Over the years there have been a few attempts at bringing cycling into video games, and although it's fair to say that some were a lot more popular than others, that didn't stop them from eating into plenty of our free time. In this article we take a look back at five memorable titles that kept us clocking the miles even while our bikes were tucked away in the shed.
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Launching exclusively onto the Playstation 2 back in 2003 (we know, right?!), Downhill Domination was a strangely satisfying mashup of reality and fantasy where a player would race downhill head-to-head against multiple opponents on ludicrously steep, obstacle-ridden terrain.
Unusually, a player could choose a number of real world bikes from Specialized, Foes, GT, and Karpiel and even upgrade individual components with real world parts from the likes of Mavic, Marzocchi, Manitou and Maxxis. Stranger still, if you did well enough at the game then you were rewarded with the opportunity to play as mountain bike legends Eric Carter or Tara Llanes.
Playing it was an odd experience that combined the racing element of many driving games with the ability to freestyle like many skate games. Weirder still was the in-game combat which — similar to that of the Sega Mega Drive classic Road Rash — allowed players to comically punt one and other out of the running.
It was a pretty good game too, and achieved high praise among many of the gaming industry's most respected review titles.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX
BMX legend Dave Mirra tragically left us last year but his legend lives on thanks in part to his superb videogame series. Inspiring countless millennials to go out and scrape their knees and elbows, Dave Mirra was the biking world's answer to Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series.
Players could send big tricks as Mirra himself or take on various fun challenges throughout a wide variety of riding environments that the game offered. Whether you were pulling tabletops at indoor parks, doing peg grinds on street levels or backflips on the dirt, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX always had a killer soundtrack to accompany the action — so much so that a Maximum Remix version of the game even came with its own CD of the soundtrack. We may have to dust off our PS1 to revisit this one.
No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking
With Rob Warner dropping in on a Giant ATX on the cover, No Fear Downhill Mountain Biking always looked like it should've been brilliant, and in some ways it was. Riders were pitched head-to-head on tracks ranging from the streets of San Francisco to muddy fields in Yorkshire and even alongside the Matukituki Rapids of New Zealand.
Button tapping translated directly to physical effort from the rider's legs, but you had to be conservative with your power or else you'd end up limping around before a disappointed crowd. Jumps and sharp corners added to the difficulty of what was already a very tricky game — you could even play in first person view, placing a gawky riser bar in your field of view at all times.
Released on several different formats since 1986, this Atari classic dropped you into the world of a full-time bicycle riding paperboy. A player would take on a full week of delivering newspapers to subscribers on either Easy Street, Middle Road or Hard Way. Dodging traffic and hitting jumps served as a distraction from your delivery duties while smashing the windows of non-subscribers' homes also earned you points. Ultra-bright visuals combined with a trippy soundtrack for an alarmingly addictive experience.
Pro Cycling Manager/Cycling Manager
For the fans of most of the other games on this list this one probably won't apply, but this PC title is definitely worth a mention — even if it's just to poke a bit of fun. Think football manager but with bikes, Cycling Manager and the more recent Pro Cycling Manager titles put you in the place of a sporting director for one of the UCI Pro Tour competitive teams. Realistic race depiction with real riders and teams plus the ability to create your own stages makes this a delight for a very select demographic, for most other people it's weird — very weird.
Think we've missed any obvious games from this list? Let us know in the comments below.