Thursday, November 11

Movie Review: Bicycle Dreams

I've recently watched Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010. I've known about the Ride Across America (or as it is commonly known RAAM) since I bought a book on long distance cycling which referenced RAAM frequently, and in the course of watching and reading about the two other movies and events (Tour Divide and Leadville Trail 100 respectively) I came across a movie called Bicycle Dreams which is a documentary of the 2005 RAAM.

While the Tour Divide and the Leadville 100 both appeal to me on a deep level, the RAAM is something I feel I could do without in life. Maybe, if I were younger, single, no kids...maybe I would decide I was crazy enough to get on my bike in San Diego and turn it east and try to beat some other crazy people to Atlantic City, New Jersey 3,051.7 miles away. The winner typically makes it in 8 to 9 days.

However, watching the movie, while not inspiring me to go sign up for the race, has helped me to understand a bit why I am drawn to endurance events and activities. The film focuses a lot on the racers' thoughts about why they do endurance rides.

To sum it up and not go into an individual analysis of each of the riders it is this: you ride to you limit, wherever that might end up being.

Some of the riders talk about the realness of the experience, that our society avoids real experiences and that by taking on the challenge of a ride like RAAM that the participants are stepping outside what is normal, and as ordinary people they find they can do extraordinary things.

Despite the message the movie was revealing I found myself uninterested. At first the film labored along like a cyclist up a long 6% climb. And then one tragic event, which changed the tone and pace of the film, and which you can see also changed the tone and pace of the race in 2005 drags you in and from that point on you are hanging on for dear life, sharing the saddle, and the pain, and the delirium of the ride with the racers.

I still feel like Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010 have more profoundly affected me as a cyclist and as a person who is compelled to find my own limits. But Bicycle Dreams examines in more detail the reasons why, the motivations behind and the strength it takes to find a way to keep going, days after comfort should have taken over and stopped all forward momentum.

This movie shows you how a person can be stripped down past ego, past willpower and then build themselves back up to a person who can face and meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge.

For me, the most heart wrenching scenes were of one rider after he found out about the earlier tragedy in the race and how he struggled against himself and his crew to find the strength and will to go on. He felt betrayed by his crew because they withheld information from him that profoundly affected his will to continue and finish.

In silence he continues for a short time before finally, and defiantly stepping out of the race.

My favorite part is when Chris MacDonald explains how endurance races appeal to us because they get us out of our comfort zone and how they contrast our modern convenience filled lifestyle. He describes a feeling of people missing something that they can not identify but that is very tangible and how that translates into the desire to test our limits.

The movie follows the standard format for cycling films. Since cycling events involve individuals with unique motivations, experiences and backgrounds and since they follow a linear path through time and space it is difficult to step out of the format, and for that you can forgive the filmmakers. I think they do a fantastic job of getting into the minds of the riders and showing and explaining what is going on under the helmet.

This film is on par with Ride the Divide and Race Across the Sky 2010. I would recommend it to any cycling enthusiast or any endurance enthusiast.

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