by Susan Starr and Kevin Kocur
“Take It To The Limit” is a documentary about many different types of bike racing. Speedway, motocross, road racing, flattrack, enduros and sidecar races are among the racing shown. They also show an insane sport called Grass Track racing, where people seem more likely to wipe out than finish the race.
The movie is an odd combination. The racing scenes are interesting. There are great close up shots of the races and scary looking crashes. Top racers describe the skills required to win. There is also an incongruous narration that doesn’t match the action, filled with lame attempts at humor. I recommend a liberal use of the mute button.
The movie ends with Arlo Guthrie singing “The Motorcycle Song” while riding down the road. This is accompanied by an animated short of a pickle riding a motorcycle through a vegetable filled desert. Arlo says the animation is supposed to explain the lyrics to the song. Watching it made me wish I was on drugs, but Kevin said it made him wish he had a Bloody Mary.
Bloody Marys and pickles be damned, this is a fun movie. There are awesome shots of Russ Collins’ twin Honda-powered Sorcerer drag bike and Kenny Roberts’ TZ750-powered flattracker as well as Mike Hailwood screaming around the Isle of Man (complete with on-bike camera). This is a dynamite film to watch if you’re waxing nostalgic about the “good ol’ days” of racing.
Even though the film’s only a tick over an hour and a half, there’s a lot of motorcycle action packed into it. There are great scenes of hill climbing hijinks and motocross mayhem, but the best scenes are of the European Grass Racing. Why is Grass Racing so cool? Take stock Speedway bikes, with limited suspension travel and no brakes, and race ‘em over bumpy fields. Then take dirt track sidecars and run them on the same course. Brilliant fun!
Nearly every form of motorcycle competition is featured. Do ya like trials? Remember trials/stunt rider Debbie Evans? You’ll be amazed as she does a headstand on a stopped bike! After that, throw in some more flattrack and road racing footage, featuring names like Sheene and Springsteen, just to top it all off.
Although the soundtrack was a little weird (Tangerine Dream, Foreigner and Arlo Guthrie all contributed) and didn’t always match up to the action on the screen (harpsichord music during the trials footage?), Take It To The Limit is still an enjoyable way to kill time on a wintery night.
I would suggest, however, that you forgo any attempt to serenade your girlfriend/wife/SO by singing altered lyrics to Foreigner songs. “Starr Rider” might just get you punched in the arm. Ouch!