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Bicycle movies for a bicycle weekend

Paul Reubens is Pee-wee Herman in “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” (Courtesy)
These flicks will get you in the mood for Iron Horse

It’s a big weekend for Durango: We’ve got Durango High School graduation Friday night and the 50th running (biking?) of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic on Saturday, with the rest of the weekend taken up by other IHBC events as well. And it’s Memorial Day weekend.

And while the Iron Horse is a super-cool race, and those who finish it – and beat the train, while riding pretty much uphill the whole way, with packs of other riders – are serious studs, the closest a lot of us will get to the race is standing along the side of 550 cheering everyone on, or, at the very least, watching a film about bikes.

Which brings us to this list of suggestions. From fiction to documentary, from the 1940s to 2020, these films cover just about everything you can do on a bike.

1. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985)

If you ask me, this is the granddaddy of all bicycle-themed movies. In fact, no one wants to watch this movie with me because I have all the dialogue memorized – as well as being able to whistle Danny Elfman’s amazing soundtrack note for note. Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens), an eccentric child-like man, loves his red bicycle and will not sell it to his envious neighbor, Francis (Mark Holton). While Pee-wee visits his friend Dottie (Elizabeth Daily), the bike is stolen. Thinking his bike is at the Alamo, Pee-wee sets off on a trip, where he meets many remarkable people, including waitress Simone (Diane Salinger) and a motorcycle gang. Eventually, Pee-wee discovers that his bike is being used in a movie and tries to recover it. Rated PG.

2. Chasing Legends (2010)

Documentary following the progress of Team Columbia-HTC throughout the 2009 Tour de France, including race footage interspersed with interviews, archive clips and brief history of the Tour. Not rated.

3. Bicycle Dreams (2009)

Riders try to cross the U.S. in 10 days, but after a deadly collision, their minds instead of their bodies are at risk. Not rated.

4. The Racer (2020)

A seasoned support rider experiences the most dramatic three days of his life – and potentially the end of his career – at the opening Irish stages of the notorious 1998 Tour de France. Not rated.

5. Breaking Away (1979)

Dave (Dennis Christopher) and his working-class friends Cyril (Daniel Stern), Moocher (Jackie Earle Haley) and Mike (Dennis Quaid) spend their post-high school days in Bloomington, Indiana, sparring with snooty students from the local university, chasing girls and – in Dave’s case – dreaming of competitive bicycle racing. The four friends face opposition from all corners as they decide to make Dave’s dreams come true in the university’s annual bicycle endurance race. Rated PG.

A man and his son search for the man’s stolen bike in 1948’s “Bicycle Thieves.” (Courtesy)
6. Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Unemployed Antonio Ricci (Lamberto Maggiorani) is elated when he finally finds work hanging posters around war-torn Rome. His wife, Maria (Lianella Carell), sells the family’s bed linens to retrieve Antonio’s bicycle from the pawnshop so he can take the job. However, disaster strikes when Antonio’s bicycle is stolen, and his new job is doomed unless he can find the thief. With the help of his lively son, Bruno (Enzo Staiola), Antonio combs the city, growing increasingly desperate for justice. If this sounds a little like “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” you wouldn’t be totally wrong. Not rated.

7. American Flyers (1985)

When Dr. Marcus Sommers (Kevin Costner) realizes that he and his troubled, estranged brother David (David Grant) may be prone to a fatal brain disease that runs in their family, he decides to make peace with his sibling, and invites him on a trip to the Rockies. There, the brothers bond over their shared enthusiasm for cycling and decide to enter a grueling bike race through the mountains. However, Marcus’ health soon begins to fail, and David must compete without his brother at his side. Today’s Pit Vipers and mullets and mustaches don’t look so different from what’s going on here. Rated PG-13.

8. A Sunday in Hell (1976)

Some of the world’s finest bicyclists compete in a race held in France. Not rated.

9. The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

This animated film follows elderly Frenchwoman Madame Souza as she becomes involved in international intrigue when her grandson, Champion, a professional cyclist, is kidnapped and taken abroad. Joined by her faithful dog, Bruno, Souza embarks on a journey to find Champion, and stumbles across unlikely allies in the form of three sisters who are veterans of the vaudeville stage. Tracking down Champion’s criminal captors, the quartet of old women use their wits to try to win the day. Rated PG-13.

Can you beat the Helltrack? (Courtesy)
10. Rad (1986)

The story of one young man, Cru Jones, who has the intensity and desire to win a BMX race called Helltrack. “Rad is his way of life.” And it’ll be yours, too. Rated PG.