Video: Riding Through Abandoned Industrial Buildings, WWII Remnants & More French History

Dec 8, 2023 at 14:01
by Yannis Pelé  

Words: Yannis Pelé

With this new creation, Chronos (meaning the personification of time in ancient Greek), we wanted to bring you on a space-time journey through places full of history. It is a reflection on the passing of time and our own relationship with time. Modern life is speeding up, impatience is inevitable, and we all want to go faster and faster. We want everything, and we want it now.

Urbex gives rise to questions and curiosity. Who has hasn't wondered about the history of these abandoned places? Our adventure led us to learn more about human history through the ages.

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Urbex - Noun. A recreational activity in which people explore derelict urban structures such as abandoned sewers or underground railways, or attempt to access areas which are closed to the public such as the roofs of skyscrapers.



The first humans used the walls of those caves for painting, and we can see today the beginning of human creativity in primitive art.

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This is where we wanted our video to start. Another day, another shot we absolutely had to get: sunset and a menhir field. What curious carved-stones monuments they had erected. Riding around and thinking about the dead bodies that these sculptures signify was something strange. In the green forest, we felt like we were going to see a druid appearing behind the moss covered trees.

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Next in our timeline was arenas. It was not really in the plan, but it made our epic adventure even better.

We can still hear the crowd cheering in the arena, one of the Roman Empire's greatest, in another important time in French history. It is always difficult to film in touristy spots. After a lot of patience, we got the video and the pictures we hoped for, even though image processing was needed to take some people out of the shot.

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We finally arrived at this incredible Roman road. I started my ride on this historical path, in a succession of hairpin bends dropping away to near vertically sided valleys.

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Our next stop was an ode to another strong era, at the medieval fortresses of the Cathare Country. We planned to stop here for few days. We weren't sure about whether we were allowed to film there, so we had to make the appropriate requests.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the powers that be said "yes" to us filming outside of opening hours.

We felt we could almost hear the metallic clinking of the armor of those who fought here in years past.

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Aside from riding in incredible locations of historic importance, a medieval festival was also on our route. We had to stop there. Explaining the project to the main actors of the event, we motivated some of them to do a small bit of filming.

They were exhausted after their "official show" but kindly agreed to wear their heavy armor a little bit longer, despite the crazy heat.

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Humanity, across many different eras, experienced numerous battles and wars. By building those forts, which are impressive constructions, men fended off their enemies. More than just houses, the ramparts kept their opponents away.

Despite the many places visited and ridden, there was still something special when my tires rode over those historical spots.

Can you imagine what kinds of people lived in these military fortifications? The D-Day beaches were a little bit off the beaten path, but we decided to go anyway. We could not imagine those events without having been there and having seen the blockades for ourselves.

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Tank shells left in place bring impactful visuals. Riding in the sand dunes while searching for them was like a treasure hunt. It is sad to see some of these places were victim of vandalism, sprayed with graffiti or deliberately damaged.

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The same feelings of awe followed us close to the highest summits of the Alps, near the Italian border. Defending their land and its external border was the main goal of these structures. Several hours walking and pushing the bike were needed to reach these awesome landscapes. The war is still omnipresent in the area, alive in small blockhouses, barbed wire fences... it is very different to my usual mountain expeditions.

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Passing by galleries of an ocher mine to another kind of galleries from World War, we are back in the plains, in Verdun. Next to an abandoned trench, I am playing with my bike in a trail that is like a toboggan track. I was having fun but suddenly, a certain discomfort arose in me and I was not so at ease riding in a place where thousands of soldiers lost their lives.

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It wouldn't be right to visit the area without paying a visit to the memorial. Hundreds and hundreds of white crosses arranged in perfectly straight rows - a single cross for every dead soldier. The atmosphere is more and more heavy and the whole team is feeling the same. We definitely had to find the way to show this place in another way, showing more respect and by honoring the men who fought here for our freedom. Did you catch the plan of my shadow passing furtively on the trenches?

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At the end of this second part, I wanted to showcase a different construction that the men had created with the aim of moving people via railway. Thousands of kilometers of railway was built to bring people away, to the Bay of Somme for example, where our road took us.

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A major step forward was the plan of jumping over the famous French car, the Citroen 2CV.

