Bikes have long been the transport of choice for characters throughout the history of movies. In fact, sometimes the bike can be as important as, or even sometimes overshadow, the characters themselves. The bike becomes an integral part of the movie, defines it, and becomes the main focal point for remembering it.
There are some film characters that have long been identified with a particular kind of two-wheeled travel. In fact, there have been movies where the story has been – quite literally – carried by the wheels on which the characters and story have relied.
Here I take a cursory glance over some of the most iconic and defining two-wheeled machines in movie lore.
Based loosely around The Who’s 1973 rock opera of the same name, Quadrophenia’s tale of the rivalry between the Mods and the Rockers set amidst the backdrop of Brighton is memorable not only for its depiction of drugs, sex and violence, but also for its phalanx of scooters- adorned with flags and mirrors – that defined a generation.
The Great Escape
Probably the most memorable and oft-seen (oh, the endless Bank Holiday repeats) of adrenaline-pumping biking moments, Steve McQueen’s blistering escape from the Nazis on a TT Special 650 which had been made over to look like a wartime BMW is arguably one of – if not the – greatest bike scenes of all time. With the exception of the barbed wire jump, McQueen performed all his own stunts.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s procurement of a 1990 Harley Davidson “Fat Boy” leads to an awesome chase sequence for the saviour of mankind, John Connor. It’s a scene that actually includes three vehicles – the Harley, a dirt bike, and a big tow truck – but it’s the Harley that steals the show.
It was always going to be tough to follow up Bruce Wayne’s armoured SUV, the Tumbler, from Batman Begins, but the Bat-Pod succeeded admirably. It’s actually a two-wheeled vehicle hat detaches from the Tumbler and unleashes a gauntlet of weapons, cannons and heavy firepower. This is probably the epitome of movie bike sleekness and cool.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
And let’s not forget one of the original exponents of bicycling two-wheeled wonder – Elliot and ET’s magical bike that becomes a flying machine that allows them to effortlessly soar across the moon. One of the most iconic (bicycle-led) images in cinema history.
Without doubt a landmark in film history, Easy Rider was a movie that spoke to a restless, angry and alienated generation, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were ostensibly Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid rewritten, cruising their Harley Davidsons across the American landscape.
Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
Like any devoted cyclist, Pee Wee will do anything for his bike – and when it gets stolen he’s embroiled in a frantic, crazy, unforgettable quest across America to track it down. With shark fin spoiler, fancy bell, a horn that roars like a lion and rocket boosters, this is surely has to be one of the best, quirky, most original movie leisure bikes ever.
What other movies can you think of that feature a memorable use of bikes?
Gavin Harvey is a personal trainer who likes to combine leisure, sports, bikes and movies – and not necessarily in that order.