by Eric Swedlund on Sep 27, 2011 • 8: 12 UTC
I pedaled leisurely rather than furiously, making no quick turns, hopping over no jutting tree roots, never trying to weave in and out of the other riders. But there I was, on the Helltrack qualifying course, riding BMX with the likes of Eddie Fiola, Martin Aparijo, Kevin Hull and Everett and Beatle Rosecrans. Twenty-five years after the movie that changed BMX forever, I was celebrating with some of the movie’s star stunt riders, who despite a lifetime of crashes, bruises and breaks are still nimble magicians on bicycles, none of them seeming to be anywhere near as old as their late 40s.
The northern August sun had me sweating plenty riding around Calgary’s Bowness Park, the location used for much of the filming of Rad, the 1986 Hal Needham picture that slowly and surely – in stark contrast to the breakneck pace of the bicycle racing it showcased – has become one of the most beloved cult films of all time. Taking in just $2 million at the box office and receiving what, in the film’s parlance, would be deemed uniformly “bogus” reviews, Rad nonetheless has passed the last quarter century steadily growing its small army of utterly devoted fans. I’m one of them, still trying to answer the what and the why of super-fandom. But you can’t explain magic – which Rad keeps dishing my way in spades – and because I couldn’t imagine not going, I flew to Calgary to join the celebration.
Rad 25 – a festival-cum-reunion organized by the Calgary Underground Film Festival, themovierad.com and City of Cochrane – brought together the movie’s director, producer, writer, stars, BMX stunt riders and fans to recapture the joy of its underdog story, the loose and kitschy cool of its 1980s dialogue and music and the awesomeness of its unprecedented BMX stunts. Rad unquestionably changed bicycle culture forever. But because it gave the emerging BMX subculture its high-gloss, Hollywood introduction to the rest of the world, more than most films, Rad also changed people’s lives forever.