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Common Tread

A film about speed, starring some motorcycles

Feb 15, 2023

You don't have to be a racer to appreciate speed. Even if you're a cruiser rider who enjoys a relaxed pace on a quiet road, stretched out with boot soles catching the breeze, you're still enjoying the sensation of speeds faster than what humans alone can achieve. Otherwise, you'd be walking along that road.

Yes, motorcycling and speed, in various measures, go together. But what is it about speed that makes it so enticing to us?

That's the subject of a new documentary, "Rapid Motion Through Space: An Incomplete History of Speed." And motorcycles play a pretty big role in this documentary.

Sure, there's plenty of discussion about things like the speed of light, the speed of sound, the speed of thoughts passing through our brains, the speed of galaxies hurtling apart as the universe expands. Naturally, a land-speed-record car and a Formula One engineer or two make appearances. But motorcycles predominate the man-made speed.

Within the first half an hour, the film takes us to the British MotoGP round and it includes interviews with racing journalists such as Mat Oxley and David Emmett, and racers such as world champions Andrea Dovizioso and Ana Carrasco. Later in the film, motorcycles play a key role where speed is measured not in hundreds of miles per hour down a straight on a race course but in the critical hours it takes to get a medical sample from a remote African village to a clinic. The documentary features the lifesaving charities Riders for Health and Two Wheels for Life that use motorcycles to provide health services in remote locations.

And at the end, mathematician and author Matt Parker, who explains many of the more complicated calculations of speed, gets to experience those forces as never before on a two-up ride at the same British MotoGP race.

The movie is free to watch at or on YouTube.