Beyond Huayhuash: How Three First-Time Bikepackers Made the Best MTB Film of The Year (So Far!)

Think you need a mas­sive film crew and a fleet of sup­port vehi­cles to make a sick moun­tain bike film? Think again. In eight days, with only the gear they could car­ry on their own backs, Joey Schusler and two of his bud­dies filmed Huay­huash, the most stun­ning moun­tain bike film of the year so far.

The three friends from Col­orado flew to the Peru­vian Andes with their moun­tain bikes and cameras—a “spur-of-the-moment trip,” accord­ing to Joey—aiming to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the com­pact, rugged Cordillera Huay­huash, 20 miles of peaks rang­ing upward of 22,000 feet. With­in six months, the idea of the trip had gone from googling the words “beau­ti­ful moun­tains, South Amer­i­ca” to the trio land­ing in Lima. “None of us had ever gone bikepack­ing before or gone that deep into the back­coun­try unsup­port­ed,” Joey says.

If what they say is true—that real adven­ture doesn’t begin until some­thing goes wrong—it wasn’t long before their adven­ture was quite real. Maybe more so than they would have liked. The sweet, end­less miles of sin­gle­track were spiced with a gnarly crash—and ensu­ing concussion—and gun-point­ing locals. All of which was cap­tured on film with the high-alti­tude peaks glow­er­ing in the background.

Uphill

Joey and fel­low film­mak­er Thomas Wood­son don’t have any for­mal film­mak­ing background—just lots of prac­tice and men­tor­ship. Joey helps out with video con­tent at Yeti Cycles in Gold­en, Colo., and debuted a short film about a moun­tain bik­ing road trip to Cana­da last year, The Bus. The duo went to work edit­ing when they got home from Peru, and the result­ing flick, which debuted at the 5 Point Film Fes­ti­val in April, touch­es a mag­ic bal­ance between look­ing like the dream trip of a life­time and some­thing you could do yourself.

We tracked Joey down to find out how he and his friends pulled off what might be the best moun­tain bike film of the year. This is what he said.

Trav­el will always come with a hitch—or sev­er­al. Be ready to roll with them. 
“On the bus ride from Lima to Huaraz before we start­ed the trip, we had a cam­era lens and all of the mem­o­ry cards for the trip stolen,” Joey says. “I went back to Lima and tracked down some more mem­o­ry cards in a not-so-legit cam­era store. Luck­i­ly, they worked. From there, every­thing went fair­ly smooth­ly, aside from the few sketchy encoun­ters we had while out on our trek. I had a pret­ty bad crash and got a con­cus­sion, then the next day we had a gun pulled on us. There were plen­ty of sketchy moments, but that’s what made it all a great adventure.”

Reflection

Be as pre­pared as you can be for mechan­i­cal issues—and bad con­di­tions. 
“We had the basics cov­ered,” he says. “Chain lube, extra chain links, tubes, patch kit, spare derailleur, spare bolts, basic tools, etc. This was enough to keep the bikes rolling, but if some­thing seri­ous were to hap­pen we would have been a bit hosed. We def­i­nite­ly got lucky on the mechan­i­cal side of things.

“The tough­est part of film­ing the trip was def­i­nite­ly bat­tling the rain,” Joey says. “It would rain every after­noon and on and off through out the morn­ing. We were in a con­stant bat­tle with Moth­er Nature to keep the cam­eras work­ing. On top of that, there was nowhere to recharge bat­ter­ies on the loop, so we end­ed up just hav­ing to car­ry a week’s worth of bat­ter­ies and mem­o­ry cards.”

You don’t need a film crew or stu­dio to make a rad film—just the right, light gear. 
We used a Sony FS700 as our main cam­era. It’s incred­i­bly pow­er­ful and cre­at­ed some beau­ti­ful images. It’s also real­ly light, so it’s per­fect for adven­tures like this. On top of that, we used Canon lens­es and had a Canon 5D and 7D as back­up video and stills cam­eras. We had a super-light Git­zo tri­pod and paid that with the Lite Pro Gear feath­er crane. Toss in a few GoPros, a bunch of bat­ter­ies and mem­o­ry cards, and that’s about it.

Bite off more than you can chew. It will be awe­some.
Look­ing back, it was def­i­nite­ly a big­ger risk than I had envi­sioned, but it’s prob­a­bly bet­ter that way,” Joey says. To oth­ers think­ing about try­ing some­thing like this, he sug­gests prac­tic­ing bikepack­ing a lit­tle beforehand—or not. “You’ll learn faster that way!”

Tired

“No amount of plan­ning will guar­an­tee a project of this nature com­ing togeth­er in the end,” he says. “The best thing to do is just come up with an idea and make it hap­pen, no mat­ter what it takes.”

The most impor­tant thing he learned from the trip? 
“Cheesy cous­cous will fix all your prob­lems after a long day on the bike in the rain.”