Break The Cycle

Michael MacBroom gears up for a high octane trip on two wheels

If, like me, you know nothing about downhill mountain biking in Ireland, then Break the Cycle isn’t a bad initiation. An hour long documentary (of sorts) from Belfast-based production company Honcho Designs, the film sheds light on the community, culture and individual riders that make the sport here what it is.

Cue crazed young men, untamed and half wild, flying bare chested headlong into bushes on push bikes. See three-fingered, oil-covered biking vets without a care in the world, captured racing at 100mph in the rural recesses of Ireland - those places in which redbull promotional girls hunt in packs and the tourist board don't dare visit. Or so you might think.

In fact, this isn’t at all what happens. Break The Cycle is all very neat and polite, unlike the hundreds of infectiously rowdy blokes and glamorous young women present at the film's premiere in the Moviehouse on Belfast's Dublin Road. As the excitement and banter in the screening room reaches boiling point, I make a mental note of all the exits while trying not to look conspicuous, growling and stamping my foot along with the crowd while quaking in adrenaline deficient terror.

Break The CycleTonight the audience adds its own incoherent commentary throughout the film, which is structured around a series of talking head interviews with the top ten or so riders in Ireland. The interviews are inter-cut with long sections of downhill riding, and Break the Cycle’s strength lies in these sequences.

Filmed in hills and forests around the country, the cinematography captures the scale and rugged beauty of the Irish landscape. The riding is exhilarating and the frenetic activity is more than competently shot.

What may be a matter of taste, however - but nevertheless disappoints me - is director Andy Yoong's insistence on overlaying each riding sequence with music. The stillness of the setting, the spiritual and, indeed, visceral aspect of the riding often gets lost in the hard rock, high gain soundtrack.

The format for every skateboard or BMX video I’ve seen is generally the same, and tends to work well. However, I find myself longing to hear the silence, the sounds that the riders themselves hear, the wind in the trees, the whirring of wheels, the thuds and skids through the earth.

Break the Cycle is really a showpiece for the featured riders, and a downhill mountain biking video for the fans. While it is technically a documentary, it's crying out for more detail, variation and a stronger narrative drive.

The riders themselves often appear uncomfortable with the formal interview approach. The interviews aren’t very probing and, consequently what we hear from the riders is, in essence, the same each time. What does come across is that these young men and women are down to earth, decent individuals who have found something that serves as an escape from everyday life. Good for them.

My criticisms are aimed at the film as a documentary. However, it may be a case of mistaken identity. As a showpiece for those involved in the sport in general, Break the Cycle is, in the end, successful by virtue of its geographical breadth, impressive landscape photography and brilliantly filmed riding sequences.

For more information check out the Break The Cycle site by clicking here.