Our Unknown

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Arc’teryx Grant Application

Proposed by
Erik Douds, Annalisa van den Bergh, Ben Weaver, and Keenan DesPlanques

April 30th, 2019


1. Provide a summary of your project.

The adventure cyclists behind Miles of Portraits and Music for Free are setting off this Fall with their instruments and cameras to document New England communities in a collaborative tour called Our Unknown. Through poetry, free public events, film, art installations, and photography, the Arc’teryx bike-documentary captures everyday people’s stories about coping with the unknown.



Ben, Annalisa, Keenan, and Erik are at the forefront of the emerging adventure cycling, bikepacking, and urban bike commuter communities. Their personal stories draw audiences that consist of people managing chronic illness, appreciate music and spoken word poetry, and are inspired by the natural beauty of wild places like Alaska.

They already have a national audience with Music For Free being accepted into the 5Point Film Festival and Miles of Portraits screening at 13 REI locations across the country.

Their work has gained national media attention appearing in The Washington Post’s The Lily, the REI Co-op Journal, the cover story for Adventure Cyclist, Vimeo’s “Staff Picks,” Kickstarter’s “Projects We Love”, and lastly, in the wide-eyed passersby who approach them when they lean their fully-loaded bicycles against supermarket walls around the world.

To define them more precisely, the national non-profit Adventure Cycling Association, responsible for connecting the east to west coast by bicycle, labels adventure cyclists as college educated, earning income in the top ten percentage of the national average, riding frequently each week, and planning on taking a national or international tour regardless of the economy. Because of these statistics, we strive to compliment this audience by seeking out a wider set of diversity by drawing in those we meet in rural communities and by making our story-sharing experiences open to all.

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Establishing a New Market

The brand can expand by adding a new category –– “Adventure Cyclists.” The team goes to wild places with their bicycles. Their photographs and stories are proof that Arc’teryx fits into their mission to explore the world by bike. They would propose to be Arc’teryx’s first team of athletes to bring this brand into a new market that has long been embracing your gear and products.

The adventure cyclist community uses Arc’teryx gear on trips because of it’s high-performance and versatility that withstands the rapidly changing conditions that happen on the bike.

The proof is choosing the flat sole of the Arakys Approach shoe to complete the 4,300 mile Trans America cycling route; wearing the Zeta AR jacket to withstand storms that sweep the peaks of Denali National Park; and observing countless adventure cyclists wearing Arc’teryx gear over their 20,000+ miles of riding.


The Team

“They remind us all how the bike is the ultimate vehicle to freedom and connection with others.”
(Jim Sayer, Executive Director of Adventure Cycling)


The Route

“Our Unknown” is a 400+ mile route from Boston, Massachusetts to the coast of Portland Maine and inwards to the ski town of Burlington, Vermont. The tour happening in the fall of 2019 follows a network of Adventure Cycling Association’s bicycle routes linking the Atlantic Coast Route, Northern Tier, and Green Mountains Loop.

When outside the urban environment, adventure cycling travels at a pace where stops are made in every-day small towns that are often cut-off by freeway travel and the rush of commuter traffic.

The four hundred mile route highlights the United States’ extensive national bike network (the largest in the world). After attending the NY Times Travel Show, the team has made connections with each state’s tourism board that can help identify public spaces for events, while also joining promotional efforts.

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Public Events Open to All

Our team is no stranger to tackling endurance feats while hosting public gatherings. Music For Free put on eight scheduled concerts along the Continental divide; Miles of Portraits rolled their bicycles into seven REI locations across the Southwest.


We would work in close coordination with the Arc’teryx marketing team to plan an appropriate amount of community-based, free events in locations such as Arc’terx storefronts, firehouses, town parks, and Warmshowers hosts’ backyards.

Arc’teryx’s ethos of giving back to communities can be strengthened by building bridges between metropolitan areas and the drive-by cities and towns that do not garner the typical attention of advertising campaigns like this one.


Film + Community-Based Art Installation

The team has a unique skill set of touring while filmmaking allowing a more visceral story. Every uphill, every flat tire, every question is felt by each cyclist. We can use this to come together to share a story that captures Arc’teryx’s audience members to see how this brand enables adventure and community building.

Online communities are brought into the experience through the portrait photography series based on the success from Miles of Portraits. Raw images of those we meet, unfiltered experiences since the bicycle has no walls, can be seen by everyone.

Our Unknown transforms into a bigger piece by bringing a community-based art installation inside the Arc’teryx storefront or online blog. Imagine walking into the Boston flagship store to be greeted by faces and stories of those that we met on this tour.

Ben Weaver has experience using a printing press to distribute poetry and a piece from this trip could be sold or distributed at stores.


2. Specify the geographical location of the project and the community it supports.

“Our Unknown” follows a network of Adventure Cycling Association’s bicycle routes linking the Atlantic Coast Route, Northern Tier, and Green Mountains Loop. City audiences can join us in places like Boston, Massachusetts; Portland, Maine; and Burlington, Vermont.

