We've rounded up the best cycling documentaries out there and put together this list to inspire your viewing through Covid-19 induced lockdown.
We hope you find a few documentaries you haven't come across before, so that even if you can't be riding your bike, you can at least be watching bicycles and learning more about cycling, the best sport in the world!
Notes: Our list of best cycling documentaries is ordered from the most recent to the oldest.
We've included details of where you can watch them (as at the time of writing), as well as a link to a website that compares the cost on different streaming services (if the film is listed on the website - it doesn't list them all).
If you're after a movie rather than a documentary, you'll want to take a look at this round up of our favourite cycling movies.
1. Sean Conway’s ‘Europe or Bust’ (2020)
In 2019, extreme adventurer Sean Conway set a new world record by cycling unsupported across Europe from Portugal to Russia in just 24 days. This fascinating fly-on-the-wall British cycling documentary sees Conway battle with dangerous roads, strong head winds, a lack of sleep and a shocking diet.
(Note the film above is a prequel taster video, rather than a trailer video of the official film.)
Newly added to Netflix in March 2020, you’ll struggle not to binge-watch this captivating six-part series in which Movistar provides exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Spain’s Movistar Team as they compete in the 2019 cycling season.
We're only a few episodes in, but already we'd say this is one of the best cycling documentaries on Netflix. It's beautifully produced and feels quite raw and honest, giving a real feeling for the dynamics and tensions between the big name leaders within the team. It's unusual to get such insights on races that are still such recent history.
The only downside is the sub-titles for non-Spanish speaking viewers.
3. Iron Cowboy (2018)
This epic movie is the true story of triathlete James Lawrence (aka the Iron Cowboy) and his journey to complete an incredible 50 Ironman races in 50 days, across 50 US states.
If you’ve ever completed a triathlon or Ironman event, you’ll be one step closer to appreciating what’s involved in this feat. In this must-watch documentary you’ll see how the human body can be pushed to its limits.
4. MAMIL (2017)
MAMILs are Middle-Aged Men in Lycra. This amusing feature-length road cycling documentary follows several groups of blokes on bikes including British dads, gay couples in New York and a team of overweight cyclists in Australia. This film showcases the life of amateur road cyclists who are just like many of us, but a bit different.
5. All for One (2017)
The All For One cycling documentary tells the story of GreenEDGE, Australia’s first ProTour cycling team.
If you’ve seen the Backstage Pass series on YouTube, then you’ll be familiar with most of the content of the All For One movie and this pro cycling documentary has the same humorous tone. It's one to watch for a positive depiction of pro cycling.
6. Icarus (2017)
Icarus is an American documentary which begins with Bryan Fogel’s investigation into doping in amateur cycling. He sets out to see if he could dope while preparing for the Haute Route, and get away with it.
The documentary culminates in the discovery of Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping program. It details the events that led to Russian athletes being stripped of 47 Olympic medals and, in 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banning Russia from all major sporting events for the next four years.
If you're after a cycling doping documentary, this is the one to watch.
7. Tour de Pharmacy (2017)
This mockumentary chronicles the prevalence of doping in professional cycling. With an all-star cast featuring Orlando Bloom, Andy Samberg and Kevin Bacon, the movie also features cameo appearances from Lance Armstrong and Mike Tyson, who play themselves.
The setting is the 1982 Tour de France, with the movie poking fun at the level playing field created when virtually every professional cyclist was doping.
8. Personal Gold: an underdog story (2015)
Personal Gold documents the inspirational tale of four American women and their quest to win gold medals for cycling in the London 2012 Olympics.
As the men’s team are banned for doping in the wake of the Lance Armstrong drug scandal, these underdog women cyclists become the USA’s only hope in winning track cycling medals.
You think you know the story of Lance Armstrong? This BBC cycling documentary says otherwise.
Focusing on the cheating, bullying and lies involved in Armstrong’s pursuit of money, fame and success, this gritty documentary details the cycling star’s fall from grace.
10. Thereabouts (2014)
Thereabouts is a cycling documentary that aims to bring back the magic and wonder of cycling by focusing not on medals, points and scandal, but instead on showcasing Australia by road bike.
This cycling documentary documents the journey by two pro cyclist brothers, Lachlan and Gus Morton, as they ride from their home in Port Macquarie to Uluru. It's a journey of 2,500km over 12 days, into deepest Australia.
It provides real insight into the pressures experienced by professional road cyclists as well as fantastic Australian landscapes.
This gripping documentary tells tragic the story of Marco Pantani, 1998 winner of both the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia. Just six years after his triumph, he was found dead in a hotel room after a cocaine overdose.
Pantani is one of those figures that is hugely relatable and his story is one that explores wasted talent, the prevalence of doping in cycling, victimisation and depression. If you’re looking for an interesting film to watch with your non-cyclist other half, this could be the one.
12. My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes (2014)
Set in WWII, this movie recounts the true story of how Tour de France champion Gino Bartali and other fellow Italians worked with Jewish leaders to defy the Nazis and save the lives of thousands of Jewish people in Italy.
This incredible tale was never published in Bartali’s lifetime and gives a fascinating insight into war-time cycling.
13. The Flying Scotsman (2006)
The Flying Scotsman cycling film tells the incredible true story of Graeme Obree, the Scottish amateur cyclist who broke the World Hour Record in 1993 on a bicycle he built himself from bits of old washing machines.
What’s even more incredible is how bi-polar sufferer Obree struggled with intense bouts of depression yet still managed to smash records without anti-depressants or performance enhancing drugs. You also get a real feeling for his love-hate relationship with the hour record.
14. Hell on Wheels (2004)
The Hell on Wheels cycling film explores the pain and suffering of those who devote their lives to competing in the Tour de France.
It's a cycling documentary about the Tour de France’s 100th anniversary in 2003 and is shot from the perspective of Team Telekom. It features behind-the-scenes footage and finish-line interviews, showing the less-than-glamorous side of the professional cycling world.
15. A Sunday in Hell (1976)
Acclaimed as one of the best cycling films ever made, A Sunday in Hell is a chronology of the 1976 Paris-Roubaix bike race from the perspective of cyclists, event organisers, spectators and even a group of protestors who stopped the race at one stage. You get to see legendary names such as Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlademinck, Francesco Moser and Freddy Maertens.
This classic cycling documentary shows the ups and downs of the most dramatic race of the spring classics. It's particularly impressive when you consider that the whole documentary was shot in one day using more than 20 cameras along the route and footage from a helicopter - these kinds of techniques were groundbreaking at that time.
16. La Course en Tete (1974)
This classic cycling documentary features the famed cyclist Eddy Merckx, winner of eleven Grand Tours.
One of the best cycling films on YouTube, the camera follows Merckx through the 1973 and 1974 seasons and allows you to appreciate what a truly great cyclist he really was.
This is another classic cycling documentary from Jorgan Leth, who also directed A Sunday in Hell. The Stars and the Water Carriers features the 1973 Giro d’Italia, focusing on the winner Eddy Merckx and his challengers, both on the road and behind the scenes.
If you’re disappointed that the 2020 Giro d’Italia may not go ahead, watch this instead.
If you're willing to go old-school and buy a dvd, check out these three films! They are only not on our list of best bike documentaries because you can't currently get them online.
What do you think of our list of road cycling documentaries?
Have we missed your favourite?! Let us know in the comments below.
If you fancy a bit of non-fiction, check out our pick of the best road cycling films.
Also check out our favourite road cycling books. We reckon these are the ones every proper roadie should have read!
UK + Europe 2021