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My Bicycle & I

Journeys From My Doorstep

“Travels at Home”

Every morning I set off on a journey, up at sparrows and down the street on my bicycle, exercising my imagination as much as my legs. By the time I return to the house an hour or two later, having witnessed the sunrise and put however many miles of town and country beneath my wheels, I feel as though I have been places, seen things, travelled in the grand old sense of the word. I bring along my camera and tripod and try to capture something of the simple joy of a bike ride and the light humanising touch of a bicycle on the landscape.

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St Clements Church

St Clements Church

St Clements Church is the oldest church in Hastings. It was built in the late 14th century to replace an older one that was  destroyed during a French raid in 1377. It occupies a site on a steep hill in the Old Town part of Hastings, just above High Street, on a...

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Cycling Caps

Cycling Caps

Trying out my new tweed cycling cap and going for a very old school look in this image from my morning ride through the marshes near the hamlet of Rickney, in East Sussex. I keep several cycling caps in different colours and fabrics in my knapsack with my camera gear...

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Hopperesque

Hopperesque

I love Edward Hopper's paintings - his unique blend of impressionism and realism, use of bold colours and blocky shapes, impersonal public space, stark compositions and the sense of solitude, urban loneliness and after-hours melancholy they convey. In the...

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A Late Autumn Scene

A Late Autumn Scene

I would love to be able to paint, and am deeply envious of those who can while I am obliged to make do with a camera. There are occasions though when one comes upon a scene such as this that allows one to create an image in painterly style. And so it was on this short...

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Homer’s Wine Dark Sea

Homer’s Wine Dark Sea

Seen along the way: Homer's Wine Dark Sea. Nearly every morning on my rides I find myself at one point or another pedalling along the seafront and looking out over the English Cannel. It never looks the same twice, not even for five minutes running. There's always...

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Streamline Moderne

Streamline Moderne

I'm a great fan of Art Deco and its architectural first cousin, Streamline Moderne, and so nearly every morning I take a moment to appreciate the jazzy-cool curves and nautical lines of the Marine Court building as I pedal along the seafront promenade at St...

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The Noblest Invention

The Noblest Invention

The bicycle has been called the Noblest Invention and when you step back, hold it at arm's length and consider its salient characteristics it's easy to see why. Swift, elegant, cheap, easy to repair, environmentally friendly, almost glib in its 19th century...

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Beachcomber & Dog

Beachcomber & Dog

A beachcomber and his dog amble along the low tide line on the seashore at St Leonard-on-Sea just after sunrise on a cold and hazy winter's morning. I noticed their silhouettes and the rich luminous blue-hour lighting as I was pedalling along the seafront promenade...

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Frost on The Oaks

Frost on The Oaks

Winter has well and truly arrived on the Sussex weald. Bitter cold on the lanes and a heavy frost that seemed more like a dusting of snow and made me feel as though I was pedalling into a fine old Victorian etching of a winter scene. This image captured along an old...

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Fall Colours

Fall Colours

Wet leaves are the bane of cyclists pedalling the lanes in autumn and winter, accounting for many a fractured wrist and dislocated shoulder, and soit's worth keeping an eye out for them - if nothing else they can form visually lovely compositions!  

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Long Reads

Pole Position

It was the summer of 2000 and I was on my way to the South Pole on an assignment for National Geographic, ostensibly to do a feature on the cutting edge science being done there. Unbeknownst to my editors I had hidden agenda – to ride a bicycle “around the world” while I was there.

The Wheels of Chance

It was a tram drivers’ strike in Melbourne in the early Nineties that started me riding a bicycle as an adult, commuting into the heart of the city each day to a newspaper job I didn’t really care for. Little did I suspect at the time the curious twists and turns my life would take as the bicycle began to work its subversive magic.

A collection of essays and travelogues 

National Geographic & I

Before Stonehenge: The Ness of Brodgar

  One long ago summer around the year 3200BC, the farmers and herdsmen on Scotland's remote Orkney islands decided to build something big. They had Stone Age technology, but their vision
was millennia ahead of their time. Their tools might have been stone age...

The Ghost Ship of Filey Bay

It was supposed to have been a straightforward salvage job, or at least as straightforward as these sorts of things are in the difficult, moody waters of the North Sea.  A trawlerman known as “Killer” Cox had snagged his net on something in about eighty feet of water...

The Diamond Shipwreck

History rarely unfolds like a fable. But consider this: A 16th century Portuguese trading vessel, carrying a fortune in gold and ivory ad bound for a famed spice port on the coast of India is blown far off course by a fierce storm while trying to round the southern...

Manor House Station to Gibson Square

Steve Scotland had better reason than most for thinking he knew London like the back of his hand. Not only was he a native Londoner, born and bred, but he’d spent years working as a chauffeur in the city, driving his passengers wherever they wanted to go, finding the...

The Real Pirates of the Caribbean

On a sweltering afternoon in June of 1719, the Princess, a 140-ton ship out of London, was sitting at anchor off  Anomabu, a steamy West African slave port, waiting to take on a load of slaves for the plantations in the West Indies, when a strange vessel materialized...

Vlad the Impaler: The Real Dracula

Romanian folklore tells of a golden chalice that once upon a time sat beside a spring along the lonely road into Târgoviste, a market town which was the capital in those days of the mediaeval principality of Wallachia. This cup had been placed there by the local...

I was a ropey-armed kid roaming the backroads of Carroll County, New Hampshire on Schwinn Varsity ten-speed when the May 1973 issue of National Geographic lobbed on our doorstep and fired my adolescent imagination with a story about two adventurous couples who were cycling the Alaskan Highway. Even today, all these years later, I can still see some of those photographs in my mind’s eye – the inset shot of the four of them pedalling straight into the camera, their touring bikes loaded up for distant places; the picture of the guy straddling his bike in front of that tacky sprawl of hometown signs and mileposts somewhere up in the Yukon Territory, looking as though he were making up his mind where he might go next; that  picaresque image of the girl playing her harmonica one-handed as she spun along a stretch of wide-open Canadian highway, free as air, with life and the open road stretching out in front of her.

The Alaska Highway story was included as an accompaniment to a larger feature about the cycling boom that was sweeping America in the early Seventies, but I felt as though it had been written especially for me.  Like the rest of the America described in that feature, I was discovering the jaunty freedom of being out and about on a bicycle, and in my case imagining myself setting off for distant places one day, and writing about it in National Geographic.

A lot of kids have such daydreams, I suppose, but I never let go of mine. Although it took many years and numerous detours in life and career along the way, eventually it happened. Leaving a well-paying job as a senior writer for Time Magazine, I set off by bicycle alone into the Australian outback, returning nine-months and 10,000 dusty miles later and filing my first stories for National Geographic – a three-part series, as it turned out, only the second in the magazine’s history. Later I wrote a book about the journey, Cold Beer & Crocodiles, which was also published by National Geographic.

It was the start of what has proved to be a long relationship with the National Geographic Society, one which has taken me all over the world and allowed me to see and experience things beyond even the wildest expectations of my fourteen year-old self. Although I have never written another cycling story for the magazine, I have written a good many others. Here are a few of them.