Words by Nukeproof
The past few years have been a little bit of a whirlwind. As with many small companies, it's a small dedicated team, which means you're always chasing the next project, event, launch or plan. But with recent events, we should take time to reflect and look back on how much we have enjoyed what our sport has offered us. In this particular case, 2019.
As the marketing manager, I obtain thousands of images from our teams and riders throughout the year. We have some amazing photographers that we work with to capture the nuggets of time, but many may not see the light of day or, if they do, they're in the super suppressed world of social media. We just wanted to share with you 12 (ok 13) images that defined 2019 for us along with a little story behind the images.
The rumor mill of Downhill racing is amazing. Each year it just gets wilder and keeps everyone second-guessing through the baron winter. Racing is in our DNA, its why many or most of our products come to fruition. We've always been huge Downhill fans and most of the staff still race in one form or another in the office (you think the Dissent was designed for Sam Hill etc. Nah, I'm sure secretly it was for the company boss and engineer to race the Masters' worlds in Andorra last year). In recent years, Nukeproof have chosen to take a step back from the world of UCI Downhill Racing, not for falling out of love, indeed it's still the F1 of our sport. But with our commitments to the race at the highest level at the Enduro World Series, we simply have to make a choice.
In late 2019, Nigel Page got chatting to a top rider who was keen for a switch of bikes. Sometimes you debate these decisions, but in this case, we just had to make it work. That rider was Mr. Gas to Flat, Adam Brayton. Adam and the Hope Technology team are a perfect fit for Nukeproof - dedicated proper folk that just love bikes and their enthusiasm is infectious. In no time, a deal was signed with Adam, who, whilst the ink was drying on his contract presented an opportunity to support his partner Meg Whyte also. Meg is a great rider in her own right and again loves the sport and the outdoors so the deal was simple!
In January 2019 myself and photographer Laurence Crossman-Emms headed up to ride meet with Adam and Meg in the Lake District to shoot their new bikes and launch them as Nukeproof riders to the world. February:
Sometimes you make mistakes in planning a photoshoot, but sometimes the mistakes turn out to be rad too. I love North Wales, but my optimism in planning a shoot for a spring-summer clothing shoot in February was maybe a little far fetched. Despite some mild temperature in the run-up to the shoot, the days we were there were challenging to say the least. We did get to find a lovely cafe in Llangollen and sampled most of the One Planet Adventure menu as we shot some studio shots in the class there. Still, beyond the shoot, it's was awesome to spend some time with the big sister and little brother combo of Sandra Rubesam & Luke Cryer.
We all love a good puddle shot and so we took the opportunity to shoot the Nirvana winter jacket with Luke Cryer on the style. March:
The month we've all been waiting for, its the season kick-off month. The first World Cup, EWS races and Crankworx. For the team, it's also like Christmas as they get all their new bikes and kit. Also, this year it was the first chance that the CRC-Mavic team got to meet up after a long winter of training. Nigel Page has created something special with the CRC team. Beyond being some of the finest athletes on the planet, they're also a bunch of good mates. The humor between them is savage, but good nature. They all have their roles int the team and it's what makes life on the road possible.
Behind the races, the support network from within the team is incredible. After a long day on the hill of racing or practicing, it's not down to a local restaurant for dinner. Nige or Kelan (or both) will head into the kitchen to rustle up the team dinner, whilst Jacy is in a makeshift back garden workshop prepping the bikes. It gives the team a nice homely feel, good food (Nige and Kelan are pretty handy on the pan's) and allows some time to rest and relax in as comfortable surroundings as you can make with houses of 5-6 people with bikes and kit.
