The human engine is worth celebrating. In this series, we speak to commuters around the world to discover why they choose to commute by bike, and what it means to use the human engine.
Unlocking the system
For most commuters it starts with a job, then comes the commute. For Oliver Hooson it was the opposite – his career was built around him commuting.
Oliver Hooson is a London based photographer, influencer, coffee connoisseur and the person behind the running club ‘Your friendly runners’. He is also a cyclist, a bike lover of the most devoted kind, and a 100 percent committed all-weathers, all distances, always riding type of commuter.
”My favourite commute takes me through the central, financial district. It’s incredible. You are swallowed by all these incredible skyscrapers, the channels of wind can be the best or the worst thing, the narrow bike lanes. It feels like you are in a film. The big houses, the expensive air of the place, you go on lunch, into a cafe and the juxtaposition with all the suited people around you… That’s my muse, the high rise financial area of London. That’s where I take a lot of inspiration for my photography.”
Oliver has a long-time love relationship, almost an obsession, with cafes and coffee. The space a cafe is, a place created by humans for other humans, that creates community, safety and serenity, is something meaningful to him. Sometimes it is easier to get to know a place with certain parameters set, and when first moving to London seven years ago, cafes became the starting point for Oliver's exploration of the city. He started biking around the city to different coffee places.
”Every morning I was free I would get up before everybody got to work and go ride. I must have done hundreds and hundreds of rides to specialty coffee shops. I managed to map the city so well. I didn’t know it at the time, but that also shaped my career. I couldn’t have done it without the bike.”
He started building a network and getting to know people in the biking community and in the coffee industry. In his case, the commute came before the job. With his sense for style and aesthetics, devotion to the art of photography and coffee, as well as his deep love for biking and bicycles he soon made a name for himself first in London, later internationally. Today he is a well-hired photographer working with fashion, interior and sports.
The first bike he was proud to own was a fixed gear bought from an Italian bike messenger (“I loved that bike. If I would have been able to fit it in my bedroom I would have slept with it by my side”). By now he has owned a number of different bikes. Currently his bread and butter bike, his daily ride, is a beige steel Temple gravel bike that he has spent hours and hours on adjusting to fit his needs. He used to work for a coffee company as an in-house photographer but for some time he is a full-time freelancer always biking to his different assignments. He moves around the city at dazzling speeds with his camera and lenses mounted on the front in a bump-safe Peli case and, if needed, tripod and light stand on the back.
”To bike through the city… It's the most fantastic thing. That amazing feeling of passing by buses, cars, people. You are in the rat race but you are the fastest person. I love that feeling.”
Oliver's love story with biking goes back to BMXing way back when being a young kid in North Wales, making trails, digging up tracks and riding in the woods, cruising the town with his friends. As he got older he got inspired by the fixed-gear scene. And the move to London in 2015 introduced him to the big city, heavy traffic, commuter style of biking. Now biking is a lifestyle to him, a part of his everyday. A cheat code making his commutes instead of being a time to rub elbows with stressed strangers in a packed, sweaty underground train. A time for himself moving through the elements, through the city. It gives him as he says a sense of freedom, a sense of life.
”I tend to have the best conversations when cycling. Being on the open road, the hand-eye coordination, the focus of the body, the concentration without thinking, it’s very freeing. It allows you to really be in a creative thought and process.”
Oliver's Commuting Essentials_
Photos: Oscar Tan