Best of 2020 - Deniz's List

Photos Deniz Merdano
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A month by month photo story (Best Viewed on Big Screen)

2020 started off quite alright. Oblivious to what lay ahead, I was excited for a creative, fulfilling, and productive year. As my usual winter practices unfolded, I was residing in Western Spain through December '19 and January '20. I don't need to brag about the 25-degree Celsius New Years Day and the abundance of sunshine in contrast to what my friends on the 49th parallel were experiencing.

I eventually returned to Canada and moved into a new home with my partner as the Covid lockdown poked its ugly head though the door. We had a lot to do still and bikes were the only outlet we had to make it through the spring.

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The name of Exclusivity is spelled U-N-N-O.


Unno Factory visit and a taste of the Catalan, Barcelona.

Part way into January, the sunny warm weather in Mediterranean Spain quickly turned into a cold snowy mess for a week. It took everyone by surprise. My anticipated quick 3-hour drive from Valencia to Barcelona to visit UNNO became a real challenge. I managed to get myself to the amazing UNNO headquarters the following week and I was fortunate enough to chat with the Cesar Rojo and all the people that make UNNO frames so unique.

I published my first Behind the Brand article later on and was hooked on the process immediately.

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Built to order, built by hand in Barcelona.

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One expensive bun in the oven.

unno ever downhill bike

Unno Ever


Basque Country and the Orbea Factory Visit

Still riding on the high of my visit to UNNO in Barcelona, I managed to organize a visit to the mystical Basque Country and the Orbea Bikes Factory in Mallabia, Spain. This visit was quite special as I not only got a highly exclusive tour of the facilities but also sampled some of the most beautiful singletrack there is in that part of the world. Early February also happened to be the right time to crack open the 8ton Oak barrels of Apple Cider in Sagardotegias. The overall experience of food, bikes and culture will stay with me to the grave.


The famous lighthouse of San Sebastian. Amazing curvy roads for bikes are all around it.


The rugged coastline has incredible singletrack to ride on a mountain bike.


France on the other side of the channel, beautiful high-speed ridgeline trails on this side. Hondarribia.


Sometimes the only way to cross the mountains is to go through them.


The Forbidden Druid arrives.

It was time to come back home to Canada. Many boxes awaited me with great anticipation. One of them was from Forbidden Bikes. With the help of brands like Marzocch, Shimano, WeAreOne Composites and Enve Composites, my long term review bike was born.

The Druid is a 130mm high-pivot trail bike that defied all convention and proved to me but also anyone in the business of riding bikes, that with the correct geometry and suspension kinematics, a 130mm bike could ride at speeds and places that none of us thought was possible. Wit its idler pulley isolating pedalling forces from the suspension movement and the high-pivot location creating a rearward axle path, the shortish travel Druid ascended and descended like no other bike could. I only expect to replace the 130mm Druid with a longer travel version once it is available.

I recently replaced the very capable Fox DPX2 Shock that is stock on the Druid with an L/L tune Rockshox Super Deluxe Coil - the 350-lb. spring is perfect and the increased rear wheel traction is very noticeable. The grippy Maxxis Assegais front and back with Tannus tubeless tire inserts are also a perfect match for the aggressive nature of the bike.


The Forbidden Bikes Druid is a dream machine.


Nimble, agile and incredibly supple. Photo - Pete Roggeman



Lockdown and no cars on the roads.

Most people stuck inside with gyms and roads closed, mountain bikers took it to the trails for venting. The busy driving roads up to local trails were now in the use of bikers and walkers. You could social distance easily across a three lane ski hill access road. There were no fears of getting plowed down by a shuttle vehicle. We all got fitter in return as well.

Pete Roggeman took delivery of his Transition Bikes Sentinel V2 and I was excited to photograph it in front of a Covid shut-down golf course.


I think Pete Roggeman likes the Sentinel.


Transition revised the Sentinel and made the design more modern.


April is the liquid sunshine month.


I got to ride and shoot with very fast Tim Coleman this year, too. He called me up to go for a few photoshoots. His willingness to push back up for another take was strange for me. My usual photojournalistic style of shooting was morphing into something a little more curated. I quickly started experimenting with different vantage points and compositions.

It was also amazing to nerd out with him on suspension and tire technologies. His vast knowledge of settings was a great learning tool to improve my bike setup.


Tim Coleman on my favourite trail built by an amazing trail fairy.


Big lines with big smiles for some daring souls.


We chased the warm early summer light on the daily.


