Outskirts: Films from the frontier

Among the most intimate films ever made about cycling, the Thereabouts series has inspired riders around the world. Now its creators are partnering with Rapha to produce an incredible new series.

MediaThereabouts

So often in our sport, the roads we ride are lost beyond our bars and beneath our wheels. They are our playgrounds, the scenes of our battles and settings for our journeys – loved or despised for the routes they cut and the memories they create. But for all they give, they are overlooked as a character in the stories of cycling.

If we were less concerned with the destination, who would we meet along the way, what communities would we discover, and how much more enjoyable would our riding be? If the play, the battle, the journey, was exchanged for the simple desire to explore the roads around us, what would we find?

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This is the premise of Outskirts, a series of three films chronicling the experiences of a handful of riders – including World Tour professionals and renowned athletes – as they ride the length of some of the most famous roads in the world. Each film will be released in 2018, with the first already in production.

The films are a joint production between Rapha and Thereabouts, the team behind documentaries featuring Angus and Lachlan Morton as they embarked on extraordinary trips to discover new roads. Thereabouts One, Two and Three met with critical acclaim when released and have inspired tens of thousands of cyclists around the world.

The Morton brothers are among the most engaging characters in the sport, racing professionally and respected for their point of view on and off the bike. Watch their first film, documenting their journey from their hometown in Port Macquarie, Australia, into the outback in 2012, here.

In its first year, Outskirts will include three films that will premiere exclusively with Rapha Media. The first trip, following four riders as they attempt to pedal the complete length of Route 66 in the United States, departed earlier this month.

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Rapha has always endeavoured to tell the most compelling stories in cycling, capturing the human moments that make our sport the most beautiful in the world. Now we are bringing these stories together under Rapha Media. Launching this year, we will bring you a rich and varied mix of programming and writing which covers every aspect of life on the bike, from the culture and community that have grown up around the pursuit to the characters and moments that colour professional racing.

“As a cyclist, you grow up riding the roads around you and these roads you ride become your biography,” Angus Morton said from the road while filming the first installment. “They are our lives and they forge our relationships. There are roads we love and roads we hate and we spend a huge amount of time so close to them. With Outskirts, the road is the main character, and everything it brings – the people, the cultures, the towns and cities, the communities, are part of that character.

“We’re going to take these epic journeys along these iconic roads to meet these characters. That’s what Thereabouts was originally supposed to be – about our life as told on these roads with these characters. By doing this on a bike, by travelling under your own power, you get this unique perspective – you have to experience these things under your own steam, and it changes the experience completely. That’s the focus of Outskirts; who are these people who live along these roads and how do we relate to them.”

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The series was created by Angus, who will ride every kilometre of the three trips with a changing cast of characters that will include Lachlan and other familiar Thereabouts faces. Angus said Outskirts would build on the success of the original films by combining their raw storytelling and visual style with exploration of the most challenging and recognised roads in the world.

Angus added: “The first film is Route 66 in the US , and it’s the best time for it. Every day, broadcast around the world is this image of a very divided America, a split society, this angry picture of a community that’s changing. But what we’ve experienced is so far from it. We’re just a few days in and people have been so welcoming, so friendly, so helpful and that’s because of how we’re taking this journey.

“Everyone we’ve met on this iconic road so far has been totally different – left right, religious, atheistic, but whatever the label all so embracing. On this fundamental level, they’ve all been so open and so welcoming and I think it’s because the bike is this disarming tool, this incredible way to see a road, this thing that opens people up.”

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The departure hasn’t been plain sailing, Angus explained: “It’s been hard. Really, really hard. We rode through the night in sub-zero temperatures to escape a snow storm moving in to Chicago. And yesterday, we battled 100kph headwinds for hour after hour. We were sprinting, full gas, into the wind and riding at 8pkh. We rode for five hours and hardly moved.

“And when you’re in that situation, you’re all battling your own demons, all riding alone and questioning everything. I really thought yesterday we’d never make it. Forget LA, I didn’t even know if we would make it to the next town. But you find a way around it and you make it and again the bike as a tool becomes this really fascinating thing.”

Outskirts 1 will be released by Rapha Media and Thereabouts later this year.