Cover Photography: Benny Gagliardi

For every image that makes it into a publication, whether print or online, there was likely a contact sheet's worth of alternatives that didn't quite make the cut. For whatever reason, be it falling victim to a specific editorial style or that a rider didn't quite get the result on the day, often even a photographer's favourite image will never see the light of day. In this series, we're hoping to shed light on those that have been relegated to the confines of a hard drive.  

Introducing Héctor Saura. A one-man creative machine, Héctor is the mastermind behind Bicycle Nightmares and a self-taught photographer and writer. Héctor has made it his mission to document the industry-forgotten 'freestyle mountain bike culture and lifestyle'. Fully independent, over the past several years Bicycle Nightmares has grown to become one of the foremost media outlets for life outside of the tape. In this first instalment of Disposed, Héctor gives us insight into six photographs that have played a seminal role in his life but slipped through the cracks.

When I was recovering from my first knee surgery, some days I used to shoot photos at La Poma with a borrowed Sony A200 DSRL that my dad once bought for my brother, and write blog posts on a Tumblr that I had called hsauraisdead. That was the very beginning of what would become Bicycle Nightmares before I even knew I was going to do that.

But for me, I got into photography when I started shooting film in mid-2014. This photo was taken in Lloret trails and is one of the first film photos that I took with a Fujifilm disposable camera. I will always remember when I told my photographer friend Murgui one day that I wanted to take photos with a different look, like Instagram filters, so I asked him if by doing it with a disposable film camera I would get that look. I definitely didn’t know anything about photography or cameras back then, but it was a start.

I had recently interviewed and featured him on Bicycle Nightmares and I was checking the Woodward site afterwards. I saw this “Work with us” application form and I thought that it could be a good idea to apply. Even though I was from Spain, maybe I would have a chance.

I contacted Jake telling him that I had applied to work at summer camp, but then he told me that it was really hard to hire a non-US citizen and that it wasn’t going to happen. But, he invited me to go to camp as a visiting pro anytime. I couldn’t believe it. I asked my dad if he could lend me money to pay for the flight, and luckily he did. I took the opportunity without thinking about it twice and a few months later I was there, at Woodward West.

Jake basically opened up the doors for me internationally. It was my first time in the US and I didn’t know anyone, but thanks to that trip, I met good people that have become my friends and have helped me many times. This is why this portrait of Jake at the trails means a lot to me. I shot it with a Kodak Retinette 1B, a 35mm film viewfinder camera that my grandfather gave me. I still didn’t know much about cameras, and when I took it, I thought that he was going to be perfectly framed, but then I saw that half his head wasn’t there. Funny enough, this is my style of taking portraits now.

'Fast forward to 2013 and I tell him my idea to start a website'

This guy right here is the other half of Bicycle Nightmares, but nobody knows. I think I was 13, and I remember watching him cruising the streets on a red 2004 Specialized Hardrock with a big Marzocchi Z1 fork doing bunny hops and wheelies and just going fast. I was amazed, I had never seen anything like that before.

My parents bought me and my brother the same bike the year after and we started riding more “serious”. Building sketchy jumps in the streets with pallets, mountain biking in the mountains… Until one day we became friends with him and started riding together. Then a new bike shop opened in town, and the owner raced downhill, so he put together a team with us. I raced for a couple years with them and then I switched to dirt Jumping in 2008.

Fast forward to 2013 and I tell him my idea to start a website. He is a web developer, so he helped me put it all together. This photo is very special for me because it shows Marc riding in the area where I grew up, an area from where I have some of the best memories with a bicycle. I was still shooting on film, and I took it with a Yashica FX-3 Super2000.

The days of film were over for me as I realized that in order to take it to the next level, I needed a digital camera. I never thought that I would spend that much money on camera gear. Well, I never thought that I would be a photographer in the first place.

In the spring of 2015, I bought my first professional DSLR, a used Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 40mm 2.8 lens. Later that year, me and my friend Nick Pescetto were in Virgin, Utah. It was my first time at Rampage and I helped him dig his line and also documented his experience in the desert. It is crazy to think that while everyone else was walking around with two cameras, a bunch of zoom lenses and gear, I was there with just one camera with a 40mm and a borrowed plastic 50mm lens from Nick, all of that covered in socks inside a small riding backpack.

Every night, after all the madness had settled, I would edit all my photos on my iPhone 5, because back then I didn’t have a proper laptop, so I had to transfer the photos to my phone through a WiFi SD card, then edit them on VSCO, then upload them onto the Dropbox app, and then finally I could open them on my shitty Toshiba and post them online. It was a crazy process that I did for over a year. I do what I do now, live the life I live, because of him.

Nick put me in touch with Marco from MTB-Mag in late 2014 and I became the Spanish editor, so thanks to him I am able to do what I do now, travel the world and still work anywhere I am. That is why this photo means a lot to me.

'There are times where things don’t work out, or I lose sight of what I am doing, not knowing if I am doing it right. I remember that nothing comes easy, and that if you really believe in something, you have to fight for it.'

I believe that mountain is Mont Blanc. I was coming back home from my first Crankworx Europe, in 2016, and let’s say that it was a week with ups and downs for me. I don’t really like shooting events. I like to take clear, simple, minimal photos, and events are definitely the complete opposite. But, in order to try to make a name for myself, I had to attend a bunch of events. That was one of them, and I not only didn’t really enjoy it, but it ended up being very expensive.

The good thing was that I got to see friends that I don’t see very often, but still made me wonder if all the things I was doing were worth it or not. I posted this photo on my Instagram and captioned it with Zig Zaglar’s quote: “Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations”.

The guy couldn’t be more right. I look back at this photo and think about all the traveling that I have done the last 4 years to capture and document the freestyle mountain bike culture and lifestyle, and although there are times where things don’t work out, or I lose sight of what I am doing, not knowing if I am doing it right, I remember that nothing comes easy, and that if you really believe in something, you have to fight for it. That is why this photo is important to me.

I took this photo in November last year, a few days before the Happy Ride jam took place at La Poma Bikepark, and the guy in the middle watering the jumps is Marin, a local Dirt Jump legend and member of the La Poma Builders crew.

That is the best time of the year to come. The crew works super hard to re-build and re-shape all the lines and have the bike park as perfect as possible. This place is my second home, the best public dirt jump spot in the world. A place where dreams come true and bones are broken. I have spent the last 12 years of my life going there and it has been a crazy ride.

To a great extent, I am who I am because of this place. It has taught me that life isn’t always easy, hurting me a lot of times, putting me in dark places; but it has also shown me that life is beautiful, giving me friends and happiness. And all because of riding a bicycle.

Check out more from Bicycle Nightmares here and be sure to follow both Bicycle Nighmares and Héctor on Instagram below

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