Famous last words: Michael Clifford

The director of Bicycle, Michael Clifford, talks about his 90-minute documentary about UK cycling 
culture and tells CW about his influences and inspiration

Like most people, I started riding as a child. I got reintroduced to the bike as an adult via the mountain bike, which made cycling cool again. These days I mostly commute, though I have had a go on the Manchester Velodrome, which was awesome!

Our film is jam-packed with inspiring people; it was a real honour to meet them and film them, and they continue to inspire me. The bike attracts the most wonderful people.

I’ve recently read and loved All About the Bike by Rob Penn and Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters. Both are brilliantly written, fascinating and connected to British cycling culture, from very different parts of its amazing spectrum.

Film-making-wise, I’m inspired by Werner Herzog [German director, writer and producer], who just keeps truckin’. I wanna  be like him when I’m in my seventies.

Bicycle is the story of the bicycle and cycling in Britain, from Victorian times to the present day, taking key moments and characters to tell that story.

I learnt a huge amount from making the film. I love cycling but I’m not an expert, so every bit of research was fascinating and surprising, but at the same time totally made sense. It was like piecing a jigsaw together about something that you know if you ride a bike, even if you don’t know [that you know it]. That started on day one, when I learnt that the safety bicycle, the bike we nearly all ride today, was first developed in Coventry, which is just down the road from me.

This is a fascinating and poignant time for cycling in Britain for many reasons. I wanted to look back at where we’ve come from with the bicycle to understand where we are and why, and to get some sense of where we might be going.

British cycling culture has a buzz about it. More people are discovering the bike and what it can do for them; the joy of cycling. The sport is exciting but the bike has unlimited applications outside of that.

Sport is in good shape right now. Utility cycling lags behind through decades of neglect. What’s needed is a shift in government policy, so that the bicycle is fully recognised as a mode of transport and properly catered for.

Bicycle is available to pre-order from bicyclethefilm.com, and there are screenings across the globe from July to December. Visit the website for more information.

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