Entertainment & Life

Bike racing scene has evolved, but the thrill remains

There’s something about motorcycles and motorcycle documentaries that brings out the kid in is all. The immediacy of the experience, the speed, the hair’s breadth away from danger, good films get across the intoxicating hobby and sport that is practiced the world over.

“On Any Sunday” was the definitive “Sunday ride/Sunday race” motorcycle film. Released in 1971 by famed surf documentary pioneer Bruce Brown, it showed the broad expanse of the motorcycling experience in the America of that time, from serious racers to enthusiasts like movie star Steve McQueen.

“On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter,” is an updating of that film by Brown’s veteran filmmaker son, Dana. It goes global, capturing dirt track racing in California, motocross, MotoGP track racing, kids getting hooked early, Vietnamese using bikes as trucks and Africans revolutionizing malaria diagnosis and treatment with the aid of two wheelers.

Cameras have gotten smaller and sharper, many corners of the sport have become institutionalized, a fact underlined by Red Bull’s sponsorship of riders and backing of this film.

But the thrill is still there. Brown, narrating this tale about those who walk the line “between the insane and the sublime,” gets it.

He captures a speed record pursuit on the Bonneville Salt Flats, and Canadians doing laps on a frozen lake in Alberta.

“Don’t kill anybody,” the Canadian announcer pleads, “don’t make ’em bleed on the track.”

Brown skips to so many places, profiles so many racers in so many divisions of cycle racing, that “Next Chapter” feels rushed, the briefest of overviews of the state of motorcycling. We watch the Aussie freestyle and stunt king Robbie Maddison prep a jump on a Utah ski slope, see the safety gear and pit of foam rubber cushions Travis Pastrana trains with and watch famed biker and movie star Mickey Rourke pick up his latest custom bike.

“You ain’t gonna see two of these.”

Brown and his camera team don’t overdo the use of the modern GoPro cameras, small enough to sit on a helmet or the front fork of a bike, mid-race. But that footage peppers and spices up the lovely slow-mo races, 360s and crashes captured here.

The whole affair feels slicker, less DIY, less outlaw than the bikers and races of Brown’s father’s film. There’s no mention of biker gangs – understandable – but little depiction of the vast sea of older riders still bringing their Harleys to Daytona or Sturgis. It’s all about “family” here.

And Brown brushes over the bikers as terrain-trashers and noise-polluters controversy with an upbeat sequence, following Carlin Dunne’s epic dash up Pike’s Peak on a quiet electric motorcycle. In the future, the racket won’t ruin your day at Acadia or the Grand Canyon or Canaveral National Seashore. Again, that’s in the future.

But Brown still manages to deliver a fun and enticing biker documentary that reminds us all that we never really grow out of our first taste of travel independence, our mastery of vehicles on two wheels or our love of controlling that much power and danger in a small package.

ON ANY SUNDAY: THE NEXT CHAPTER

1/2

Cast: Robbie Maddison, Marc Marquez, Ashley Fiolek, Travis Pastrana

Director: Dana Brown

96 minutes

Rated PG (perilous action, some crashes and brief language

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