Photo Story: Behind the Lens with Dan Griffiths for the Atherton Bikes AM.200M Launch

Jul 25, 2022
by Atherton Racing  



Photography & words by Dan Griffiths

Shooting behind the scenes on the launch of Atherton Bikes latest release - the AM.200M was really good fun.

For starters, the concept behind the video was one of the coolest I’ve seen for a mountain bike launch. Atherton Bikes and the Peny crew crushed it with their creative vision on this one and I was really excited to capture images that aligned with that vision, it’s one of those creative challenges that we crave as photographers.

Working alongside a film crew takes a degree of skill in itself. As a photographer, sometimes you’re there to direct, and sometimes you’re there as the fly on the wall, taking it all in and capturing the happenings with as little disturbance as possible, on this occasion it was the latter.

I’ve worked with the Athertons and alongside videographer Robbie Meade for close to eight years now, and over that time we’ve dialled in a pretty sweet working dynamic. We work around each other and it’s always a relatively seamless process that hails results we can all be proud of and this shoot was no exception.

As a mountain bike photographer I’m extremely blessed to live and work where I do. With access to some of the best riders on the planet and some of the sickest locations, the creative opportunity is immense, and at times I’ve certainly been guilty of taking it for granted.

Dyfi Bike Park and a lesser known secret trail provided the riding on this occasion, and if you paid attention at the beginning of the film, you might have even noticed some familiar slate from projects past. I couldn't tell you how many times I’ve shot at Dyfi over the last eight years, and yet every time I turn up, I still feel inspired to push myself creatively and seek out new perspectives on Athy’s mountain bike mecca.

I wanted to use this opportunity to give you an insight into what life looks like behind the lens of a photographer, so without further ado, here’s my perspective on the AM.200M launch.

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Straight out of the mountainside and into Dyfi Bike Park. Out of the 650 acres of forest, it was Super Swooper and Oakley Line that set the scene for the bike park section of the launch. My job here was pretty easy - Athy shoots past my head and I track him into the drop out of the tunnel… for Robbie, standing on top of the tunnel, not so much.

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Take 2? For Robbie, the first shot was completely blind. We had to count him in, 3… 2… 1… before Athy fired out of the end. Even in his capable hands, it still took a couple of attempts to get this handheld, dropping, tilt shot dialled, but the result was so worth it.

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The tunnel was used to give the impression that Athy had just shot out the side of a mountain - home of the fictional Atherton Bikes lair. In reality, Atherton Bikes HQ is just down the road in the quaint little village of Machynlleth… but watching the video back, you might question if he really had just dropped out the side of a slate mine.

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Home to some of the best berms in the park, the lower half of Swooper was the ideal place to showcase the mullet’s capabilities in fast, tight corners.

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A quick review of the footage is standard between most takes, if not all. As photographers and videographers, it’s easy to get sucked into perfectionism, and finding that balance between creative flow and the never attainable “perfect shot” is something I think we’re all still trying to figure out.

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When you’re shooting precision engineered bikes, your content needs to be spot on too, so it’s push back up and try again until it’s (nearly) perfect. Fortunately, the mullet’s lightweight carbon/titanium build made that job a whole lot easier for Athy.

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It goes without saying that protection is key when you’re hauling down some of the biggest jumps in the park - Oakley line. Built with big air in mind, this 1km, triple black diamond jump line tested the big hit capabilities of the Mullet to the max and it’s fair to say the new rig loved it.

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A cool little shark fin out the berm sets you off on the lower half of Oakley before getting into the big sends. No other line in the park is adapted to Athy’s bmxer style jumping than Oakley, and it has to be one of my favourites to photograph.

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Big jumps against big backdrops never cease to grab my attention, they’re fun to ride and fun to shoot. From a photographer's perspective, a line like this just makes our job so much easier, and for a rider, even if jumps aren’t your thing you can always enjoy the view.

