Premium Rush – Fixed Gear, Steel Frame, No Brakes

by Glenn Reeves on August 26, 2012

“Brakes are Death” says Wilee, the main dude in this frenetic portrait of a NYC bike courier being pursed by a mad-as-a-hatter cliched corrupt NYPD cop who wants to wrest a wee slip of paper, destined for a drop-off across town, from him.

premium rush through the traffic

Wilee threads the needle through the traffic

It’s the sort of line you might expect from The Duke in, lets say, True Grit. He’d have added a “pilgrim” or some such thing to make the target feel like the maggot the big fella thought should be self-evident to all.

Wilee is actually trying to impress his love-interest with this without success. Ha, she only realizes he’s right after wiping out in a high speed stack over an out-of-place New York dustbin. Now there’s an oxymoron. She removes her front brake, remounts and heads off again in her quest to thwart the bad guy.

Yeah, there’s plenty of flesh-on-tarmac to keep the ooo-ahhhh meter registering high on the scale. If you’re not into cycling, trust me, there’d be more broken bones than you could shake a stick at in the real world.

Anyhow . . .

there’s nothing special about the plot. Girl has problem: smuggle son to America from China. After several nail-biting hours (in the story, not the cinema) the problem is solved and order is restored. If you are worried about imminent Mayan-predicted apocalypse (now there’s a problem), then you’ll surely forget your troubles here.

Let’s put it this way. If you’ve every lost sleep at night over the following questions, then this flick is definitely for you:
1. Every wondered how SRAM Red shapes up against a fixed gear competitively?
2. Ever pondered how to shake a bicycle cop intent on ruining your ride?
3. Have you thrashed the bedclothes into knots coming up with a way to teach Taxi drivers who cut you off a lesson?

premium rush new york courier culture

I forgot Q.4: what happens when a cop takes you down at full speed?

For the answer to the third I am fascinated by the thick steel chain the guys wear around their waists. This is used to lock bikes to posts and the like but is kick-ass effective in–minimally–taking off the outside mirror of an offending taxi. But for this to work you’d best have a colleague backing you up around 5om behind wielding the weapon on your behalf.

Watching it actually took me back to the late 70s. I was happy as a pig in mud with my new treadly (er..”bicycle”). A super lightweight aluminum frame, all-welded, no bolts. And light as ……………. Fill in the adjective. Suuuper light. It was a fixed gear, after all I could hardly afford a newfangled derailleur.

At the crack of dawn I’d cover the 1.5 km downhill run to the beach for a swell check (look it up). Man I thrashed that frame on roads that would have stressed the best mountain bike long before it’s romanticized beginnings in the San Francisco hinterland.

Unsealed 4 wheel drive access roads, leaping rocks, putting it sideways through the loose gravel and then dropping it in the long grass at the base of the dunes. Who’d want to steel it anyway should anyone even chance by? A racer might have: it was a high-end hand-me-down racing frame for the time.

“Fixed Gear, Steel Frame, No Brakes” says Wilee at the end of the story having got the girl and basically covered all the bases that needed covering. A throw away line that certainly has The Duke squirming with envy wherever he is.

new york bicycle courier culture

I’ve got my chain but this yellow cabbie is behaving himself

Go see it. You’ll enjoy it, bike rider or no.

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Elijah Beale November 5, 2012 at 8:28 AM

“Brakes are Death”…”Wilee is actually trying to impress his love-interest with this without success.”

Umm…seemed to me that Wilee was actually just explaining his philosophy on riding and his life choice.

Proof:

1) The way that Wilee rides actually causes contention between the two (discussion of “no brakes; Wilee is done with that “trick stuff”)

2) What’s the reason to impress? They are already together…just in a minor rough patch.

3) Wilee won three major Alley Cats in a row, presumably riding the way that he does in the movie’s current time period. Was he “trying” to impress her for 3 years straight?

Also: Spell check.

Glenn Reeves November 5, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Good points. Thanks for that Elijah.

Joed tan December 19, 2012 at 8:54 AM

Nothing against the movie, but if you can see on one of the pictures Wilee’s bike has a hidden brake just right below the stem. Locate his hand and you can see a black brake lever. You can also see the brake cable running down his bike frame. Hehe.

Glenn Reeves December 19, 2012 at 9:07 AM

Nicely observed 😀

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