In 2014, Mac Ferrari launched Bikestormz, a community of young mountain bikers, with the aim of providing a positive outlet for underprivileged youth from across London. You might have seen them doing wheelies around the city, or leading protests against knife crime on its streets, under the motto: “Bikes up, knives down.”
Bikestormz’ latest project, however, has taken seven of its riders way beyond the city limits, to the remote countryside of Scotland. Why? Because there lies Bealach na Bà, the UK’s longest downhill road, and they were going to ride it.
Filmmaker Alex Tiernan masterminded the trip to Scotland after becoming familiar the Bikestormz group, and he documents their adventures in a newly-released film titled Freedom Road. “The original idea was to centre the film around a group of youths who had never left their city,” he tells Dazed. “I was struck by how common a reality this is in the UK.”
“Spending a bit of time with them it became apparent that, aside from wheelies and dodging buses, the other thing they got a kick out of was hill bombs,” he adds. “Obviously there’s limited scope for that in the city. So I got looking for the longest downhill road in the UK which, as it turns out, couldn’t be further from London.”
Through his lens, we see many members take their first trip outside of the English capital, and come to terms with the rugged nature of the Scottish Highlands. Then, of course, there’s the ride itself: one long wheelie down Bealach na Bà in the pouring rain, captured through cinematic aerial shots (this ride is not for the fainthearted).
More importantly, however, Freedom Road captures the tight bonds that Ferrari has formed through Bikestormz, shining through in tender moments around the campfire as they anticipate the steep downhill ride ahead of them. “Mac has built a real family unit around Bikestormz,” says Tiernan. “The bond between the riders was apparent from the moment I met them, and I could tell it went far beyond a shared passion for bikes… Still, I wasn’t anticipating the sincerity of their reactions. The awe and vulnerability with which they opened up was extremely moving. I think it speaks not just to the raw experience we were sharing, but the real strength of friendship between them.”
Watch Bikestormz take on Bealach na Bà in Freedom Road here.