Top 10 Ultra-Cycling Documentaries | Rainy Day Inspiration
Ultra-cycling has gained in popularity in the past decade, with races springing up across the planet. But we’re not talking professionals here, who spent all their time focussing on training. We’re talking about the everyday person who has a job to work their training around, who still go out and perform incredible feats of endurance.
From the remote Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan with the Silk Road Mountain Race to a classic journey from the West coast to the East coast of America with the Trans Am, there’s a race out there for everyone who wants to discover how far they can push their limits. There’s no prizes or money up for grabs, just glory.
Are you debating pressing ‘submit’ on an application, but just need to get an insight into what racers go through? Perhaps you’re just looking for a bit of entertainment and wonder at the super human capabilities of the biggest names in ultra-endurance. Either way, here’s Alpine Bike’s top 10 ultra-cycling documentaries for you watch when it’s raining outside.
On Road Races
Inspired To Ride
You can’t beat one of the first, and best, cycling documentaries. Inspired to Ride follows a handful of cyclists riding the Trans Am – a 4233 mile long race across America. This includes the late, great Mike Hall and is a documentary close to the hearts of many cyclists who have got into ultra-racing since its release. It’s available for rent for £5 through Vimeo and is worth every penny. Watch the film here.
Onboard - The Transcontinental Race
The Transcontinental is one of the best known ultra-cycling road races with its first iteration happening back in 2013. Each year the route changes, but it will take riders from one side of Europe to another. The TCR differs from other races as you must pass ride along short parcours (defined routes) leading to checkpoints, but otherwise the route is a rider’s own. Each year the route varies between 3200 – 4200 km. This film covers the TCR during 3 races from 2016 to 2018, you’ll get an insight into what goes into these races and why they’re so addictive to those taking part. Watch the film for less than a tenner here.
The Journey To The Other Side
When a ride includes tragedy, it would be easy to not produce the film. But this unofficial documentary following the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in 2017 handles the passing of Mike Hall with dignity. This was the inaugural year for the Indy-Pac and has not officially run again though riders do still ride the route."
London-Edinburgh-London is the 1500km flagship event of Audax UK – the British cycling club that oversees long distance cycling. It started in 1989 and runs every four years. The LEL is non-competitive though there is a time limit and the route changes each year. This in-depth documentary follows a number of riders in 2013 to get a real taste of the spirit of the event.
Day & Night
The TransAtlantic Way is not to be underestimated. 2200km of relentless elevation and weather conditions along the Wild Atlantic Way keep riders on their toes until they reach Kinsale on the south coast before the cut off time. This short film follows two cyclists in the 2018 edition.
Off Road Races
Off road journeys add an extra risk of mechanicals and difficult terrain that isn’t found on road. They can head to more remote parts of the world so can make for some rather picturesque videography.
I Just Want To Ride
We have to start with the Tour Divide – probably the biggest and most well known off-road ultra-race. 2750miles of non-technical, back country joy from Canada to Mexico. Here’s Lael Wilcox’s ‘I Just Want to Ride’ following her 2019 ride and all the drama that came with it:
Into The Rift
The Atlas Mountain Race is a newbie on the off-road-race scene with its inaugural year in February 2020 but is no less inspiring that the more seasoned routes. It answers questions you might have such as, “what do you do when you’re 200km from the finish without a chain?" Or “how quickly can you chug a bottle of water after a day in the desert?”
Is there a more beautiful or rugged cycling endurance race on the calendar than the Silk Road Mountain Race? Since coming onto the scene in 2018, the SRMR has become one of the most notoriously difficult routes with significant distances between control points and taking in some of the hardest passes in the Tian Shan mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan. Nearly 100 people started in the 2018 edition with just 30 finishing (4 not included in the GC for either riding as an undeclared pair or finishing solo out of an original pair). Of course, they made a documentary about it:
Of course, you don’t have to go to exceedingly remote parts of the world to have a great off-road adventure. GBDuro is an off-road 2000km, Lands End to John O’Groats self-supported race. The first edition ran in 2019 and used Instagram image time stamps to give start and end times of the four stages. The video below is of that 2019 race, though if you want to see the effects of COVID-19 on the 2020 edition, head here.
Black & Whyte
A bonus triathlon documentary because cycling is quite a featured part, but also because Professor Greg Whyte gives a valuable insight into the training that goes into ultra endurance sports, which isn’t seen in many other films. Norseman has been named ‘The Toughest Triathlon on the Planet’ and in 2019, Prof Whyte headed out to Norway to attempt to get the black shirt.