I was the only person at the first showing of the Hard Miles movie at The Lyric cinema in Fort Collins.

Hard Miles: A Movie Review by a Longtime Cyclist

While I was in Spain, I read about a new movie coming out called Hard Miles. Billed as a classic underdog film reminiscent of the cycling classic Breaking Away, it immediately caught my attention. Based on a true story, the movie follows Greg Townsend, a Colorado social worker, who transforms the lives of teenage convicts by taking them on challenging bike rides. This narrative, combined with the 750-mile journey from Denver to the Grand Canyon and the feature of a Ventum bicycle—an innovative brand from Utah I’ve been interested in—made it a must-see for me.

Since an immediate release of Hard Miles in Spain seemed unlikely, I added it to my to-do list for my next visit to the States. As luck would have it, the film was showing at The Lyric, an independent theater in Fort Collins, starting the day after I arrived in the Colorado city. In addition, my Audi TT got a flat tire, so after dropping it off at Discount Tire, I jogged one kilometer to The Lyric for the first showing at 11:45 a.m. on a Friday. I was the only person in the theater—a first for me, creating a unique and intimate viewing experience.

As a cycling enthusiast since the late 1980s, I’ve enjoyed classics like Breaking Away (1979) and American Flyers (1985) multiple times. I was curious how Hard Miles would compare. The first thing that stood out was the product placement. Alongside the robin egg’s blue Ventum NS1 Greg Townsend rides, there was a Google Pixel phone (the Pixel 5, I think) and a non-Mac computer. This was a modern underdog story, after all

However, I found it odd that Townsend frequently had to bring in his Ventum to a bike shop to repair its wheels. Modern wheels with deep rims and low spoke counts rarely go out of true, and with disc brakes, perfect trueness matters much less than it did in the old days. 

Despite this minor inconsistency, the film showcased a truly modern bicycle with aero frameset, aero wheels, and fully integrated cable routing. Even the delinquents, riding older or homebuilt frames, had Shimano STI shifters, though with external instead of under-bar-tape cables.

One delightful surprise was the humor. It wasn’t the Jim Carrey-type slapstick variety that I don’t care for, but rather subtle, witty, and sarcastic. I laughed out loud several times, particularly at a scene where a teen misunderstood “peloton” as a reference to “you mean those rich b*tch exercise bikes?” The dialogue was smartly written, avoiding corny clichés while keeping the rebellious teenagers’ remarks realistic. It also avoided drawing out obvious jokes (like lube for saddle sores) too much; it mentioned Chamois Butt’r only a few times.

The movie even touched upon the great disc brake versus rim brake debate, with one of the teens accusing Townsend of having them ride “dangerous” rim brakes while he used modern disc brakes. Townsend had to explain that one type of brake wasn’t necessarily better than the other; they were “just different.” It made me chuckle because the teen mirrored some internet types’ new view towards rim brakes, despite professional cyclists bombing down steep mountains for well over a century with that technology until only a few years ago.

Hard Miles also avoided utterly preposterous scenes seen in the other cycling movies, like drafting behind a semi at 50 miles per hour on flat land with a 10-speed bicycle while spinning at only 60 revolutions per minute (Breaking Away). The film’s basis in real events added authenticity, and the stunning Colorado scenery was a visual treat.

In conclusion, Hard Miles is a new cycling classic worth putting on your to-see list. While most non-cycling enthusiasts might prefer to catch it on Netflix, seeing it in a theater added to the experience for me. Among the great cycling films—Breaking AwayAmerican Flyers, and now Hard Miles—I think this one is my favorite.

I was the only person at the first showing of the Hard Miles movie at The Lyric cinema in Fort Collins.
I was the only person at the first showing of the Hard Miles movie at The Lyric cinema in Fort Collins.