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"Bicycle Dreams": the first movie about RAAM

June 14, 2010

[bump from 9/09] Stephen Auerbach is a Hollywood director who seems to have busted-loose and is now indie. He made big stuff, now he's going more up close and personal.

A few years ago he made a popular TV documentary on the Race Across America nonstop transcontinental bike race, getting NBC's highest ratings ever for a bike event. With this feature film, "Bicycle Dreams," he goes deep inside of RAAM, giving background on a half dozen diverse riders then showing how they relate to the race and to each other along the way.

He covers the winners, the runner-ups, the newbies, men and women, young and old...and the support crews behind them. Why do they do it? And how does it all shake out as they roll across the big country, day after day? Find out in this DVD...

I particularly liked the profiling on the charismatic and emotional Italian, Fabio Biasiolo. He seemed to come on really strong, especially for the movie, near the end. The event, and movie, are about desire. Fabio seemed to personify this. Sure, others lived it out in various interesting ways, but Fabio verbally expressed it with the most gusto, I thought.

RAAM is an event that only half the entrants have ever finished in its several decades of existence. And it doesn't seem to be getting any easier as the years go by: the rates aren't improving.

The days and nights inexorably take their toll. No amount of tech or training advances seem able to alter this. Half finish.

This movie was filmed during the year which suffered one of the race's most tragic events yet happened to one of the race's---and the film's---star riders. The movie brings you through it all.

Yep, you got your highs and lows here. And it's not all about the bike. The scenery and the interweaving storylines are engaging.

I still can't say that I understand this event. I guess some folks feel compelled to go big. That seems a good enough explanation. At the same time, *a good reason* still seems a mite far off. To me, the complex support crew factor and the overall expense both seem a bit offputting. But some folks are organizers...and have money. Still, is it a good thing? Well, I suppose it's relative. RAAM is just a step (or ten) further than we're used to seeing. Once you start doing 24-hour events where you have friends and family helping you at your loop-finishes...and once you're already pretty much living out of a van during periods of multiple events...how big a step is it to doing something that's a solid 2 weeks long? A might big step, for sure, but I can see it as a carrot dangling out there for some folks...

I do know that these bikers are riding darn fast. Their overall average sometimes might not seem like much---what, is it like 15mph? But I tell ya, if you've ever ridden even 100 miles you know how easy it is for your average to go down even when you're riding fast. Any kind of stops at all seem to do more to lower your average than any amount of blazingly-fast riding does to increase it. You can ride 22mph for hours and still see a 17mph average -- if you've stopped for a couple snacks or to check the map. Now, these guys don't sleep much but those few hours a day do big things to a speed average. I wouldn't be surprised if these riders aren't going about 25mph when on the road. And, sure enough, when you look at the Relay Team times that's about what you're seeing, when multiple riders are coordinated to always be moving. But the Soloists are the cream of the crop. They don't need no steenking rest. They gogogo. There's time enough for sleep in a couple weeks...

The chance to see such scenery nonstop is perhaps enough justification for simply not sleeping much for a couple weeks... It's likely that nighttime includes its own rewards as well. I know that I've had many times when being outdoors at night offers its own special favors...

It can be easy to dismiss these racers as being too extreme, but they just take long distance riding where it seems to lead, given a certain attitude. Certainly all these riders built up to this point through many lower stages. RAAM isn't an event alone. It's a pinnacle for those who've already been riding far...for those who try a Century, then a Double, then a 24-Hour...for those who try such things and find that they're continually rewarding, that there's something new to be found at each level. RAAM is part of a continuum. This country and its roads and its long-distance riders are not cut off from the rest of us, either. I certainly found that I could relate as I watched.

I notice that these racers are a wee bit older than most speedy crit racers. And I notice in my own life that I seem to be able to go farther as I get older, without discomfort. I used to suffer over the hours as a youngster. Now I can keep going, seeing new things. I also notice that I don't seem to get hungry as I ride, I even get a bit appetite-suppressed due to exertion. I only know that I need to eat. Perhaps long distance folks get a similar view about sleep. Maybe they don't feel a lack, or that the lack is a bad thing. At some point they notice they're too tired, so they sleep some. When they can ride again they wake up. It might not be so odd. I have no idea! But this movie gave me a better feel for it. ...Especially for the enjoyment of the beautiful route they pass through, which the RAAM organizers have developed over the years.

Check it out!


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