A ride with Margus usually starts and ends in similar fashion. The middle portion, however, is always a crapshoot.
It always begins with an excited phone call or text, sometimes the night before, sometimes a few days out. The will be either super loose when the objective is to maximize fun, or super tight if there is a photo idea in his head.
We'll load up into my truck- his “city-guy” Volvo’s ground clearance sure doesn't add up to his backcountry mileage. We'll end up at the trailhead, gear will always be scaled back to its minimum, and he'll usually have at least two lenses and a Nikon body ready to go. Beers will be left in a creek or in a cooler.
It ends with me going home, later than expected. My stuff is wet, shoes especially, my bike is dirty - the food is long gone. Dirty clothes are piled next to the bike, first the shower, then sleep.
Adventure rides, big and small always end like this and that's the point.
For starters, 'Adventure ride' really just means any ride where you relinquish control over more variables than usual. The fewer variables you attempt to control the bigger the chances of adventure. You can end up on an adventure ride by accident, or you can stack, planning to be on an adventure from pedal stroke #1. Putting yourself in a vulnerable position, leaving more variables outside of your control, courting poor weather, overnights, wild animals etc. are all elements that can up the adventure factor. Overcoming these additional hardships is what makes those rides so worthwhile.
The adventure ride is an acquired taste. After some mastery of the technical skills required on a bike, wanting to make the whole experience harder just seems like a natural progression.
Margus Riga likes this acquired taste, and his work is a direct result of this. It seems as though Margus sets out to make every ride harder- bigger climbs, heavier packs, more photos, and always further afar.
I think it only takes one good “big ride” to get hooked. Then you start to plan overnight rides; you fumble with the awkward gear, you run your Thermarest on the outside of your pack, your Thermarest gets punctured, you fix it with superglue and begin to store it inside your backpack. After few trips to the camping store, your gear shrinks, overnights turn into 3 day traverses as you develop a surprising affinity for boil-a-bag meals. Discussing the flavor profile of rehydrated Pad Thai vs. Chana Masala becomes normal dinnertime conversation.
You begin to become more comfortable with the uncomfortable… this is where Margus has been hanging out for over 20 years.
The Margus Riga approach to photography is pretty simple, get really good at taking photos and then ride faster than your pro rider friends. Estonian born, raised in Toronto, but shaped by Coastal BC (where he moved at the age of 18) his photographs are prolific, with a style that is unmistakable; you can recognize a Riga photo from a mile away. You can almost hear the sound of tires in his photographs sliding out on root snakes.
Colloquially referred to as 'Raptor Riga' he'll beat just about anyone up the hill, and then have time to find perfect light and place the rider in a photo while they are still climbing. Good luck trying to keep up on the descent too, sometimes you think his new Genius has a throttle and he just runs it in 5th.
Riga has the multi-day trip down to a science. His system is dialed and developed from misadventures and cold nights at high elevations. Wrestling a 40 pound backpack with ease, he could be heading out for 1 night or 10, and his pack would be very close to the same size. He is fueled by his trademark backcountry meal, the 'Riga-which', a simple recipe which has been quickly adopted in our circles. On a baguette, add cured meat, fancy cheese, olive oil and butter, lots of butter. It's delicious and it keeps for days.
“Raptor Riga is, hands down, one of the best teammates you could ask for on an unmitigated wilderness adventure—especially if mountain bikes are involved. Apart from being one of the world's most inspired mountain-bike photographers, he's as tough as they come, both physically and mentally. There are few if any, mountain-bike photographers who shred as hard as Margus does in extreme terrain, and when the going gets really tough (and it always does!), he invariably has a maniacal grin on his face. And, as another mid-to-late-forties adventurer, Riga's always good for a mutual derisive scoff at our respective aches and pains as we try to ignore any and all discomfort!”
- Brice Minnigh
Margus's riding ability can only be overshadowed by his images. His images, however need proper context. He may have shot that double page spread deep in the backcountry, on day 2, at the tenth hour of riding. When everyone else is gassed he is still on the hustle.
Some of the best adventure stories I have heard come from Margus and friends' close to 20-year history in the Chilcotin; knee deep snow, unprepared nights out, bear encounters, navigation wins, and losses, ingenious MacGyver bike repairs, all the weather – downpours, rain, lightning, hail.
Accompanying those stories are my own experiences, so far every overnight ride I have joined him on something unexpected and unplanned happens. Flat truck tires, ridge top lightening storms – leading to headlamp only 2000ft descent to Lorna Lake, grizzly bears, torrential rains, snow, wild horses, blown out roads, major mechanicals with humorous solutions. These rides get remembered, for better or worse.
It is making yourself vulnerable to these elements that turn a ride into an adventure. Once the adventure bug bites you, once you run it pretty close to the red line and get away with it, they become the experiences you chase. Riga hadn't even finished putting his new Genius together before we were scheming where to break the bikes in. A quick test in front of my house, a few minutes tweaking the suspension and the bikes were loaded and we were on the road North, where adventure would surely await.