At the races, we have Kike Abelleria on the camera and sometimes he gets back in time to catch the action indoors as in the above photo. April:
Sometimes in this job you stop and pinch yourself. I'm very fortunate to be able to travel with work, but a trip to visit Sam Hill at his home with Tommy C and Aussie photographer Matt Staggs was fairly sensational. Planning on shooting video and images for the new Nukeproof Reactor and Dissent launch was a project that suited the Perth dust, and who doesn't want to see a master of their trade at work? With a short break in racing, April was a perfect time. As far as work trips go, it was a bit special, for the people we met, the hospitality of the Hill family and friends, the radical local coffee shop (shout out to the Fig&Ivy), the wild Kangaroos, and not being eaten by spiders and snakes. But as mountain bike fans, to witness Sam ride on his local trails was simply mind-blowing. Click Here for the Reactor Edit
or here for Sam Hill back on a DH bike
There have been many edits of Sam Hill, still one of the best segments has to be featured in Clay Porters "3-minute Gaps" (for your own sake go look it up), so the opportunity to film with Sam Hill on these trails was just something beyond worlds.
Every corner produced some sort of magic. This is one shot from Matt Staggs but I could have chosen so many.May:
Photoshoots and edits are awesome fun to make and get your creative juices flowing to create something, and most times the plan is somewhat ambitious. Time is a huge factor in making an edit. We have to maximize what we can film over the minimum number of days so it's always a fine balance to push to get the quality of footage we need. On "Road Tripping", the plan was to drive to meet our UK athletes and ride with them on their trails to film a segment. A four-day trip stretched from the River Dart, in Dorset, the MTB mecca of Wolverhampton, up to the Scottish borders, then a stop off in the Lake District. Life was made a little more luxurious with Land Rover loaning us a Land Rover Discovery to use for the trip. Laurence Crossman Emms was again along to shoot the edit as well as some still photos, plus we took the king of stoke; Luke Cryer as a constant for the shoot.
Long days filming were followed by long nights driving, pushing us all to breaking point, but our athletes delivered something awesome. The full story is here.
The photo from this has to be of Luke, four days into filming and still pulling out the shapes. Four full days of shooting is a lot for any athlete is a lot, let alone adding the driving on top of that but he just delivers stoke on a bike and is amazing on camera. June:
Every year the Fort William World Cup blows me away. Sure the racing is usually amazing, but it's the fans that make this place special. They travel from all around the country, book up every hotel bed, fill out every pub/ restaurant and feed a billion midges. It makes for one hell of an atmosphere. We were there this year to support the athletes and show off the new Dissent downhill frame. Whilst the main show is Sunday's Downhill, the 4x pro-Tour is always a highlight to watch. Once again, Elliott Heap entered the race and ignited the crowd with his style and moves to an awesome 7th place. In the women's event, it was amazing to witness Natasha Bradley take a dominant win in front of the home crowd. With the results, Natasha and Elliott both qualified for the Great Britain 4x team and amazingly ultimately went on to win silver medals in Val Di Sol, an outstanding result for both athletes.
Photo by Dan Hern of Elliott Heap, giving it the style in the 4x heats at Fort William. July:
For the past few years we have made the trip to the Megavalanche. It's a special place for Nukeproof, with the Mega being named after the race it was designed for. Not only that but, the organizers are amazing, and we proudly agreed to be the bike sponsor for the race. This year's race was a strange one for me personally after a crash on a wet practice day made me miss the race. But in the alps there is always something to entertain you and its amazing just to experience and watch the racing. I've been to the top of Mt. Pic Blanc a fair few times, but never really taken it all in. Generally, you're nervous, scared, and excited to drop in, along with sharing the space with 1,000 other riders, but if you take some time to look around, the alps in the summertime are something really special. The event itself was mental this year. With a lack of snow causing chaos and more of that in our video diary here.
Photo of Aussie snow king Jackson Davis smashing the lower part of the qualifying track by Laurence Crossman-Emms August:
The EWS season really ramps up in August. The title chase was back on after a tough start to the year with illness and a string of good results for Sam Hill had seen him claw his way back within sight of the top. The USA-Canada back to back races were an opportunity for a decent points haul. Going to the USA is always special too. Again, the fans are full of passion and drive the riders on. This race also saw the debut of the new 290 carbon Mega. This had been a mere idea a few months earlier, but with development from the race team and a massive R&D effort the finalized 290c was ready to roll out.
What makes Sam Hill so good on a bike? There is the obvious speed and dedication he puts into his craft. But there is a determination and confidence he has that is unlike anyone else I have met (Don't read this as arrogance at all, just amazing confidence). Most athletes have a hunger to win, but with Sam, there is something a little different, something that is impossible for most mortals to replicate.
