Photographers often talk about the golden hour, a magic time of day which is ironically not usually an hour, or even once a day. It’s the time around sunrise and again at sunset when the light is warmer and has more indirect glow and shadows are longer and better to work with. Watching Raechel Harding’s debut film, Fixed on Fixed, it’s clear she knows all about the golden hour. She has made the most of it with a group of women who enjoy riding bikes at that time as much as she enjoys filming them. Fixed on Fixed tracks the individual stories of five female fixed-gear cyclists and their experiences riding both separately and together. Harding also makes the most of the city during that magic time.
“It was a conscious decision,” Harding says, “shooting from 6am until 11pm, then back from 3pm to 7pm. Even though it made for long days, it gave the riders time to recover in between.”
Harding’s “self-funded passion project” took about nine months from inception to completion, and was filmed over three distinct blocks in three distinct styles.
For each block Harding used a different camera. The internal footage, shot at the Paterson Building in Smith Street used the Red EPIC (a serious, super-high definition, light, portable, professional camera) for the slow motion. “For the next shooting block we used the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (a digital super-16 camera only just bigger than a phone) which was relatively new at the time, light and portable. This was for the non-moving street stuff. The final block was filmed using a MOVI rig (a large stabilising device that produces steady shots while a camera is moving) from a convertible car with the top down, which allowed us to follow the riders and gave the sense that the audience was riding with them.”
All three filming styles are blended throughout the film and echo the different ways riding bikes can be enjoyed: socially, as transport, for tricks and speed, for meditation. The film is drop-dead gorgeous. And while it occasionally feels like a mini-documentary about a very small sub-subculture, the skill and professionalism of the production really set it apart.
Unlike many films about fixed-gear cycling, rather than being a procession of poorly filmed tricks set to music, Fixed on Fixed is a series of images over which the women – though voice overs – describe what riding means to them. And that’s what makes this film stand out from all the other films about fixie culture and “dudes ripping skids”: the idea that people ride for all sorts of different reasons and the culture grows from that, not the other way around.
“It’s really hard to find films that are not only female focussed, but also talk more deeply about why people ride, especially fixed gear,” Harding says.
While movies like this one are not prevalent, these women have created a strong culture within the fixed-gear scene. They’ve been riding together for a few years and their women’s riding group, Itchy: the Movement, has an international team, weekly trick sessions and even its own gear. Cycling has long been associated with the women’s movement – as early as the 1890s – so it’s great to see such a strong community of women riders in Melbourne. If you are looking to get started, GirlRide! is great, says Megan Perrier, one of the riders featured in Fixed on Fixed.
Established by two Melbourne women, Carole and Kate (who both also ride fixed), Perrier says GirlRide! is a girls-only forum to arrange rides, link in to events and articles and ask bike-related questions freely, without feeling judged. There are more than 200 local women who are members and it isn’t just about fixed-gear bikes – there’s plenty there for mountain-bike riders, cyclocross and road bikers, bike-polo players, crit racing and track sessions, which allows women who are new to bikes to get some exposure in all styles of riding.