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In term of human constructions, mines have always made me curious. In the North of France, I planned to visit one and ride a mining heap, which are typical in the region's landscape. I have always been impressed by those artificial mountains in the middle of such a flat land.

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The abandoned industrial buildings around were a nice playground but also added an artistic element to our video. The ambience is completely different in those more modern places, but the history still remains. The trolleys left are a testiment to the epic work conditions. I remember when dust covered my photographer for a drift shot, and it caused him cough for the whole day.

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On our way to our next destination, we discovered one of the most original places in our project, an old war plane abandoned in the middle of a departure-runway at a disused airport. Inside the plane, everything was intact, as it has been left. What an experience to ride on it and shoot these shots.

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As a transition to the modern period, we went to Eze, where the first MTB Downhill races in France took place. This sequence is filmed with Nico Vouilloz's original bike and riding kit (pressure was high not to damage those collector pieces)! The racer is a well known actual DH World Cup racer's dad, Claude Vergier (Loris Vergier's dad). I can not thank them enough for the support on this!

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The final part of our video is staged in the modern day. I wanted to contrast it with the other places we had ridden, and so Paris, here we are. The human ability to create such buildings over ages is crazy. Traffic jam, noises... I definitely miss the Breton coast and the enchanted forests we crossed earlier.

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In all the historic places we went, the past was ever present, it was mostly quiet (save for the tourists visiting), but in Paris it is different. The amount of movement and activity is massive. Simon Nogueira, a parkour enthusiast I always be fan of, knows it well. We took some action shots together in the very busy Paris streets and he even took us for a roof ride. I ticked it off as "done" on my "Life's goals List". It was crazy, the view up there is sick! It is definitely a good way to discover a city.

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Incorporating the antique architecture into the other part of our video, we found awesome modern buildings to add an artistic side to our filming. Roof, stairs, sidewalks, urban properties are perfect to express some riding creativity. We went through the most important Paris neighborhood : Catacombs, Montmartre and his history over time and to finish with the biggest contrast : La Defense, the business district. The grandeur is showcased everywhere, I feel like in a travelling to the future.

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This is where our journey finished. In the scenery, I woke up and got back to my riding, with my friends, in my home mountains, with another idea of the time passing.



Those discoveries opened our eyes even more to the evolution of humans over time, the way in which humanity was constructed and the needs of each civilization.

The combination of the urban aspect with the beauty of the landscapes provided an interesting contrast for our video project.


Written & Directed by : Yannis Pelé & Pierre Cloquemin
Ground shoots & Editing : Visualp
Aerial shoots : MyDronesFPV / Shikijo Petroski


Special thanks to my sponsors :
PICTURE ORGANIC CLOTHING / LAPIERRE / DT SWISS / JULBO / HUTCHINSON / AURON / REVERSE / CAMELBACK / RACER / GIRO / SLICY / FINISH LINE

Author Info:
yannispele avatar

Member since Dec 8, 2017
5 articles

28 Comments
  • 23 0
 Wow this is beautifully done!!
  • 5 0
 I think I saw you and your team when you went filming at the gare des glaciers in Chamonix. I liked the tribute to old time DH with Loris Vergier's dad playing Nico Vouilloz ! Very creative and well done.
  • 2 0
 That was different! Every time I thought something was about to happend the video cut away, had me swearing at the screen by the end... Way to here, there, everywhere, 3 second clip to the next 3 second clip. Wasnt my thing but I am old and there have been way better edits released in the last few days.
  • 4 0
 Nicely done. Loved the spoof 90's sequence, took me back to watching the Cap D'ail DH on Eurosport!
  • 1 1
 So I'm bitter because the world doesn't think America is as special as Americans do? Or is it because I can see the world around me becoming increasingly reliant on rules to protect the idiots and the overly sensitive?

There are absolutely unique things about The Americas, but being diverse is not one of them.
  • 2 0
 nice, i love you edit ! so much work !!
  • 2 0
 It makes me dizzy watching it.
  • 1 0
 Love it, thanks!! Ça gère!
  • 2 0
 Love it!
  • 2 0
 That was ace
  • 2 0
 Great concept
  • 2 0
 That was a mad edit
  • 2 0
 Le bodacious!
  • 1 0
 Great video. Some really epic riding spots.
  • 1 0
 I rather prefer a Hot Tub as a time machine.
  • 2 0
 great work!!
  • 1 0
 what a concept! awsm!!!
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