5 essential cycling documentaries

A Sunday in Hell (1976)

Arguably the best film ever made about professional bike racing, A Sunday in Hell chronicles the 1976 Paris-Roubaix one day classic. The visual equivalent of Tim Krabbe’s The Rider (see our list of great cycling reads) this is about as close as most of us will ever get to riding with the pro-peloton. Riders including Eddy Merckx and Francesco Moser suffer heat, dust, cobbles, punctures, crashes and even the disruption of protesters before the final sprint for victory.


Slaying the Badger (2014)

This ESPN documentary tells the story of the 1986 Tour de France, and in particular the rivalry between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault, aka, the Badger. Hinault had been helped to  victory by teammate LeMond in the previous year’s Tour and was meant to be returning the favour in order to help LeMond become the first American to reach Paris in yellow. Repeated attacks by Hinault in the high mountains betrayed a different motivation and led to one of the most dramatic Tours of all.

(Available on Netflix)

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist (2014)

The extraordinary talents and tragic death of Marco Pantani (Il Pirata, or The Pirate) are laid bare in this feature length documentary which includes thrilling footage of his early years, as well as his victories in the 1998 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Pantani was extravagantly gifted as a climber, and battled back from serious injury, only to face allegations of doping which would lead to depression, and his death from cocaine poisoning. Some have accused the filmmakers of being too sympathetic to Pantani in relation to the question of doping, but the doc does reveal the pressures that were felt by the peloton at the time.

Pedaling to Freedom (2007)

This short film provides a startling case study of how bicycles can change lives. A 1993 project in Tamil Nadu, India, helped 230,000 people to read and write, and also provided mobility by teaching over 100,000 women to ride bicycles. Wages increased 1000% over just one year for an investment of less than two dollars per person.

With My Own Two Wheels (2011)

An uplifting look at how individual lives from different parts of the world can be transformed one pedal stroke at time. In Zambia a caregiver rides from village to village visiting AIDS patients; In Guatemala pedal power replaces diesel engines; In California working in the neighborhood bike shop provides an alternative to gangs; In India bicycles open up education by making the journey to school possible. Inspiring stuff.


Fun, fantastic and forward-thinking cycling infrastructure

Cycling infrastructure: the first things that will probably come up in your mind are painted cycle lanes and curb segregations. There are always some cycling infrastructure projects in the works but here are some existing cycling infrastructures with the wow-factor that take cyclists over, under and through obstacles.

Hovenring (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

This suspended cycle path roundabout isaerial Hovenring
somewhat like the skeleton of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Not content with segregated cycle lanes and traffic lights, the Dutch have taken it to another level with Hovenring. That was not a pun because the road was constructed below surface level so that cyclists don’t have to struggle up steep ramps.

The Cycle Snake (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Copenhagen never fails to impress and gave birth to Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake. They have raised the bar with this elevated cycle path, pun intended. It’s a two-way cycle path that snakes between buildings and along the harbour. It works with neighbouring bridges to help cyclists use the most convenient route to navigate across the harbour in with a light sea breeze in their hair.

San Sebastian tunnel (San Sebastian, Spain)

We head underground for this next one. I believe this is currently the world’s longest cycling tunnel. It ‘s an old railway converted tunnel at nearly half a mile in length and is brightly lit. Rejoice for the flat cycle ride!

Two Tunnels Greenway (Bath, UK)

This shared path is another old railway converted tunnel. The path takes in two tunnels with the Combe Down tunnel being the longest cycling tunnel in Britain. Bath is very hilly so this is like music to hill-haters’ ears, literally (there is music in the tunnel!) The dimly lit tunnel and spooky music might be more of a challenge for anyone who needs to sleep with a night light.

SolaRoad (Krommenie, Netherlands)

This experimental cycle path is short at the moment but the engineers have set their sights far beyond this SolaRoad in Krommenie. The path is equipped with solar panels and the idea is to generate electricity to be used for street lighting, traffic systems, houses and electric vehicles (maybe this is the first step to Tron-like cities?). The future is bright indeed.

‘Starry Night’ Cycle Path (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

Van Gogh Roosegaarde bike path by Studio Roosegaarde
Photo courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night and beautifully crafted by artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde. This kilometer-long cycle path comes to life in the dark. The swirling pattern of embedded glow in the dark stones is a truly beautiful tribute to Van Gogh. It is a part of the Van Goth cycle route through the province where he was born and raised.


ECO Cycle underground bicycle parking (Tokyo, Japan)

The sky is the limit and digging into the ground is not an easy task especially in Japan. The frequent volcanic and tectonic plate activities means that civil engineers in Japan have a lot to contend with. It didn’t stop Giken Ltd. from bringing their anti-seismic underground bicycle parking to Tokyo. You get safe bike parking and automated robotic arm awesomeness.


CycloCable (Trondheim, Norway)

Steep hills really get in the way so Jarle Wanvik built a bike escalator, or Trampe lift, back in 1993 when he didn’t want to get into work all sweaty. I don’t blame him, the slope hits 18% gradient. It has been upgraded and rebranded as the CycloCable and continues to deliver stroller, scooters and cyclists 150m up to the top.


Did we miss any existing fun, fantastic or forward-thinking cycling infrastructure? Let us know in the comments section.


Don’t just ride to work, ride for work

If the two favourite parts of your day are the cycle ride to the office, and the cycle ride home, perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative career. Here are a few different ways to make a living on two wheels.

Professional racer

OK, so this won’t be a viable option for most of us, but for those who are sufficiently young and dedicated British Cycling has information on how to go about becoming a member of team GB, with pathways available through their Go-Ride scheme.

