Bicycle Dreams the Movie: Insanity + Bicycles = Tear Jerker

Bicycle Dreams might not make you cry (you inhuman monster), but it will definitely make you look at ultra-long-distance cyclists with a new respect. The documentary chronicles the 2005 Race Across America – from the front of the pack to the unsung unknowns who just barely manage to straggle in under the time cut.

All of them are crazy.

Not Portland-Cyclocross-Woo-Hoo-PBR style crazy. No, these people are certifiable. As in, “Call the white coats!”

Ok, I jest. Kind of.

But what else drives a person to ride a bike for almost two weeks without sleep? Why else would someone fold themselves over aerobars and cross some of the nation’s most grueling mountain passes?  Why ride over 3000 miles all at once as fast as you can if not to prove that you are utterly and totally off your rocker?

Because of this:

RAAM gives people hope that ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

That quote stood out among many insightful reflections documented by director and editor Stephen Auerbach. It gets straight to the heart of why we all do what we do. Why we race our stupid bikes in circles even though no one is paying us – why we go out and rip out training runs in 39 degree rain.

Why we decide to ride across the country as fast as we can.

What happens in Bicycle Dreams is trying and glorious and ugly and wonderful and gut-wrenching. Auerbach’s cinematography is stunning – and the editing evokes a pace and cadence that reflects the grinding journey of its unglamorous heroes.

They get off their bikes and threaten to quit. They get back on and keep going. They pass out from exhaustion. They cry and sob and freak out. They hallucinate and get angry.

Some of them give up. And whether they finish triumphant or collapse in defeat, they all have something to teach us.

Whether or not you buy the “spiritual advancement from suffering” theory, it’s clear that Bicycle Dreams channels some kind of magic. It’s the kind of magic that makes crazy shit worth doing.

The Magic is inside us: it’s our heart, our desire, our passion.

Bottom line? Bicycle Dreams lives up to a big ask. It lives up to a story the size of an entire continent and a subset of cyclists who set out to conquer it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – the film has already racked up seven awards at film festivals around the country.

Watch the trailer. Buy the movie. Throw a party. Bring tissues.

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  1. Nice review of the movie. It’s a great movie and gives a glimpse into the race although there’s no way to really comprehend the race. I’ve seen it as a solo racer and on a solo crew.

    The movie is of the 2005 race instead of 2006. There was controversy about Bob’s death. Robic is a machine on the bike but he was very nice when I talked to him and I’ve heard the same from others.

  2. Thanks for the catch, UltraRob. And the link! My friend LK also gave me this link today: a really interesting NYT Article about Jure.

  3. “Buy the movie”? Is this an option? I checked out their website and it looks like it’s been screening at film festivals for over a year but hasn’t had a wide theatrical release and can’t see any info about DVD release. I would buy a few copies right now if I could.

    • Hi Dave!
      I found it new on eBay. Amazon had it, too, it seems – but they are out of stock. $19.99
      It’s a long link or else I’d post it here.
      Hope that helps!

  4. Hey Heidi
    What a great write up to a truly amazing film. Having ridden the RAAM this year (as a 4-mann team I have to add!!), this race tests us all to our limits, and we find that we are the ones that create those limits! Without them we can fulfill our potential. I wrote my own post-race report 2 days after reaching Annapolis. Have a peek at

    BTW if Dave (last post) contacts Stephen directly he may be able to buy some copies from him.

    Jure was a legend, and will be sorely missed even though his legacy lives on.

    I believe we all have a ‘RAAM’ in us, in one shape or form. It is up to individuals to be brave enough to step up!

    I will be back in Oceanside in 2012 with some incredibly brave people.

    Great website, and keep spinning. :-)

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