Stiff Upper Whip – Glencoe SDA

It’s the night before race day.

The first race in over a year.

This is a serious deal.


A chance to prove your mettle, regain your racing mojo and set yourself up for a season of success. Naturally, the youths, the future of the sport, are found setting themselves up for a perfect run. Maybe some revision of line choice and a quick once over the bike before an early night is in order?


Ha, try again. This is downhill.


Instead, maybe take a visit to the black jump line tonight and enjoy the scenes as a select group of riders fly through the air rather perpendicular to their direction of travel – more colloquially known as a “whip”. This talented bunch are operating by one rule: the more sideways the better. And the crowd is loving it.


Hawaiian shirts, beers, and (at times) questionable music were the markers of tone for the evening. Safe to say it wasn’t a somber one. Us media boys were out in full force too. From racing drones to dad cams, name an angle? We had it covered.

The atmosphere? Electric.

The riding? Hectic.

The setting? An aesthetic.

Seriously though, name a better stage for some of the steeziest lads around to perform their art. The imposing mountain peaks surrounding Glencoe Mountain resort seemed to amplify the mood. The weather helped too. As, unusually for Scotland, it had been roasting. Blazing blue skies had been beating down all day, turning me for one, into a lovely shade of golden brown similar to that of a tomato… or a fire hydrant.

With the dulcet tones of Grant from the SDA on the commentary, the whole situation felt like a peculiar blend of official event and unofficial teenage energy.


I’d traveled to the event having attended (or competed in) nearly every other major genre of British mountain biking bar downhill. Having taken an interest in shooting the odd photo in the last 12 months, I thought it would be fun to try my hand at shooting in an event atmosphere. The racing itself was dramatic, but I knew I’d be in my element when the man himself Archie Gilmour set about organizing an unofficial whip-off.

My specialty lies more within a creative setting, and not being bound by the conventions of selling photos, I was able to experiment and have much more fun. Here ensued the joys of photography, clambering (and faceplanting) in rivers, tripping over bushes, and getting stung by goodness knows what. I was mainly searching for unique angles, which I’ve learned usually means looking at where everyone is and going somewhere else. However, the peril of being in cool spots with awesome riders often means too many damn photos. I can’t remember the exact figure but I think it was in the region of ten to twelve hundred. No worries, there are certainly worse problems to have. Cue a long evening of editing into the night, culminating in perching on a picnic bench at 1 in the morning patiently, or not so patiently, waiting for it to be finished exporting already! The joys of photography eh? Oh well, these are the moments I dream of when sat at home. On the whole, I reckon it could have been worse.


Cheers to the riders featured –

Lewis Duncan

Archie Gilmour

James Wilson

A special thanks to the legends that assisted me with power when my laptop was on its last legs!

Andrew Leinster – Cycology Media

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