Making the Grades
Graeme Obree’s cycling aspirations began, not from a love of bikes, but out of fear. Given a set of wheels for Christmas, he finally had a way to outrun the schoolyard bullies who had relentlessly beaten him after class. Then as an adult, Graeme (played by Jonny Lee Miller) discovers that British cyclist Chris Boardman has ridden to a gold medal finish in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Having surpassed Chris in several local competitions, Graeme decides to pursue his own one-hour world record.
However, coming up with the funds to train and buy a bike proves difficult on the limited income of a bike courier. So he begins scavenging parts wherever he can find them—legally or not. Malky (Billy Boyd), a fellow courier, offers to drum up sponsors. The community’s boatyard owner and part-time minister, Douglas Baxter (Brian Cox) also offers encouragement to the young athlete.
But not everyone is eager to see him succeed. The cycling authorities seemingly have an interest in maintaining the status quo. Despite Graeme’s careful adherence to the organization’s specifications, the officials cite infractions with his bike made from scrap pieces and washing machine components. And rather than herald the advances he is making for the sport, they disqualify him for his riding style and continually manipulate the rules to prohibit his participation.
Haunted by the taunts of his childhood and the growing list of rejections, Graeme relapses into depression, an ailment he suffers from throughout his adult life. He even attempts suicide after another blow from the rule enforcement committee. Yet with the support of his wife Anne (Laura Fraser) and others who believe in his abilities, the Flying Scotsman is soon back on the track.
Several strong sexual expletives, other profanities, bullying and the suicide attempt make this film more appropriate for older audiences. But while the pace of the film doesn’t do justice to the hours of work and training put in by Graeme, this movie profiles the far-reaching contributions this unconventional Scotsman made to the sport of cycling.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Flying Scotsman.
Why are the cycling authorities so opposed to Graeme? How difficult is it to integrate new advancements into a sport? How is his aerodynamic riding style used today? Graeme is credited with inventing the “Superman” riding position. Although it is now banned, numerous riders in the 1990s won races using this style.
How does Graeme’s mental illness affect his ability to deal with disappointment? Is it a factor or not? What role does the support of his family and friends play in his success?
The revolutionary cyclist is attempting to break the human-powered land speed record in the United States in September 2012. He plans to do so on an unconventional main frame he is building in his own kitchen.