It was a crazy time for bikes in June. Bike shops all around the world were working at 150% capacity to meet the demand. The trails were packed, and for me, riding and shooting was mostly on hold. However, I got to go on a couple of really good rides and got some meaningful photographs.


Sanesh Iyer rides his Chromag to the limits.


Elladee Brown in the green room.


Friendly hound-dogging on the tight trails.


July was mostly a repeat of June in the activity sense. I did find some time to get away for a few days close to home and visit some hidden gems.


The mozzies were out of control this year...


...but there were lots of beauty to be found close to home.

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Ferns the size of cars grow in the old forest.


When things calmed down a little, we met up with friends and local trail-builders to explore their Covid builds. It really was a special moment how the abundance of time gave us some of the best trails we have ever ridden.


Sierra gracefully glides through the angry looking landscape.


Blaise easing it down a gorgeous bit of trail.


Freestyle skier by trade, Leif Wilson can dance a bike on its very limits.


Got to dust off the film camera for this one. Trevor Mahon on the Pemberton Slabs.



This particular North Shore feature was popular this year. Graham had no trouble putting it in his regular hits catalogue.


How I see Andrew Major through my lens. Chugging his way up the hills like a diesel engine. Never not impressive!


Friends in glorious light...I get to ride with some fast women on the shore.


I've had this idea for a photograph. Finding a sweet singletrack in the smack middle of the metropolitan city of Vancouver and shooting it from a bird's eye view.

The vantage point was a little tricky in the full summer bloom. Trees full of leaves and dark shadows of the summer would not have worked well. The autumn foliage and thinned out trees lined up perfectly for a low contrast sunny October day. To pull this off, I arranged a day with the legendary Elladee Brown to shoot and explore the trails of Stanley Park. It was a great success. Legs and the mind were nice and tired by the end of it. Who would have thought we could get a shot like this in the middle of the city?


A shot I've been contemplating for some time now.


Thinned out foliage was the ideal way to get a through shot.


The shore is an incredible place with many Candelabra trees.


Vincent Liu on a high speed pursuit through the lower sections of Cypress mountain.


Riding is good.. like.. really good.

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Steven Matthews pilots the new Rocky Mountain Altitude in the North Shore Airspace.


Graham Driedger has been reborn on the new Altitude, too.


As we dig deeper into dark and gloomy months, the uncertainty of even the nearest future is unnerving. But there is a glowing sky above and a challenging, winding trail to push ahead.


Cam McRae doing Cam things....

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+5 Vik Banerjee Pete Roggeman Deniz Merdano Beau Miller Merwinn

wow - that last shot of Cam is stellar


+2 Andrew Major Beau Miller

We got some real treat of a light that day..

I think Cam is working on a piece that will have a few more samples from the shoot..

Thank you!


+3 Deniz Merdano Beau Miller Pete Roggeman

Great photo epic. That shot in Stanley Park is awesome, it's like a Where's Waldo -- really draws you into the photo.


+4 Beau Miller Pete Roggeman Poz Andrew Major

Now I have to convince someone that it needs to be a mural!


+2 Deniz Merdano Pete Roggeman

Came for the gorgeous pics of the Druid, and was not disappointed. Those (along with your in-depth review) definitely nudged me towards getting one, and I am stoked on it. Forbidden should compensate you (free idler pulleys for life!) for that, or just hire you for doing press shots.


+1 Hbar

What a sweet ride, hey? 

You got a complete or a custom build?

It would be awesome to work with them for sure.. maybe they'll see this. ;)


+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major

complete build. They did a really good job on the spec at the price (though they might want to read some of the fine min-max articles on here--they put XT where I'd have put SLX/Deore)



Hopefully they see this one too.... 

Like Hbar your article and sweet sweet pics also greatly influenced by Druid buying decision. Free idler pulleys 4 life much deserved! (and in all serious, thanks for the great information and review!).



I too, factor your Druid article as one of the main reasons for me purchasing one. I ordered my XT complete in September and could not be happier. Thank you and please, if you do get the new long-travel (Dreadnought?) bike, give it the same treatment!


+2 Deniz Merdano Merwinn

Thoroughly enjoyed these!



Thank you! Happy new year!


+2 Deniz Merdano Merwinn

Very nice Deniz.   Great collection. And dang both the Forbidden and Sentinel are good looking bikes.



Thanks Mike!

Hope to share a few more rides with you and Ben this year!


+1 Merwinn

Great concept, and love the photo epic. That was a treat, thanks for sharing!


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