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Greatest cycling scenes in movies

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Let’s be honest: the chances of ever seeing James Bond trade in his Aston Martin for a Raleigh Chopper are slim to none. Any by slim we obviously mean none. Some cinematic characters just aren’t cut out for cycling.

No, you have to look to more alternative fare to hit upon films which truly champion pedal power – so with documentary The Armstrong Lie (now in cinemas) showing audiences the twisted workings of Lance Armstrong’s Tour De Farce, we thought we'd use the medium of cinema to try and reinstate the wholesome image of cycling, starting with these 10 special clips...

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ET - Moon-lit money shot

Proving that Lance Armstrong wasn’t the first man on this planet to cheat on a bike, E.T’s most iconic scene showed us how, if you’ve an alien strategically placed in your hand basket, you can get plenty of airtime behind the handlebars. Hovering higher than the now famous violin notes which accompany the moonlit money shot, it's the clip that keeps on giving.

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This is 40 - Car door collision

A midlife crisis can make men behave in all sorts of strange ways. Taking up cycling isn't one of them. Pedaling furiously in the wake of a domestic squabble, not wearing a helmet and failing to spot random car doors opening, however? Yes, he might as well have bought a cramped German sports car. Wait until 0.07 to see his grimace-inducing incident.

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Premium Rush - Mid-town chase scene

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a fairly cool chap. We know this, you know this, and so too do the producers of near breakneck thriller Premium Rush, casting him in the smugly excellent role of a death-defying bicycle courier who gets chased across the New York by Michael Shannon’s corrupt cop, in pursuit of a dubious package. The ensuing chase between the pair is a triumphant piece of action cinema.

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127 Hours - Desert jumps

Sensing audiences might not have the patience to watch Aron Ralston (James Franco) spend umpteen hours with a rock trapped under his arm before hacking it off using a pen knife, Danny Boyle decided on fitting on some neat, high-octane mountain biking ahead of the grizzly events which underpin this autobiographical drama. Monitoring his journey through a video camera as well as Boyle’s long range cameras, Franco’s energy-fuelled loner provides us with some first-rate ride along shots, shrewdly matched with some equally buoyant rock.

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Breaking Away – Lorry chase

Cycling in cinema doesn't get much purer than Breaking Away, a 1979 comedy drama about four teens freshly graduated from high school - including Dave, so obsessed with an Italian cycling team he even listens to opera, and who gets the chance to race against his heroes when they visit his town. Although few will deny the best part of the film comes earlier: gunning it down the highway and streamlining behind a lorry, Dave's mile-wide grin tells us everything we need to know about his love of the sport.

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21 Jump Street - Drugs bust in the park

Confined to bike patrol and yet still believing they're Starsky & Hutch, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill's rookie cops manage to lay bare the ridiculousness of peddle-power policing while also managing to bust a drug deal in a crowded park. Hill’s prudent dismount mid-chase is a sober reminder to anyone who’s ever attempted to disembark and fail to look stylish doing so.

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Bicycle Thieves - Ill-fated bicycle robbery

For all Hollywood’s reboots, retellings, or whatever way you can tag mercilessly wringing cash from a classic, it’s of some comfort to know that 1948’s Bicycle Thieves just wouldn’t work nowadays. No, the crumbling post-war locations intrinsically and uniquely lend themselves to this Italian Neo-realist drama about an unemployed father’s (Lamberto Maggiorani) frantic search for his son’s stolen bicycle in a great period of economic crisis. Fatefully, it ends with his botched attempt to steal one back. It's affecting, to the point you almost will him to ride it off into the sunset.

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Cinema Paradiso - Village ride-along

Young Salvatore, found forging an unlikely friendship with cinema projectionist Alfredo in this Oscar-winning Italian masterpiece, would surely take well to Premier League football. We’re not judging this on his athletic skill, we should make clear, but rather the ability to roll around feigning injury which, in one of the film’s most endearing scenes, earns him a ride on his fatherly friend’s bike.

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Spy Hard – Riding down the stairs

While most film authorities will point to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid as a film which boasts a truly iconic cycling scene, we’re instead going to plump for its lampooning in lesser-seen Zucker Brothers comedy Spy Hard. Watching Leslie Nielsen apes the stunts from the western classic, getting wackier with each cycling skill, its steps-ascending finale defies as much logic as it does your ability to cease guffawing.

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Better Off Dead – Paperboy rides down a mountain

The anti-Beuller - Lance Myer (John Cusack) just can’t catch a break in this screwball teen comedy, in which his girlfriend leaves him for the douchebag captain of the ski team, his dysnfuctional family fail to spot his subsequent suicide attempts, and, if that weren’t enough, he’s also harangued across town by a troll-like paperboy over a two dollar debt, who, for the film’s ski race finale, rides it down a mountain in pursuit of his arrears.

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