This coming weekend, the Indiana Student Foundation will host the 69th running of the Little 500 bicycle race. It’s a 50-mile race, which means 200 laps around the quarter-mile oval of Bill Armstrong Stadium. It was immortalized by the 1979 film, Breaking Away.
The women’s race starts Friday, April 12 at 4 p.m. The men start at 2 p.m. the following day.
For maximum enjoyment of the race, the best way to prepare is simple:
Watch the movie, then go out and do all the stuff that’s in the movie.
But you don’t have time to do all of it, because you’ve got a busy life updating your Twittergrams and Instabooks and whatnot. So I’ve pared down the stuff to just five things.
5. Chomp down on a spiral-bound paper notebook (substitute iPad as needed) and pedal around town with it clamped between your teeth.
In this scene, Dave spots Kath, who drops her notebook and rides away on a scooter (a small motorcycle, not one of the twinkie electric scooters that are now a part of Bloomington’s cityscape).
He hops on his bicycle, scoops up the notebook from the pavement while still in the saddle and chases her down. For an added degree of difficulty, start with the notebook on the ground, and scoop it up just like Dave did in the movie. It’s not as easy as Dave makes it look.
Candidates for Bloomington City Council should feel free to substitute campaign literature for a red spiral notebook. Prospective voters will not say, “Oooh gross, why is there slobber on this brochure?” They’ll play right along, just like Kath did in the movie. (She didn’t say, “Oooh gross, why is there slobber on my notebook?” No, she went right ahead and fell in love, that’s what she did.)
4. Head off to Brown County State Park and ride around until you get a flat and a pretty girl or boy drives past in a convertible.
In this scene Dave is toodling along in Brown County State Park when a tire blows out and he has to fix the flat by the side of the road.
While he’s fixing his flat, Kath drives past in a convertible and double-takes when she sees that it’s the same crazy dude who brought her the slobbery notebook. They are totally in love by this point.
You might have to ride a lot of miles before your tire blows out, so feel free to sprinkle some tacks on the road, Wile E. Coyote-style, and induce a flat. Please make sure to clean up the tacks after you are finished.
3. Ride your bicycle to a downtown parking meter and sit near it until the girl or boy of your dreams walks up.
This scene is a reconciliation of sorts between Dave and Kath. She punched him earlier when she found out he’s not Italian and he’s been pretending to be something he’s not.
She tells him she’s making a trip to Italy.
He wishes her a nice trip. She responds with, “You, too.”
Then comes a magical exchange:
Dave: But I’m not going anywhere.
Kath: Oh, I don’t know about that.
That’s what the standard script says, anyway. I think if you listen close, what Dave says is, “But I’m not parking anywhere.” Which would make sense, because they’re standing right next to a parking meter and a parking meter means you can’t just park anywhere, you have to park in a space and put coins in the meter.
This scene from a movie made in 1979 is prescient, because in today’s Bloomington, parking is one of the most controversial public policy issues facing local leaders.
2. Ride double with someone you love.
This scene, where Dave pedals Kath around on his bike, takes place after he serenades her with some nutty Italian song, as his buddy Cyril strums along on a guitar.
You can skip the serenade, if you like. Or swap in “Jack and Diane” for the Italian bit.
Like the notebook trick, this is not as easy as it looks. I tried it here in Bloomington back in 1988—as one does when falling in love—and it didn’t end well. The attempted bicycle ride, that is. Everything else turned out great. And it will for you too, if you only try.
1. Get a trophy and pedal your bicycle north down South Lincoln St.
This is an early part in the movie.
And you can re-enact this scene by heading to the 1200 block of South Lincoln Street and pedaling north. From the center of town, use one-way Washington to go south to Driscoll then cut over to Lincoln.
Here’s a link to the Google Map Streetview, looking north.
The red arrow in the screen-grab points to the step to the sidewalk leading up to the house where I lived in 1989—with the girl I tried to ride double on my bicycle. (There’s no plaque on the house memorializing those two years, but if you need to find the exact place, the address is 1212 South Lincoln.)
Later in the film, Dave’s Mom alludes to this early scene, as Dave contemplates whether to ride the Little 500. She tells him, “So, you see, I think you really should go. I think you should come home, singing, with a trophy. I think you should do all those things while you can.”
Dave’s mom was exactly right: Do all those things while you can. Or at least these five.