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What better course to test a bike that is fun to session, fun on jumps… and still a completely capable World Cup machine - you only have to look at how well Andreas Kolb and Charlie Hatton have been performing this season to know that this is a bike to be taken seriously.

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Down the bottom, this is the last opportunity to keep it relatively low before the huge senders. Fortunately the Mullet is well equipped to soak up the big hitters just around the corner.

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Gee was on site to oversee operations, Caio was on site to oversee Gee. It’s always sick working with Gee, whether shooting or planning the next big project, his creativity and drive to push the boundaries in whatever he’s doing always hails solid results in one form or another.

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Next we headed over to a local secret trail to try out the new bike in some iconic Welsh tech. It was steep, rough and technical. The perfect storm.

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All team bikes come with a cute little sticker so you know whose is whose… in the case of Athy, you could always just look for the flat pedals. No medals were won that day, but the crew were certainly deserving of one.

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Nestled amongst towering pines, the darker woods aligned perfectly with the concept of the launch. The trail here is gnarly enough and with visibility reduced, it's probably one of the most challenging in the region.

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The steep, technical elements of this track, merged with the rough, rocky sections and big drops allowed us to showcase just where the mullet excels. The big wheel out front took care of business on the large rocks and offered security in the rough sections, while the smaller wheel on the back allowed Athy to snap round the tight corners with ease.

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Not only does the smaller 27.5” rim on the back make cornering easier, the additional clearance in the rear makes those steeper drops & rollers a dream, and this place was a whole lot of that.

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Ride. Review. Repeat.

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Riding this place is a challenge and photographing it brings its own challenges too. For starters the low visibility means you’re cranking your ISO right up and dropping your shutter speed, without a flash your options are somewhat "limited". Fortunately, this is one of those challenges that as photographers actually quite enjoy, as it forces us to get creative. The slower shutter speed meant shooting wider, as this essentially slows down how fast the rider moves through your frame, meaning you can get away with less. This actually boded well as we only needed a handful of side on, close, bike shots, the rest I could get creative with, and I always enjoy framing a small rider against a big landscape.

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Here's a prime example of that... just one man, his bike and some very big woods.

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Athy is one of the most ambitious people I know, so when he gets thinking, things get dangerous... he could well be wondering where to put the next chairlift.

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This bike soaked up some serious hits that day, and with the AM.200M you've got two factory spec options... the first comes with 200mm of Fox goodness, just what you need for those big ol' hucks to flat.. something this trail had in abundance.

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Despite all the tight, technical sections, the trail still finds space for riders to let it off. The slacker geometry of the mullet reduces rolling resistance and speeds you up. It gives you the confidence to let off the brakes and let the bike work.

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The big wheel out front hangs up less and offers more control in the rocky terrain… an inviting option when you’re threading the needle through tight trees.

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Smashing through the woods in true Athy style, this was probably my favourite shot of the day.

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The shine of the distinctive “A” logo never fails to catch my eye. Being so reflective, it’s always the brightest part of any scene and I enjoy getting creative with it.

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There's always a window between each shot where somebody is waiting for somebody else. Sometimes the rider will be waiting for us to find our shot, set up a camera or clear a section of trail. Other times, we're waiting for the rider to push back up, set up the bike or mentally prepare for whatever they're about to ride next. What I love about shooting with people, is seeing how everybody works in different ways, all while working towards the same vision.

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"Are we done yet?" The whole team put in a shift to make this one happen... it was big day, but it's days like this that always bring the goods.

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We couldn't leave without a portrait... and it wouldn’t be an Athy portrait without the signature blue steel look.

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To wrap up the launch, we woke up at 5:30 the following morning to get some shots of the bike alone and I'm very glad I did. The idea was to catch the morning mist and we drove all over the bike park looking for the perfect shot. In the end it was a forest on the other side of the valley that gave us just what we’d be looking for. I wanted something in the trees that captured the eeriness and edge of the video, the mist rolled in and it all came together.

If you haven't already, you can watch the launch video here.

