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Motorcycle movies

Sunday, March 22, 2015 @ 07:49

Great stories on the big screen

Wet spring

As the riding season draws near here, in Scandinavia, I find myself watching more and more motorcycling and riding videos as the cold days go by. Seeing my bike stand in the basement and wait for its turn to roll on the streets is rather grim business after all... As the chilly winds keep blowing outside, I decide to join some of the well-known stories of modern knights and passionate adventurers.

With this series of articles I intend to take you through some of the movies that I enjoy most, ones that are both inspiring and inviting – each in its own way. I shall point out what caught my attention and what I found most interesting in the stories. However, beware of the possible spoilers that I might include in my short reviews.

This article includes my take on “On any Sunday”, “TT3D”, “Motorcycle diaries” and “The world’s fastest Indian”. I encourage all to see these films as they are wonderful true stories presented in an enjoyable and fun way.

“On any Sunday”

Despite numerous plotlines, the turbocharged “On any Sunday” kept me entertained, interested and craving for more all the way through. The movie takes the audience through the history books of motorcycling. Starting with Speedway, a sport that all modern drifters look up to. A sport where safety was not on the list of requirements. A sport where speed collides with balance, determination and courage. However, “On any Sunday” does not stop there, I was amazed to see the racers move onto frozen lakes and perform identical miracles on ice, riding on 2-inch-long-nail-mounted tires!

But not everything in the movie goes in circles – the motorcycle land speed record is set, too. On a hardly driveable rocket/car/motorcycle in a surreal environment of dried out salt lakes. Already back then man’s need for speed was present and as we can see 40 years later, it is still here to stay with more and more people joining and supporting the cause.

Finally, the film shows the everyday life of passionate cross and hill-climbing racers in a honest and engaging way. I rarely catch myself thinking that somewhere, on the other side of the world, there is a bunch of riders fighting their way up and over a hill, but it definitely exists and expands the horizon of motorcycling.

And even though I got to see many careless adrenalin-driven riders successfully make it across the finish line, I am glad for the evident evolution of protective riding gear. Nowadays most daily commuters buzzing around on their scooters wear better gear than top professionals did over 40 years ago. As “On any Sunday” shows, back then riders made their own cast steel shoe modifications for Speedway, taped temporary visors one on top of each other to quickly get rid of the mud (not too much advancements in nowadays motocross!), not to mention the highly "sophisticated" leather helmets/masks. Good only for serving your brain as a bowl of morning oatmeal, if you ask me.. But those were the days, no one minded the danger - everyone embraced the thrill and excitement that riding brings. The professionals did not mind creating DIY solutions and tuning their own bikes for hours on end.

It was inspiring to see so many people race and support riders even in no-prize races. Just like myself long time ago, I watched kids starting to ride at an early age and look up to riders as the modern freedom fighters.


The movie goes into great details about the history of the famous race on the Island of Man. We are shown how the locals feel about their home island becoming a centre for motorcycling enthusiasts and whizzing, nearly flying machines. It shows how the passion for riding and the motorcycle sport in general unites thousands of people from different backgrounds.

The race visualises our hidden wishes to ride really fast in cities and towns. Something that is so real and yet still hard to grasp – riders flying at 250 km/h through narrow British streets and bends 1 meter away from you. Speeds which require special cameras simply to capture and track the fluid motion.

The movie takes us through how some of the best professional riders live – how they feel, how they prepare themselves and their bikes for the race, what they fear, what they think.. A world where the word “safety” is something abstract and intangible. Full-on professionals and daytime mechanics, whose bravery and will cannot be measured or compared in any way, race side by side (not literally, thank God).

A kind of spirituality is felt when the time to race comes: concentration is sky high, coated with unreal amounts of adrenaline and courage – the riders start, max throttle and max hope to finish first or finish at all...

“Motorcycle diaries”

Even though in the end “Motorcycle diaries” seemed to resemble a biographical story more than a true road movie, it showed a grandiose tour across South America that brought two friends closer together than ever before. The movie is based on Che Guevara's travel with his friend Alberto Granado.

I could see recognise many real-life aspects from my own visit in South America. The movie shares magnificent landscape, cultural riches and strong characters throughout the storyline. In the end, it became a trip that I joined in, a trip that made me think and consider what is it that I find important both in my own life and in the world. And all of this was done through a fun, eventful and charismatic motorcycle tour.

The two main characters travel close to nature, almost completely disconnected – it is something that we, the modern people, get to experience rarely. They travel in a nomad style: with low resources, meeting many local people, seeing true life, gathering real experiences.. Only once I had the chance to travel like this – on a two-day tour in central Ecuador.

The motion picture illustrates how strong one man's passion for his motorcycle may be. Funnily, the machine of the movie has both a name and gender. The two riders depend on her mood and personality. Riding in the snow without paved roads, the bike’s old age, the tent flying away in strong winds, crashes – I, as a viewer, was invited to see and experience, at least partially, all of it. And it was shown brilliantly, with true emotions, conflicts and humour.

The politically simple journey of two friends across a continent that is in desperate need for change, called “Motorcycle diaries”, appealed to me as an adventurous rider and a human being. A great story and wonderful motivation for travelling with your friends.

“The world's fastest Indian”

The story revolves around a passionate rider from New Zealand who, despite his respectable age, is still young at heart. His drive for motorcycling and speed takes him through a dramatic journey where he takes his self-tuned old “Indian” motorbike to Utah, USA to see how fast he and his bike can go on the racetrack. The likeable character goes through many challenges to eventually fulfil his lifelong dream – to set a new motorcycle land speed record. People who laughed at the notion of a 40 year old bike with an elderly man for a rider competing for the title of the world’s fastest, ended up wholeheartedly supporting the crazy man from kiwi-land in his pursuit for glory.

The movie has a lot to teach; I was inspired and have a hard time remembering other movies that I took so many quotes from. When asked about the fear of death, the rider does not even blink before answering: “No... You live more in five minutes on a bike like this, going flat out, than some people live in a lifetime..."

The story combines many different experiences, some of which could be defined as bad, some as incredibly fortunate but throughout the whole adventure, the man’s determination goes great lengths. As the main character puts it: “If you don’t follow through on your dreams, son, you might as well be a vegetable."

“The world’s fastest Indian” just like the other movies on this list shows some insight into yet another riding/racing style – the fight for speed. Here, in the world where each bolt and nut is important, where pistons last but a couple of minutes and both machines and motorcyclists are tested at their limits, fellow riders of all styles and backgrounds support each other and see past their differences. We are allowed to peak into this alternate world where all parts and efforts which do not last to the end serve as “offerings to the God of speed” – a symbol of endless determination and complete devotion.

Back to riding!

Ready to spin once more

Even though these movies have helped me a great deal to get through winter without riding, the inspiration has lead me to start planning two spring tours already. It is just 5 degrees Celsius here, but the sun is shining, the snow is gone and there are no signs of salt on the roads anymore. That means just one thing – I am finally dragging my bike out from the basement!

Regarding the films, my advice is as follows - I highly recommend each and single one of these movies for all riders/motorcycle enthusiasts, however, beware that you shall watch them on your own responsibility! Possible side effects include wanting to ride even more and spending even more hours on preparing your bike.. Where ever you may be, the ancient proverb is valid: “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” Happy and safe riding!

Lukas J.  

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