In the race, Sam came a super close 2nd place to Richie Rude by less than a second. In that 2nd place finish the truly stoked to ensure he was going to take the overall title. Photo Kike Abelleria. September:
Ok, admit I will cheat here. September can only be about Sam taking his 3rd Enduro World Series title in a row. But this photo of Elliot Heap in front of the Toblerone mountain (aka. the Matterhorn) is too rad not to share again.
Three titles in a row. The achievement can't be overlooked. Over 1400km of racing spanning three seasons on every type of terrain. The sheer consistency is amazing, podium after podium. Sure he has had his share of bad luck (illness, mechanical issues, punctures, and crashes), but still. even on his worst day pulled out an incredible result. His "worst" result in all these seasons has been a 12th (Rotorua 2019- illness & Les Orres 2019- puncture and time penalty) - a result 90% of riders would count as a career-high. Going into Zermatt, the team was nervous, but if Sam was it didn't show, he was there to do the business. A brilliant tactical ride brought him a 2nd place finish and the title. The thing that stood out to me though was the final stage. The title wasn't in the bag and the only way to make sure was to win the final stage and take points on offer for the "queens stage". Before dropping in, Sam spoke with his mechanic Jacy, one simple question, "Do we give it the berries?" After careful thought, a nervous Jacy replied, "yes". The result, a stage win by over nine seconds to ensure the unprecedented title hat trick.
Photo: Kike Abelleria, just after the finish line, how much effort do you give? October:
Shooting bikes for the "model year" bike launch and brochure is a chance to get creative. Each year we challenge ourselves to go further and look for a different angle. It may often never be seen, noticed and could quite possibly be replicated on photoshop, but there is a selfish level of motivation that comes with this shoot. We've struck up a good friendship with North Wales based photographer Laurence Crossman-Emms. His photography is awesome, he knows the style and vibe we want for Nukeproof, and he too likes to challenge himself and get creative. Plus, he's a nice lad to hang around with for a few days.
It's a challenge to find the right location, then getting "legal" access is the next hurdle. Riddel's warehouse is a building many will have just walked past in Belfast and not recognized. Located next to the Police Station (bringing its own issues) it's been used as storage for police "contraband" prior to funds being raised for renovation. Much of the building is still a time capsule from the 19th century. Prior to any modernization and renovation, we were granted access to shoot our 2020 brochure. A chance to document a little piece of Belfast's heritage and give us an awesome canvas to play with. Photography is like bikes in certain ways, you can spend a huge deal on equipment and sure it may make the end goal easier or faster, but if you can master the art you can do something a bit special. With Laurence on these shoots, we work at it like an art form. Playing with light, location and post-production to create a mini-masterpiece. Here's the 2020 brochure.
Photo: Laurence Crossman-Emms, Riddel's Warehouse November:
You may have gathered by now that my location vs. weather planning in 2019 was a little off. We're standing in the car park of Innerleithen, it's freezing, but we're here for a few days testing with our UK based athletes on some new bikes. It was the chance to go into the winter break having tested some R&D projects, new models, and try a few different setups. More importantly, its a chance to meet up with our riders and engineers and have some fun too. Huge thanks to Gordo at Adrenelin Uplifts for looking after us in his posh new headquarters.
Some fine days on the hill, it really brought it home to us what an amazing team we have had representing us in 2019. December:
Some videos have to be shot in winter and a good hardtail hooning edit is one of them. For this you have to find the sadomasochistic people that love a good winter, the dirt, slop, the smell and clean up operation. Tommy C is one of those people and the UK climate just lends itself for a rad hardtail edit. We've small hills, raked trails with a million corners (all getting ever wilder as they go). Filming Scoutin' About - Part 1 was great fun and Part Deux just got a little lairy. Elliott, Lil' Robbo, and Pager put their bodies on the line in this rad edit, which was as fun to make as it is to watch. you can watch the full edit Click here.
Photo by Laurence Crossman-Emms. Nigel Page giving it everything in the name of bicycles.
So there you have it, a year full of amazing memories, we're looking forward to making some more in the future. http://nukeproof.com #itsanattitude