Off the Couch contributor Stephen Smith took in the movie Ride the Divide last night at the Rosebud Theater. The veteran bike racer from Wauwatosa put the bicycling challenge in perspective, with this review. The movie is showing tonight at the Orpheum Theater in Madison, in a benefit for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.
Not to be overly particular, but my bike adventure movie had a shotgun.
Having ridden the Leadville 100 and seen its movie (“Ride Across the Sky”), I was drawn to “Ride the Divide” to see how it documented riding in the rare air of the Continental Divide and the Rockies.
A good adventure movie delivers perspective.
It will show vast, unforgiving landscapes and leave the viewer to find the tiny dot of a bike rider moving across the far right corner of the large screen.
It delivers moments that make eyes well up unexpectedly in men – “his FORK is broken!”
And women – “...his wife is due in TWO WEEKS?!”
Ultimately, it raises the hand of human spirit as the victor over nature and convinces us that we can do anything we set our minds to.
“Ride the Divide” delivered on all counts as an “epic” movie.
It tracks a group of riders as they traverse the Continental Divide from Banff, Canada to Mexico.
The 2,700 mile course makes that little race in Colorado, the Leadville 100, seem almost like a trip to the ice cream store.
Leadville starts and finishes with a race organizer firing off a shotgun to the fanfare of 1,000-plus.
The 2009 edition of Ride the Divide, profiled in this movie, started on a street under construction, with riders casually embarking on their journey with an understated drama that barely registered with the work crew pounding away with jack hammers.
There are no race numbers. No famous participants. No media. No banners. No tables piled high with PowerBars, energy gels and energy drinks.
There is no entry fee. There is no belt buckle for finishers!
It’s just 40 or so everyman riders, fully self-supported, with maps showing how to get from Canada to Mexico on sky scraper trails totaling 200,000 feet of climbing. “Ah cain’t e’en ride muh Harley o’er ‘em thangs!” twangs one leather- and-bandanna clad fan encountered during a food stop.
Film crews followed the competitors as they banged out 100-plus miles a day, for three or more weeks.
A typical scene goes like this: Shot of rider on bike. “My legs are killing me!”
Cut to Rider walking into restaurant/grocery store. “I need food...and lots of it!”
Cut to Rider on his bike riding into the twilight: “It’s the vastness that gets to you.”
I was intrigued when the riders encountered black bears, high in mountains still covered in snow in June. I was fascinated by the need and ability and to eat basically non-stop for three weeks. This creation – a Hostess Cherry Pie with coffee grounds dumped on top – was my favorite.
Leadville was basically a nine to 10-hour slog. Doing that same routine over the course of a month is difficult to reconcile. You better have some good songs running through your head!
Riding home on the tandem, my wife, Tracy, and I agreed that one of the most poignant comments came from Matt, the competitor and father-to-be: “This race starts and ends. The most epic race I’ll have is raising a child.”
Indeed, just to get to the movie required marathon-like focus for us.
Within an hour after work, Tracy and I had retrieved our three kids from school and after-school activities, studied for a 4th grade math test, worked on a craft project due Friday, prepared and eaten dinner, retrieved the tandem from the garage rafters, ridden to the Times Cinema - where we were told, “You want to go to the Rosebud for that film - ridden to the Rosebud, procured popcorn and Twizzlers and settled into the couches – exhausted!