Breaking Away

Breaking Away

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Whenever anybody asks me “what are your favourite films”, when my answer is proffered I’m usually met with a blank stare akin to a dog being shown a card trick. Along with the likes of Fargo, Being John Malkovich and Easy Rider, one of the first names out of my mouth is usually Breaking Away.

“Breaking A-what-now?”

Trying to explain to non-cyclists why this film means so much to me is no easy task. Even other cyclists who may not have heard of the 1979 Oscar winner for Best Screenplay seem perplexed and unable to grasp the concept of a teen coming-of-age film featuring that rarity of Hollywood filmdom, a *gasp* cyclist.

And that’s all that Breaking Away is. It’s not a cycling film, not a fly on the wall doco like A Sunday In Hell or Hell On Wheels. In fact it’s completely bereft of hell in any form. To me it’s heaven, sometimes on wheels, sometimes in Mike’s Buick, sometimes in the swimming hole at the old abandoned limestone quarry.

I could go on about the classic scenes and lines from the film, like the pump in the spokes, drafting the truck or Dave’s Italophile obsessions. But those who have seen the film will know these already, and those who haven’t, well I wouldn’t want to spoil your impending viewings.

But I will admit to this; I actually have been close to tears on one of my many, many viewings, while introducing it to a girlfriend, who must’ve been somewhat bemused by a grown man getting emotional about some loser teenagers winning some stupid bike race. And I’m not ashamed of that, because it is really so much more.

When Cyril is being jostled by the adoring masses at the end of the Little 500, the look of acceptance, of achievement which washes over his face, an expression made possible by the simple act of riding a bicycle, that to me is one of the great cinematic moments. One I will enjoy over and over again, thirty years on and counting.

For a comprehensive look at everything Breaking Away, check out this site.

And the original trailer here.

// Nostalgia

  1. Oh, man. I think my favorite scene is the truck drafting one – not so much for the impromptu collaboration between the driver and the cyclist, but more for how awesome his bike sounds. Drivetrains just don’t sound like that anymore. And, of course, the scene at the end when he meets the girl and starts speaking – makes me laugh every time.

  2. I believe Christian Vande Velde’s father was one of the bad-ass pump wielding fiends. I also heard the short cutter was recently in a movie as a pedophile, doing an all too convincing job of it. Yikes.

  3. Also in the drafting scene, note that he is doing 60mph in the SMALL ring!

  4. I’s gots to get me a copy of that…

  5. he is not just doing 60mph in the small ring, he is doing 60mph then moves into the small ring and goes FASTER. That is some serious legspeed. Love that there really is a Little 500 with one bike across the whole team etc etc.

  6. According to ProCycling [Issue 139 (June 2010), p.36], “Breaking Away” will be available for the first time on DVD from 28 June.

  7. I love this film. Too hard to pick any great scene, as they are all so cool. Even the usually irritating Dennis Quaid rocks. So looking forward to it coming out on DVD… thank’s Geof (and thanks Brett for the article). Even before I rode I loved this film… and was always gunning for the Cutters.

  8. I picked Breaking Away up at SatanMart for $5 a few months ago. I love that movie. I have a friend that was in Italy when he was in the Navy and he said that all you had to do was say “Scadicci, scaducci” and you sounded like you spoke Italian. Whenever we ride together we always mock re-enact the pump in the spokes scene and yell “Scadicci! Scaducci!”

  9. I love this movie. His parents are just perfect!!

  10. Speaking of old movies… I get on these little kicks where I watch all the movies I can find by a particular actress or actor. For a while it will be Sydney Poitier or Audrey Hepburn Ava Gardener, etc. Now I’m on a Shirley Anne Field kick:

    Yesterday I watched Saturday Night and Sunday Morning from 1960. Why am I posting this on a bicycle site? This was Albert Finney’s second film and the one that put him on the map. He is the main character and the film opens with him at work in a machine shop. What is he machining? Bottom bracket spindles. Paying attention reveals that he is working in a Raleigh factory. He rides a (fendered) 10-speed to a from work. There are mentions of “the accident at the 3sp. shop”, the night shift at the frame shop, etc.

    See the spindles in the lower right?

    I just thought it was interesting to see some of the inner workings of one of the former giants of the industry.

  11. I watched Shutter Island last night. I thought he looked familiar but I couldn’t place him…

    …then I saw the name in the credits and was like “Wow, it’s Moocher!”

  12. Just watched this, was a birthday present. I must say I loved it, though for a cycling film it has quite a few inaccuracies/problems for me :( Mainly the commentator on the Little 500 has no idea what he’s talking about.

    You’ve gotta love Dave doing almost 100km/h in the small ring

  13. @Nathan Edwards I pulled this from the linked Breaking Away Wikipedia info: “The team is based on the 1962 Phi Kappa Psi Little 500 champions, which featured legendary rider and Italian enthusiast Dave Blase, who provided screenwriter and fellow Phi Kappa Psi team member Steve Tesich the inspiration for the main character in the movie. Blase, together with team manager Bob Stoller, provided the name of this character: Dave Stoller. [3] In the 1962 race, Blase rode 139 out of 200 laps and was the victory rider crossing the finish line, much like the main character in the film. Blase himself appears in the movie as the race announcer.” He might have an idea what he’s talking about.

  14. @Nathan Edwards

    You’ve gotta love Dave doing almost 100km/h in the small ring

    That truck scene is one of the all-time great scenes ever in cycling film history. It’s right up there with the Fluidly Harmonic Articulation from The Impossible Hour.

    @nvvelominati
    Wow. That’s the kind f detail we’re talking about.

  15. Watched this film with my wife last year (her first time seeing it) and was reaffirmed that I am blessed with the perfect wife as she was in tears during the film at all the right moments and loved the film.

    Even if she does not ride, I think she is a keeper!

    What a great film. Are there no topics on the “Flying Scotsman” movie? Just saw that one this summer and really liked it.

  16. @Buck Rogers

    Are there no topics on the “Flying Scotsman” movie?

    Well done, my son. I just watched it a few weeks ago; fantastic. There are a few comments peppered about him here and there, but I am planning a full-on movie review here in the very near term.

  17. @frank

    Excellent! Very worthy subject for your talents! Look forward to seeing it soon!

  18. @nvvelominati
    Wow, how then does he not seem to understand the concept of wheel sucking?

  19. Breaking Away ran as a TV series for a while and that was what got me into cycling and made me a cyclist. I think it is responsible for who I am..?

  20. I saw this file in the cinema in about 1978/9 in Richmond London. The whole audience spontaneously rose to their feet and applauded at the end. Never seen this before or since.

  21. hi my name is Johnaton

  22. Just seen this for the first time courtesy of a dodgy netflix hack (Not on the UK version, only US version).  I will show this to the VMH on her return and maybe then she’ll fully understand. Dennis Quaid finally redeems himself.

  23. @Velodeluded We all should have a Breaking Away film day…

  24. @unversio

    I’ll second that!

  25. This one is in my top five of all films, and definitely first for me among the sports-related. 30+ years on, even the soundtrack is still a source of inspiration.  Last Saturday I listened to Mendelssohn’s symphony #4 “The Italian” while getting kitted up for a 100km ride.  Sublime.

  26. @Optimiste This! When I saw it was on Netflix it quickly became a go-to inspiration for indoor training sessions.
    The first time I saw the film was in college, en route to a cross country meet. I credit it with leading me on the path to LVV.

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