:

“I remember buying these cranks from Rivendell, and it used to be that they would send you this mag along with it, The Rivendell Reader, and I remember reading about it and thinking, ‘Wow, this is nuts!’

  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka
  • Seven Shots, Ryan Le Garrec, Fergus Tanaka

Then, when I was a messenger, this guy I was on the road with, Joel Metz, kept trying to get us to do brevets. He used to say: ‘There’s so much history with bike messengers and long-distance riding, it’s like an alley cat, you still get stamps and checkpoints.’

So I did this brevet, the Pierce Point 200k, and I was way over my head! I’d never biked that far ever, and I remember finishing, eating a giant burrito, and sleeping for twelve hours straight. Cut to years later, and the pandemic, and there is no bike racing, and I have all those weekends free, so I just started riding further and further. I realized the next PBP was coming up, and I should just do it already. So, I joined the San Francisco Randonneurs and focused on doing brevets. Well, brevets and track, I still love track. But I guess that’s another story…”

Ryan Le Garrec

About Ryan Le Garrec

Ryan Le Garrec is a filmmaker who fell in love with cycling after being a bike messenger in Brussels. Focused on everything adventure cycling, Ryan dedicates his time and work to share how bicycles can improve our lives. He has worked in Sweden and all around Europe from an early age while working with Damien Rice and a contemporary dance group based in Sweden. He also co-produced and directed a TV show about personalities from all ways of life living or passing by Belgium. He works as a photographer and writer and defines himself as a multi-media artist, wannabe vagabond cyclist, and a keen credit-card bikepacker.

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