I love cycling and I like movies so I love+live cycling movies, even though the ones I’ve seen tend to focus on the tough life of professional cyclists, or mountain bikers doing countless jumps and tricks to annoying music, which unfortunately Fast Friday has a lot of, but not enough to ruin it, more on that later.
Fast Friday documents the creation of a hipster, fixed gear cycling scene in Seattle. If you’re not familiar with this sub genre of cycling it seems to be focused on the imitation of cycle messenger culture. The trappings of this style are fixed gear, steel frame track bikes with no brakes, skinny jeans, messenger bags, trendy T-shirts, and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Hipsters seem to crave authentic looks and experiences; they avoid mass market consumer culture like the plague. Hipsters seem to be predominantly white middle class college age male youths, but they don’t discriminate it looks like they accept any race, gender, orientation, just as long as you look the part you’re cool.
So the story is a guy who makes hipster cycling clothing starts up a bicycle competition series which features a track stand competition, a fast stop competition, and an alley cat, point to point race. Over a winter you see footage of the guys hanging out working on their track stands, practicing tricks and riding about, and drinking copious amounts of PBR. There is some time dedicated to explaining the scene a bit, yes it’s a scene, whenever someone starts throwing the word scene around I start to get nervous. A big part of the scene is the bikes and I really enjoyed seeing them; I love old school steel frames and the sleek look of a track bike. As a technical guy I was disappointed that there was little to no discussion of the technical aspect of the bikes, I noticed old carbon aerospoke wheels, bizarre cut off handlebars, and I was real curious how long a back tire could last with all that sliding around. So anyway, Fast Friday grows and into an underground scene, there’s that word again, then grows into a full blown nationwide movement, or at least thats what the director would have us to believe.
So what is good in the movie, well if you like lots of footage of guys sliding their back tires around and hanging out, all set to an indie soundtrack then there is alot to like. Since I mentioned tricks lets spend some time on that. I’ve never road a fixed gear bike so I have no idea just how hard some of the moves these guys were pulling off are… but… most of the time they didn’t look that impressive. It might be that I’m jaded from watching insane people ride their bikes off cliffs and Ryan Leech ride his bike across a piece of dental floss, but I wasn’t that impressed by the tricks these guys were pulling. In one scene they ride their bikes down a short steep grade, probably really hard on a fixie, but didn’t look all that impressive on video. I have to admit that one guys no handed wheelie was pretty sweet.
So the movie is mainly riding footage, which I didn’t care all that much for, so how about the narrative. Well… there isn’t much in that department either. I picked up on a few of the main characters after awhile but still don’t know most of their names. I do know that someone known as Keo won the Cadence Classic and a pretty sweet messenger bag, but I’m not sure who Keo was. The black guy actually had a serious moment on camera where he talked about his brother being shot and how the bike had pulled him out of a life like that, but I don’t know his name. I’m not sure if thats important, but I would have liked to know more about some of these characters.
One nice bit of narrative is the two noobs that get picked up about halfway through the film. There’s some funny footage of these guys trying to learn how to simply stop their fixed gear bikes, and one particular telling moment was a still shot on these guys’ brand new bikes that kind of lingers for a second, as if to say, look at these guys, their lame bikes don’t even have a scratch yet. It was very obvious these two guys were new to the scene, they didn’t have the experienced, original and authentic look that the other hipsters had. Instead they just looked like regular guys. I’m sure they’ll work that out soon.
Something that really let me down was a lack of racing action, I thought there would be lots of awesome racing but there was almost none. In the scene where the winner of the Cadence Classic is announced they briefly mention that the chick won the race, I call her the chick because I don’t remember ever hearing her name. How this chick beat all these guys would have been a great story but unfortunately we didn’t get to hear that. There was a nice crash scene towards the end and a really messed up arm from a earlier crash. I should also mention these guys didn’t wear helmets and probably crash a lot, they seemed to be fine, all the beer must help their bodies absorb impact.
OK after all that you’re probably thinking I didn’t like the movie, well I did like it, I just thought it could have been a lot better. In fact after the movie I found my 31 year old and married self jealous of these young hipsters and their life style. I think I could have fit in pretty good with them, well except that I’m too fat for skinny jeans, and my bike has brakes and gears, and I don’t like beer, especially PBR. So yeah scratch that.