“Riding North” – Movie Review

img class="responsive-image" src="http://bicyclehobo.com/img/ridingnorth.jpg" alt="Riding North" />

I wanted to add to my review below as I missed something about this movie when watching it the first couple times. This is not only a movie about bicycle touring. It is a celebration of Canada. The soundtrack really grew on me and after looking up the individual artists involved I came to look at the movie in a different light. Regardless it is a great job and well worth the price of download.

I recently came across a low budget film titled “Riding North” – http://www.ridingnorthmovie.com, a film that centers on a 30-day bike tour through the Yukon and North West Territories. The filmmakers, Steve Langston, Chris Mitchell and Ryan Mitchell, are very upfront about a $0 budget and for the $7.00 USD I shelled out I was pleasantly surprised.

RIDING NORTH: Trailer from the Mitchell Brothers on Vimeo.

First off let me say I’m skewed as a critic. You could put me in front of any media focusing on bicycle touring and I would come away feeling as if it was time well spent. A bike trip through Yukon and the North West Territories is commendable and I was really excited to invest the time in watching their journey. I read about it at reddit and immediately downloaded the movie for $7.

Executive Producer Steve Langston, and Directors Chris Mitchell and Ryan Mitchell admit to having no expectations when they first decided to make a movie about a 2,000 kilometre, 30-day bike tour in some extremely remote areas of Canada. “When we started out Steve didn’t know much about film making and we didn’t know anything about biking, so we were just in way over our heads which is a big reason I think it turned out so well,” Mitchell relates.

I will try not to list any spoilers in my review. I’m also not getting into any critique of their general touring style, preparation, and personality. The review will fixate on the following only:

A.] Does this film make me wish I was on my loaded bike right now?

I’ll give that a yes. They communicate the small victories one feels when out on the road that seem to validate touring. The reaction to finding paved roads, the surprise of a mushroom vendor, making replacement parts materialize seemingly out of thin air, happening across ‘Jack The Ripper’, the security of pitching camp after a long day in the saddle are a few ‘small wins’ that keep these guys fighting the rigors of daily miles. Their film communicates this ever important facet that touring is usually only 10% enjoyable and 90% hard work, with the caveat that the 10% far outweighs the 90% somehow making it worthwhile.

B.] Will I get that sick feeling of ‘Why, do I do this to myself?’ that I get while on a tour?

I’ll give this a yes also. They got the mechanical failure part a little too right. Langston spends a huge chunk of the film “macguyvering” bicycle fixes and keeping everyone believing in their equipment. They show the struggle of carrying food and water for weeks at a time always with a concern that they have enough. The dynamics of riding in a group are clear also. They lose a member, they argue in their tents, they huddle under a tarp in bad weather, they are swarmed with bugs, and it goes on. They really don’t pull any punches in representing the pitfalls of touring to a point where if you haven’t toured you may never want to. I don’t fault them in this regard as I feel that most people I know should probably not bicycle tour.

C.] Do I get a sense of the conditions, geography, and issues that effect the tour?

I do come away with a good sense of the remote location they are touring in. There are several ‘insect related’ scenes that are hard to watch. Weather is always a concern while out on a bike and the difference between traveling on gravel vs. paved roads is a mainstay. They spend almost a week on the road between services several times and the concern is shared scene after scene. The geography takes it’s toll on the bikes and the riders. There are some ‘bug’ related footage that will make anyone squeamish.

D.] What I really liked about this film!!!

I liked that they steered away from what most tourers do in that this was not a rolling ‘gear list’ film. Too often online journals are all about ‘the gear’. These guys used a lot of what looked to be inexpensive equipment and relied on their ‘guts and heart’ to make it to their destination.

My favorite part of the film was when one of the filmmakers talks about how anti-climactic finishing a tour is. I have always marveled at this. You spend 30 days fighting and just when you hit your stride it’s over. You roll into your destination and except for a short window of exuberance you almost don’t know what to do.


Go spend $7 and support these guys. If you are anything like me YOU WANT people to go after and complete film projects like this.