Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider (2007)
Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze in Ghost Rider (2007)
Image: Supplied

Flipping through channels the other day, I caught half of the 2007 film Ghost Rider starring Nicholas Cage. Cage’s character, Johnny Blaze, is a stunt rider who sells his soul to the devil and becomes the “ghost rider”. The custom built Panhead Chopper, which was the Ghost Rider’s vehicle of choice, had a Harley-Davidson V-twin engine and was a character of sorts in the film. Its design was inspired by the chopper that Peter Fonda (who also stars in Ghost Rider) rode in the cult film Easy Rider, with Dennis Hopper. For the 2011 sequel, Ghost Rider 2: Spirit of Vengeance, Johnny Blaze primarily rides a Yamaha V-Max.

Despite the reviews, I really enjoyed watching Ghost Rider when it came out, but it was a film for its time and hasn’t really aged well. It did get me thinking about movies in which the motorcycle forms an integral part of the storyline and how, especially now that I ride, seem to fall short in capturing the spirit and essence of what drew me to motorcycle riding.

Films like Torque (2003) and Biker Boyz (2004) — while featuring motorcycles prominently, and were decent enough action films — did little to highlight the joys of motorcycle riding with semi-tepid storylines. I would argue that the 2007 Wild Hoggs with Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H Macy as four middle-aged friends going on a bike trip to break the monotony of their lives felt more relevant. Let’s be honest: many of us motorcycle enthusiasts are exactly that — middle aged.

The time of the motorcycle rider as the rebel or the outcast is behind us. Motorcycle clubs, at least the ones I come across, are often populated by middle-aged men and women, looking for camaraderie and community. While there is an adrenaline rush to riding, it is also a great way to relieve stress, clear the mind and be in the moment.

The latest in motorcycle films is The Bikeriders, which “follows the rise of the Midwestern motorcycle club, the Vandals. Seen through the lives of its members, the club evolves from a place for local outsiders into a more sinister gang, threatening the original group’s way of life.”

While I will probably watch it, just for Tom Hardy and the motorcycles, I have concluded that I should probably look more to documentary films and series for my motorcycle fix. Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s Long Way Round, Long Way Down and Long Way Up epitomise the perfect filmed motorcycle experience.

For Round in 2004, they rode BMW R1150GS 31,000km from London to New York; for the 2007 Down, they travelled from Scotland to Cape Town on the BMW R1200GS Adventure; and for Up in 2019, they rode from Argentina to Los Angeles on Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle, the Livewire.

Why We Ride is also a fantastic documentary that truly captures the spirit of why so many of us ride.

And, in keeping with the behind the veil docuseries that have become all the rage, like Formula 1: Drive To Survive, there is Moto GP Unlimited, and eight episode docuseries on the 2021 season of the Moto GP. It has also just been announced that the people behind Drive To Survive, Full Swing (golf), and Tour de France: Unchained are producing a docuseries on the Isle of Man TT called The Greatest Race on Earth, which should air in 2025.

I am biased but, in addition to these, I would still love to see a great motorcycle film, with a storyline that resonates more with those of us who are motorcycle enthusiasts without the anarchy of some of what has been put out over the years.

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