Author Info:
athertonracing avatar

Member since Aug 22, 2011
43 articles

39 Comments
  • 32 2
 "Smashing through the woods in true Athy style,...."

Seems like this should be a key line in the MTB version of "Jingle Bells"
  • 22 0
 Oh what fun it is to ride on a ti-lugged carbon bike
  • 1 0
 Over the jumps we go, whipping all the way!
  • 1 0
 Downhill bikes Downhill bikes Downhill all the time
  • 31 2
 Way to much „Athy“ in the writing for my taste.
  • 6 6
 Cmon… drop the Athy thing. It’s dumb.
  • 7 0
 Yes, but how else will readers know that this bike is Atherton™® Approved. With the new Atherton™® bike you too can ride like an Athy™®. insert thumbs up from an Atherton> Get yours TODAY.
  • 10 0
 @KK11: It's Dan's nickname, and seems to be what most people in that circle call him.
  • 9 1
 The outrage that they referred to somebody by the week known nickname. No more Rat Boy, Loose, Pom Pon, R Dog or Norbs either from now on.
  • 1 0
 @catweasel: I hope calling someone by their nicknames goes out of vogue, I’m tired of everyone calling me R-Word.
  • 16 1
 Great photos. The promise of a bit of behind-the-scenes piqued interest for me for a bike I have no interest in... but the advertorial copy kind of grates...
  • 16 1
 Looks like a decent bike. Good up and coming riders running the company by the looks of things
  • 4 7
 Looks like a Session
  • 6 1
 @Ktron: Looks like an Iron Horse back from the good ole days.
  • 7 8
 I'm not sure you could describe the Athertons as up and coming Smile

They could all retire tomorrow and be high up most people's all time legends lists
  • 11 0
 The Never Smile Dude in The World.
  • 8 1
 The neverest smile dude... In the wood.
  • 4 0
 I wish i hated riding bikes that much
  • 3 1
 Bike needs black fork lowers, Dan kitted out in murder in the murky welsh woods looks fantastic but the orange bothered me. Great photos other than 1 silly aesthetic my monkey brain can't unsee. Bikes not metal enough haha!
  • 2 0
 The bike in the last shot has black lowers. Must have used someone else's bike for that one.
  • 2 0
 I may have missed it in the zillion pictures but what the price on one of these out of curiosity?
  • 2 0
 There's a link in first sentence of the story that takes you to the bike's page. $9,100 U.S.
  • 3 0
 Sploosh. Wish I needed a DH bike.
  • 2 1
 Black clothes may be super cool but for shooting pictures in dark woods...no thanks. A lot of these pictures would look better if you could see the rider a little bit better
  • 2 0
 Ah brighter clothing would certainly have made Dan Griffith's job easier but we needed to work alongside shooting a video based around stealth!
  • 1 0
 Our constant mud means we have to wear black. Anything brighter and you might as well throw it away after the first use.
  • 1 0
 Dan, or “Athy”, should’ve worn something that matched his forks.
  • 3 0
 needs more "mullet" references
  • 1 0
 I'm pretty sure we got a "BMX background" in there somewhere too.
  • 2 0
 I saved myself a lot of money by building up my own Atherton frame:
imgur.com/a/x0357sz
  • 3 1
 Amazing photos and write up!
  • 7 8
 Who is spending that level of money on a mountain bike, i ride dirt bikes as well as mountain bikes and i can buy a brand new dirt bike for that money and have change left over.
  • 2 2
 Some of those un-official tracks around Dyfi area are insane! When the time comes for a new bike - I will be getting an Atherton Bike for sure!
  • 1 0
 Nice advert. Do brands pay for these adverts or just the banner and side ones?
  • 1 0
 Anyone riding one of their trail bikes? It'd be great to hear an actual review someday.
  • 4 2
 *laughs in Canfield*
  • 1 0
 Love that misty Wales atmos
  • 1 1
 There's to much stuff in front of the lens to call it portrait.
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