Emergency Services

Both the Police and Ambulance Service deploy officers on bicycles who will undergo additional specialist cycle training. The opportunity to spend your day cycling will (hopefully) not be the primary reason for choosing either of these careers, but if you have a calling to this sort of work and can combine it with a love of cycling, all the better.


Bike messengers, or couriers, are perhaps the most visible form of bike based employment, certainly in major cities. A good level of fitness, knowledge of the city, and, most importantly, a willingness to report for work whatever the weather are all needed to make a go of this job. For more insight into the life of a cycle courier, read this extract from Jon Day’s account.

Companies like Uber and Deliveroo are recruiting increasing numbers of cyclists to make food deliveries, although both companies have come under fire for the terms and conditions they offer to workers in the so called gig economy.

Cycle barista

If you love your coffee as much as your bike then you could set up as a roving barista. Velopresso have won multiple awards for their innovative three wheeled, pedal driven espresso machine. Luxury cycling brand Rapha are also recruiting baristas for their Cycling Club, as long as you have “a passion for delivering a world-class customer experience”.

Cycling instructor

For anyone with a passion for getting more people onto bikes, working as a qualified cycling instructor can be incredibly rewarding. The job involves teaching both children and adults how to ride a bicycle for the first time, or training existing riders in the skills they need to ride confidently in all situations. For more information, see our blog post on the topic.


Cycle to work day: how to get involved

Every single day of the year is now National or International Day of something or other.  3 March is If Pets Had Thumbs Day. And 30 April is, I swear on my life, not a word of a lie, National Honesty Day. Squeezing into this busy schedule on 14 September 2016 is National Cycle to Work Day. So why should you give this particular one your time of, er, day?

What’s it all about?

Cycle to Work Day encourages everyone to take to two wheels and ride to work for at least one day, although of course the long term aim is to see a sustained growth in numbers of people cycling, both for commuting and for leisure.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 16.46.48Census data indicates that 741,000 people in the UK cycled to work regularly in 2011, and the stated aim of the organisers is to see this exceed 1 million by the time of the next census in 2021.

Isn’t cycling booming already?

It’s certainly true that some parts of the country have seen encouraging increases in numbers of cyclists, most notably in London. But the Department for Transport’s most recent ‘Local Area Walking and Cycling Statistics’ report revealed “no statistically significant change in reported cycling prevalence in England overall.”

The same report reveals wide disparities between numbers cycling in various parts of the country, from the cycle-stuffed streets of Cambridge and Oxford, where respectively 58 and 43 per cent of people cycle at least once a month, to Burnley, where the figure drops to just 5 per cent.

How will one day change anything?

By generating a higher profile for cycle commuting and focusing attention around a single day it is hoped that Cycle to Work Day will encourage people to try switching from other modes of transport, and that a percentage will make that switch permanent.

A particular focus is on the role of employers in making cycle commuting a more attractive option. Employer advocacy is crucial in creating a culture of cycling in the UK. There are great benefits to businesses of having a higher percentage of cyclists in their ranks, including freeing up parking spaces, better rates of staff retention, reduced absenteeism, and a happier, healthier workforce.

The campaign is also closely tied to the Cycle to Work Scheme, which delivers financial benefits to both employer and employee when purchasing a new bike.

How can I get involved?

Visit the Cycle to Work Day website to pledge your support, which helps the organisers to keep track of the total miles pledged, and the associated money saved, calories burnt, and C02 emissions avoided.

You can also challenge your employer, and access resources to help you to become a cycling champion within your workplace. So even if you are already convinced of the benefits, Cycle to Work Day provides a good excuse to spread the message further.

Back to school: but how?

September sees about 8 million pupils returning to school, or going for the first time. Around 35% will be driven to and from primary school, a journey with an average distance of 3 miles (significantly less in London where catchment areas are much smaller). Just 2% of primary school pupils and 3% of secondary school pupils will cycle to school, even though active travel options offer a range of benefits. So is it time to think about changing the school run, for the school ride?

The benefits

According to a 2010 study by Sustrans, nearly half of children wanted to cycle to school, with parents citing safety as the most important reason for not allowing them to do so.

In fact, cycling to school can be a great way to instill road safety skills in young children, and to allow them to develop the ability to manage risk effectively. It also promotes independence, training them to make good decisions for themselves.

According to teachers, children who cycle or walk to school arrive more relaxed and ready to learn than those who are driven. Undertaking a regular journey by foot or by bike will also help children to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.

Encouraging more people to ditch their cars has associated benefits for the entire school community and beyond. Potentially dangerous congestion at the school gates is reduced, as are levels of pollution.

Things to considerschools_level_1

Younger children will be accompanied on their journey until the parents feel confident that they are able to make the trip independently.

Spend time planning a route, choosing quieter roads where possible. Ride the route together during the holidays when you have plenty of time. You don’t want to be doing it for the first time on a school morning when, chances are, everyone’s running late and emotions are running high.

Pay particular attention to busy junctions, pinch points, passing parked cars and other situations where road positioning is extra important.

If possible, find other parents and children to buddy up with so that they can share the journey with friends.

When sharing the roads with others, visibility is key so think about donning bright clothing or a day-glo tabard over the school uniform. Reflectors and lights are a must when the days grow shorter. Being visible to other road users is also about how and where you position your bicycle on the road, and this is where cycle training can come in…

Get training

Cycle training equips both adults and young people with the skills and the confidence they need to ride on the road. Lessons are available to individuals as well as to families. You can even use the session to test ride the school run alongside a qualified instructor who will have local knowledge. They will be able to give expert advice on particular roads and junctions, and also help with route planning.

See what training is available in your area.