In the autumn of 2020 professional photographer Sam Dugon had the idea to take her mum, who hadn’t ridden a bike in over 20 years, across the breadth of North Wales on a bikepacking and campervan adventure. She’d been trying for a number of years to help get her mum back outside and exploring again. Having suffered multiple family losses and battling cancer all whilst bringing up her teenage daughter as a single parent, her confidence and adventurous, inquisitive spirit had taken a hit.
With the help of an eJimi electric mountain bike from Islabikes, the mother and daughter duo headed up to Llangollen in North Wales, and what followed over the next few days has provided them stories for life, along with a new found confidence for Sam’s mum.
We chatted to Sam about the film and her trip.
What made you think about the trip, and documenting it in the first place?
I had been trying for a number of years to get my mum back out travelling and exploring again. A few years ago after her dog died, and just before I was due to head to Europe for a few weeks of work shooting some races, I stopped by her house on the way and asked if she wanted to come to Italy with me, within the hour we were on the road and the difference in her mood and outlook on life was drastic, so I knew that getting her out of the house was key to her being able to get out of any rut, no matter how deep, and this trip was more fo the same, but a bit more challenging.
Whenever my mum and I are together it’s always a rollercoaster of emotions and we always end up with stories that “would only happen to us”, I knew that this trip would be no different. One of the main reasons I love photographing and documenting life is to capture those important moments that may not look or even feel like anything at the time, but it is on reflection you realise how important they were, I felt I had done this so much with other peoples stories, but not my mum, and that had to change.
The change in your mum’s attitude and confidence from start to finish of the trip is incredible. How does that make you feel?
In all honesty, that’s all I ever want to see from my mum. I just want to see her happy. We’ve been through so much together and I feel she struggles sometimes to see just how capable she is and it infuriates me, sometimes I wish her mum was still around to knock some sense into her haha, so seeing my mum grow and see her own abilities after only three days was amazing.
Tell us about the Islabikes steed that your mum was riding, what made you both choose it?
Yes! What a bike right?! It’s from their Icons range and is their first electric mountain bike; the eJimi. Matt from Islabikes approached me last year to see if I had any people in mind that would benefit from such a bike, so I sent him a probably very long and excited sounding voice message about this idea, sent over a more professional pitch and then off we went.
Nearly 10 years ago I managed to get my mum back on on a road bike, after only every cycling on road bikes during her youth, my mum was persistent that was how she wanted to get back into it, but the skinny wheels and drop handlebars weren’t confidence inspiring anymore, since then I had been telling her to get a hybrid or MTB, get those chunkier tyres with a bit of tread and some comfortable flat handlebars and the world would be her oyster. It took a while, but she finally listened to me.
A sea swim in November?!
Haha, it was the wind that was the worst part, the sand whipping against your cold ankles on the walk too and from the sea was gruelling. As a kid my mum and I would spend forever down the beaches on Gower, taking down our little beach tent, a book and some snacks, we’d be in and out of the sea countless times a day. As I grew up we both sort of drifted away from our beach days as other things got in the way, but as of recent I’ve gotten back into it and dragged her back in with me haha. No matter how reluctant you are to get in, that post dip feeling is unbeatable, I’m glad we both got up early for it that’s for sure.
Planning a trip like this during Covid times must’ve been tricky, did you have to change your plans at all or take any particular precautions?
Oh Jesus, planning was a blimmin’ nightmare! We headed out on the trip the first day after Wales’ Firebreak Lockdown in November. I knew I had to film it before we descended any further into winter, and I had a week long shoot straight after it so I really didn’t have much time to play with. Thankfully we had the vans to stay in for the first night and I did manage to find some accommodation that was open. It was very strange walking into a hotel and not only being the only people staying, but the first guests they’d had in weeks! But, the welcoming atmosphere wherever we went was brilliant, people were just happy to see others enjoying the great outdoors again, even if it was a tad damp at the time. Thankfully there wasn’t anything too difficult to navigate, it was just a case of remembering a mask everywhere.
So where are you two off to next?
Good question! I really want to do an Inter-railing and bikepacking adventure around Europe. It’ll have to wait until travel is a bit less confusing, but I’d love to show my mum around the Swiss Alps and take her back to the Black Forest that we visited back in 2019.
Check out more from Sam and her incredible photography here.
Last modified: 27th April 2021