I met Paolo in Mongolia, of all places, when we were both working on the immense and ridiculously beautiful event that is the Mongolia Bike Challenge, back in, I’m going to say 2015 but I may be wrong.

Anyway, we immediately got on. I’d never met an Italian that could deadpan so perfectly before. Truly he has a demeanour made for silent comedy and he cracked me up. Ask him, if you ever meet him, to play frisbee and you will know what I mean…

Back then he was a struggling freelance photographer who also worked in a bar if I remember rightly, so perhaps truer to say he was a barman with a photography problem…

His photos showed that this was a gift however, definitely not a problem. He somehow manages to convey a certain minimalism of being into his images as well as, deftly, his own sense of humour, and anyone who knows anything about taking photos or even just looking at them will know – that is an extremely rare gift.

In the years since we’ve worked together on another two or three Mongolia Bike Challenges, as well as on a project in Matsushima, Japan, and at the Taiwan KOM Challenge also. In that time, he has gone on to become a successful freelance photographer and his work has gone from strength to strength.

In my opinion he is the best cycling photographer I have ever seen bar none, and one of the best photographers full stop that I’ve come across. I’m excited to see how his work will develop.

I asked him to select four of his favourite cycling images and a short text explaining a bit about his twin passions, as a contribution to the Bicycle Club magazine that I edit here in Taiwan, and this is what he sent. Scroll down for links to his IG and website.

Thank you, Paolito.


Paolo Penni Martelli

It’s always hard for me to define photography and when I try to do it, my heart goes to the only element that stands above all other crIteria: the sun.

As a photographer, I have to understand and follow its rules; I can play with them, but I can’t change them. It’s a matter of patience and feeling.

You can use the light to address the eye of the viewer wherever you want to, or need to.

These four photos have cycling in common, but I’m sure they can move emotions also in people that are not interested in cycling.

You need a strong subject but then you also need to create the perfect situation with it and, most of the time, the sun can help you.

A photo to be good, needs a punctum, or an answer to the question “Why is this photo good?”

The punctum is a mix between the subject you chose, what the subject is doing and the light that surrounds it, or plays with it.

I started taking pictures around 10 years ago, in Barcelona. At that time I was working as a ‘flyers man; in the streets of the city centre, giving discounts for mojitos.

I was spending a lot of time in the streets, watching people, moments… the only way not to forget those moments was to photograph them.

Cycling came into my life as unexpectedly as photography did.

About 2 years after discovering photography, I met 3 Paralympic guys in the velodrome in Barcelona. They left me speechless and that was the moment I fell in love with cycling.

Three years later my full time job was to travel all around the world photographing cycling events, (pro races, cycling adventures, the Taiwan KOM Challenge, Eroica events et cetera).

The mix of my personal point of view in photography and cycling, sometimes makes ‘a match’, and it still makes me very happy.

Let yourself be surprised by the world, everyday.

Eyes wide open.

Click to enlarge.



001- The legs of Luciano Berruti (bevoled icon of Eroica events all over the world) are having a rest after 130 km on a bicycle made in 1903, single speed and metal brakes.

Eroica Spain, 2015.

Solo rider on ridge:

002- Scouting landscapes in the Dolomites (Italy); my eyes stopped, and suddenly all the lines collided into this photo.

Riders on the bend:

003 – Barcelona, sunset, 2019. The junior team of Genesis Cycling Team (a team that promotes cycling at all levels, including especially the Paralympics) are starting their second session of the day, climbing the famous road to the Tibidabo summit, in Barcelona.

A rider gazes skyward:

004 – Menorca, 2012. Standing at the end of the road, just beside a lighthouse in Menorca, a cyclist waits for the storm to come.

Paolo’s IG:


Author: Lee Rodgers

Cycling coach, race organiser, former professional cyclist and the original CrankPunk.

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