When outside the urban environment, adventure cycling travels at a pace where stops are made in every-day small towns that are often cut-off by freeway travel and the rush of commuter traffic.

Arc’teryx stores in Boston, Portland Dry Goods in Portland, Maine, or Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont can be transformed into community hubs. The space for conversation also expands to places like libraries and farm-to-table restaurants in Vermont and Maine.

Our stories touch upon living with disabilities, raising a child as a single parent, dealing with the grief of losing a parent, and battling with leukemia as a child.

Arc’teryx fits into these wild spaces with faces that do not fit into the typical media because your gear and spirit is what motivates us to not wait for someday.

3. Provide details of any existing relationship(s) you have with our retail stores.

Hyo Kim, from Arc’teryx SoHo, New York, has selected Annalisa and Erik as local ambassadors because of their work with Miles of Portraits.

Our adventure photography from Miles of Portraits: Alaska is featured in the April edition of Adventure Cyclist that has a readership over 100,000 people. Arc’Teryx gear naturally made it in-print because we wore it during our trip. In addition, the article is freely available to download because it serves as an advocacy piece for what it means to live with type 1 diabetes.

In an effort to give back to the community, Miles of Portraits: Alaska collaborated with Arc’teryx Soho to donate Arc’teryx duffle bags from New York to Anchorage, Alaska in the summer of 2018 to support endurance athlete Lael Wilcox’s non-profit GRIT (Girls Riding Into Tomorrow). Her organization, co-founded by Cait Rodriguez, is an afterschool program that teaches girls leadership and bicycle skills throughout the school year.

This May, Erik spoke at the Arc’teryx showcase store in SoHo in partnership with Creative Mornings to share with community members on how to build sponsorship partnerships to enable more adventures.

4. Explain how this project will benefit Arc’teryx’s community of current and future users.

The team bringing you Miles of Portraits and Music for Free hosts national screenings and talks to inspire people of any age to seek adventure through bicycle riding.

During a talk at an REI in Massachusetts, Mark Roland, a retired Green Beret U.S. veteran, felt compelled to stand up in front of the audience and give this impromptu speech on how Annalisa and Erik have changed his life.

In his eyes, they show him that despite the constant fears of managing a complex disease like type 1 diabetes that you can go out and ride your bike. That you can move past these constant threats and obstacles to enjoy the simple things in life. That recognizing "life is short" is the ultimate motivation to chase your dreams today.

The Arc’teryx community can be expanded by those that want to adventure by bicycle. We have worn your Arakys Approach Shoe shoes across America and used the Theta RX Jackets as rain –– and mosquito –– armor in Denali National Park, Alaska.

Your current and future community can tap into retirees and millennials who seek to explore in a new way –– under their own power. We can teach them to taste wilderness by pitching a tent under a red sequoia or inspire them to set off on their next adventure by train and return by bicycle.

5. Explain how your project will benefit the community you operate within and inspire its members to take action.

This past April, Adventure Cyclist Magazine made a stigma-breaking decision to feature Annalisa taking a shot of insulin on the cover. Annalisa and Erik’s article, The Ups and Downs of Touring with Type 1, tells the story of their Alaska bike trip through the lens of the blood sugar graphs they use to manage their type 1 diabetes.

Ben Weaver continues to show that even a single-father can raise a child while riding a bike and performing concerts. Our team stands as proof that you do not have to wait for someday and that the bicycle is the ultimate vehicle to freedom and connection with others.

The hardest part to traveling is getting out the door. Through in-person events, long conversations over dinner, film, and photography, they have been able to inspire folks to get out on the road as well as empower people living with type 1 diabetes to join a local bike team and ride.

6. How would our donation help you to achieve success in your project?

Arc’teryx represents the intersection of passion and expertise providing the gear needed for adventure cycling, while maintain values to disconnect from the digital and embrace our surroundings. A grant enables us to produce a film series, concert series, written poetry, and become the bridge between communities to ignite conversations amongst us.

Specifically, this grant allows us to hire the talent that is capable of bicycle touring while managing and executing public events. You are looking at a unique skill set that has accomplished feats such as riding across America multiple times –– all while producing award-winning pieces of content.

7. How will you measure the success of your project?

The ultimate measure of success are the adventures we inspire people to go on.

Beyond that though, we’d also request discount codes to give away to our community via social media, events, and word of mouth. Over 13 REI talks, we’ve seen many audience members walk out of the store with our sponsors’ products including those of Arc’teryx. Our events also leave people more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about our sponsors. Having discount codes would be a way to measure the impact our stories have on the brand.

8. Identify any potential risks or legal challenges associated with pursuing this project.

We hold the photography, screening, and music rights to all work produced by Miles of Portraits and Ben Weaver. We can discuss any potential sponsorship conflicts, although we have experience of making them partnerships where all teams benefit.


Total Proposed Cost: $15,000*

*donation can be accepted by 501(c)3 Adventure Cycling Association based in Missoula, Montana

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