17 May 2003
YOUNG RICHARD, aged 6, watches as his FATHER rolls out a brand new 3-speed bike, a Raleigh.
Dad rolls away on the bike.
Young Richard and his little brother BOBBY ride in a car with their PARENTS. Richard looks out the window at the cyclists as they pass by.
After they've moved on, his eyes glaze over-- day dreaming of one day touring, himself.
Roads were initially paved due to demands of bicyclists, not automobiles.
TWELVE YEAR OLD RICHARD watches as his father rolls out a dingy 3-speed bike. It's the Raleigh.
His father gestures to a little bicycle. Richard climbs on it but it obviously is too small for him.
His mother wheels the little bicycle over to Bobby.
They offer the Raleigh as Richard's next bike.
But he pulls out the bicycling magazine from his back pocket and points to the cover. He wants a cool bike. He wants a racing bike.
Just then, an older couple ride by on 3-speeds.
Richard is at the front door of NEIGHBOR #1, holding a rake and getting paid.
Richard is at the front door of NEIGHBOR #2, wearing winter clothes, holding a snow shovel and getting paid.
Richard is at the front door of NEIGHBOR #3, wearing shorts, holding pruning sheers and getting paid.
Richard comes out of the bicycle shop with a new road bike.
As he rolls by the window, a television monitor shows video footage of a documentary. It tells us that the Raleigh was the workhorse vehicle built to outlast its original owner, a staple of Europe throughout the twentieth century.
Richard rides his new bike with much pride. His bicycle is admired by all his friends and his little brother.
While basking in the attention of friends, he's upstaged by a race team that silently whizzes by with perfect synchronicity in their pedaling cadence.
One friend gestures towards Richard's racing bike then towards the pack of riders now long gone then glances back again with an accusitory look.
Richard wants now to race-- right now!
Richard starts to ride.
And rides-- even in the rain.
And rides some more.
Richard reads cyclist magazines and books.
Finally, the day of his first race arrives. It's 100 miles, a "century" in cyclist parlance.
As the race begins, he's off to a strong start. He keeps up with the pack.
He takes his turn as leader while others draft.
Shortly after, a couple of others pass and take the lead position.
But there's a gap. They didn't just pull in front of him, they pulled away. Then, another cyclist joins them. Then three more. He shifts into a tighter gear. They keep passing. Before long, he's at the back of the pack.
This is embarrassing.
He gets up out of the saddle to give more oomph to his cranking.
They're still pulling away. Further and farther, they've increased the gap.
Now having just crested the hill ahead, they're no longer in sight.
As he too finally crosses the hill, the other cyclists are nowhere to be seen.
At the next fork in the road, he slows then continues. A short distance later, he looks back and sees the next pack go whizzing by... down the other direction!
He comes to almost a complete stop, then awkwardly makes a u-turn and backtracks.
Stragglers of the chase pack have already gone by.
Like deja vu, now the second pack is almost out of sight. If it wasn't for the relatively flat stretch, he'd have no idea exactly how big of a gap stretched out between them and him.
Just as they finally disappear, he becomes disillusioned and his pedaling slows to a crawl.
He stops and finds it difficult to get off his bike. His legs have cramped up. Remembering what he read, he tries his best to walk it off.
As he's pushing his bike, walking slowly, a couple rides towards him. They have bikes similar to his parent's but with baskets.
They see the weary racer and offer food and water from their picnic sack.
They pat him on the back, bidding him well and watch him get back on his bike to finish the race.
Hours later, he crosses the finish line. The winners have long since gone home. In fact, the "sag wagon" follows him across the finish line, and other racers even more weary hobble out.
The man with the clipboard, checks his name off the list-- the last empty checkbox to receive ink.
Another day, he reads a book from his stack on the bicycle industry. Among the titles are the likes of "bicycle maintenance" and "Tour de France."
After over 100 years, a Sturmey Archer-- maker of the classic 3-speed hub used by generations of bicyclists throughout the world-- was bought and its assets sold to turn a quick profit.
A sad day in history, indeed.
While riding to school, his backpack unwieldy, he stops to adjust it.
A cute girl on a 3-speed approaches. She smiles, waves and says, "Bonjour!"
Then, an older gentleman gracefully rolls by with a package nestled into the basket fastened to the handlebars of his 3-speed. He-- apparently-- is without worry or concern!
As Richard gets back on his bike, a thought occurs to him.
The French girl says hello directly to Richard.
The French girl says hello directly to the old guy who shared the same style of old bike
With a look of puzzlement on his face, Richard obliviously crashes.
Apparently, he clipped a car door as it opened into the bike path.
Getting up, his real wheel and handlebars are bent.
Richard takes the damaged wheel into the bike shop.
The owner unrolls a poster and shakes his head, no. The new models: "A gear for every occasion, all forty of them!"
Browsing bicycle magazines, he quietly closes the magazine and returns it to the shelf.
Richard leaves the shop without any parts.
His parents roll out the old Raleigh for Richard.
He rides the Raleigh, covering his face while passing his friends. But his brother is sure to point him out and reveal the identity of the loser on the old bike.
Skidding to a stop, he looks both ways, throwing one leg over the saddle to a standing position just before the bike comes to rest. Like a quick-change artist, he puts the lock on probably even before momentum subsided. Then, without skipping a beat, he shuffles away.
Looking back to verify he wasn't seen, he collides with the French girl as she locks up her Raleigh.
He's blushing, mortified!
She eases his pain by pointing out, with an endearing smile, that they have similar bikes.
She kisses him on the check, and they walk off together.
At a theater, the movie they're watching includes a clip of a romantic couple riding side-by-side on Raleigh's.
Together, Richard and his new girlfriend ride their 3-speed bikes.
They go on picnics.
They go to the public market.
Richard and his French girlfriend are wearing caps & gowns. Graduation has arrived.
She opens her passport and in big bold letters, we see "student visa-- EXPIRES."
She hands him a small French flag and walks off.
With his bicycle whole again, he races. He now wears a jersey and belongs on a team.
He writes letters to her, looks longingly at pictures she sent from Paris.
He races again and wins.
He carelessly sets the trophy down, and without even noticing that it fell off the shelf due to too many other trophies, he returns to gazing at his collage of favorite but now well worn photos of her.
There's an air-mail letter sitting on his bed. It's from her! He tears into it, excited to read about her latest adventures. A photo with a couple of people falls out. He starts to read with a big smile.
Then, his smile slowly fades.
He sets the letter down and looks at the photo. It's another man holding her in his arms. Worst of all, they're at the finish line of the Tour De France.
He drops the photo.
He wheels his racing bike over to his brother and gives it to him.
Now walking with a cane, Richard's father tells him to keep the Raleigh.
Once again, he rides around on the Raleigh.
He does everything he used to do with his former French girlfriend-- but now alone.
One day, while placing a few groceries into the basket of his bike at the public market, a woman approaches him.
She points to her own Raleigh nearby with an endearing smile.
They ride together and picnic with those items he just bought.
They ride their Raleigh's together into the urban horizon.