It’s time to face facts. I can’t ride my bike constantly. It’s just not possible. The human condition stipulates that I at least take some of my time to eat, sleep, and have at least some, albeit usually awkward, human interaction. So be it. You can’t win them all I guess.
Whether weather, scheduling, or unabashed laziness, there are circumstances that foil our best attempts to permanently fix ourselves to our saddles. Don’t sweat it though. I have a way to get your cycling fix from the comfort of your couch, or loveseat, or whatever luxurious seating apparatus you have at your disposal. Get your popcorn ready; we’re going to the movies (not literally, though, don’t ask me to go to the movies with you).
I multitask with the best of them—just ask my wife (don’t ask her)—so even while not riding my bike I immerse myself in the wonderful world of cycling through movies—all while still getting my chores done. I made a list. I crafted this list not as an end all list of cycling movies, but simply my favorites.
Movies are a great way to lose your self. Like music, they afford us an opportunity to exit our own existence and live in someone else’s for a while. They can make us appreciate what we have, yearn for something better, or simply take us somewhere new—if only temporarily. All of these films do one or all of these things. I know I’ll never get the chance to do the things the cyclists or even mechanics get to do in these films—so I love to let myself live in their stories for just a while.
I want to make something clear right off the bat: This list is by no means a marker of great quality. In fact, several of these films are on my favorites list precisely because of their lack of said quality. Sometimes a bad film can be just as, if not more, entertaining than a good one. But don’t fret; this is no list of stinkers. There is some real quality cinema on this list. Let’s take a look:
I’m impatient, so I’ll start with my favorites:
The Triplets of Belleville
A quirky, animated tale of a grandmother who must rescue her son, a professional cyclist, who is kidnapped during a stage of the Tour de France. This movie is legitimately good—it has won awards and stuff—but also extremely entertaining. I aspire to have calves like his one day.
A Sunday in Hell
A classic to be sure, A Sunday in Hell, follows favorites Roger de Vlaeminck and Eddy Merckx as they take on the Hell of the North, otherwise known as Paris-Roubaix. Beware; this movie will make you itch to punish yourself on the bike.
I was rightly chastised when I started working at Cadence for never having seen Breaking Away—something I’m now embarrassed to admit. Brady literally insisted I watched it as soon as I could muster. I’m glad I did. It’s a coming of age story and all that, but more importantly, there is plenty of bike racing and even some motor pacing from a semi-truck—which Brady tells me, impressively was not edited. They literally filmed the kid riding behind a semi at over 50 MPH. I’m not sure if I actually believe it, but hey, why not?
Stars and Watercarriers
From the same filmmakers that did A Sunday in Hell, Stars and Watercarriers this time follows the Giro d’Italia. This is cycling in its prime. What I adore about these movies is that they are not just rehashing what happens in the race. It’s more about everything in the periphery. The lead-up, preparations, the caravan, everything else other than the race, turns out to be just as exciting as all the pedaling.
Young BMX racer, Cru Jones, endeavors to win a race called “Helltrack.” ‘nuff said. Amazing 80s BMX montages, and a love story to boot make this one of my absolute favorites of all time.
1986 was a good year. It brought us both Rad and Quicksilver, and while we’re at it, some of the coolest people I know, myself included. Kevin Bacon becomes a bike messenger. I know I probably had you at “Kevin Bacon,” but this movie is also filled with fantastic 80s cycling scenes that feature some bike handling that is still impressive today.
I’m not gonna lie. This movie is really really bad. So bad that it is really really entertaining. So bad that Nicole Kidman, in her first movie role ever, could not save it. That said, you need to see this movie. I’ll give you a quick rundown of a couple of my favorite scenes and you decide if it is worth your time. Here’s a hint: it is.
Scene: Australians don pig masks and rob a band by driving a gloriously 80s van through the front window.
Scene: Bad guys are about to mow down a group of 100+ kids riding BMX bikes in their direction with a trunk full of semi-automatic weapons. (I’m not making this up, watch the movie). When Nicole Kidman closes the trunk and throws away the key. The villains are not fully thwarted though, until the mass of bike riding 12 year olds rides by throwing bags of flour at them. Yup.
And at the end, they somehow get the money to build a sweet BMX track. What else do you need to know? You know it is quality cinematography when the whole movie is available on YouTube.
There it is, my friends. This is what you’re doing on your next rainy day stuck inside. Curl up under a warm blanket and dream of cycling glory, and Australians in pig masks…
Have you ever gotten lost in the depths of YouTube? Well I just did. And let me report that there is some weird stuff out there. There is also plenty that will amaze you. Here are two bike related videos that I found in the depths of YouTube that will redefine what you think is possible on a bike. If you thought you were a good bike handler, think again.