In the words of the now-infamous Lance Armstrong, it’s not about the bike.
But for London bike shop and framebuilder Condor, the forthcoming Armstrong film, based on the book Seven Deadly Sins, is precisely the opposite: it’s about nothing but the bike.
In September last year, the manufacturer was tasked by film producers Working Title to recreate 40 replica bikes for the Stephen Frears-directed film, which stars Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong, Chris O’Dowd as Walsh and features Dustin Hoffman and Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemmons.
The intricate replication prop project was led by Ben Spurrier, head of design at Condor. He admitted to frantic late nights trawling through retro photos from the era and working on a desktop vinyl cutter to painstakingly recreate decals for the bikes before they were sent to the filming location in France.
“It was a fabulous project,” Spurrier told BikeRadar yesterday. “A lot of it was of an era when we were just getting into cycling ourselves so we were trawling through images like Miguel Indurain riding his bike,” he said.
“Initially the producers wanted an entire peloton’s worth of vintage bikes between about 1994 and 2004, However the best thing we could think of was just simply to replicate the bikes as best as possible because we had three weeks in which to do the whole lot,” added Spurrier.
The project used up Condor’s entire stock of steel-tubed Classico framesets which were sent off to be painted before the intricate job of fixing decals to the frame. Given that a large section of the film's audience will be cyclists – well known for their fastidious attention to kit detail – Spurrier knew the pressure was on.
“As an example, the 1994 Eddy Merckx Motorola bikes – we got them sprayed in a simple blue to red fade, front to back, and then I’ve got a little desk top vinyl cutting machine. For things like the white panels and all the little logos and chevrons on the frame I just went to work and vinyl'd everything up from scratch.
“It took about 10 days to cut everything and stick everything on from scratch.”
The Cannondale CAAD 4 and 5 framesets provided a particular challenge said Spurrier. The original bikes had four Cannondale stickers on the massive down tube – but when it came to recreating the film bikes, there was only space for two.
“We simply painted the bikes red and I made as many of the decals as possible. When you look at a still of the bike you can’t really tell much of a difference, [but] with the Cannondale I had to apply a bit of artistic licence.”
His personal favourite was the fleet of Eddy Merckx bikes but he was pleased with the overall result.
“I’m confident that the bikes do the originals justice,” he said.
The Trek bikes – synonymous with Armstrong throughout his career – were sourced separately, said Spurrier.
Studio filming for the as-yet-untitled film is taking place in London. A release date is still to be fixed. Deadline reports that the final stage of filming will take place in the USA.
See the gallery for pictures of Condor’s handiwork.