Today is World Bicycle Day, so allow me to say: more bikes in video games, please. The ones we have are nice, but more would be grand, ta. I’ll take more games about cycling. I’ll take more bikes in games not about cycling. I’ll take hot stunts and I’ll take gentle transport. And what I truly crave is more crap bikes in games.
I’ve always enjoyed bikes in games but I hunger for them after I got back into cycling during lockdown, as many did. I hadn’t ridden regularly in forever but a friend offered me his old mountain bike (the police found it a decade after it was nicked) and I did not have a lot going on at the time. One year later, cycling is not only how I get around town, I like to start my weekends with a 50-mile ride and I have a shiny new road bike on order. Bikes are good. They go fast, using your body. And they look cool. And they make good noises. More virtual bikes, please.
We do have some good bikes already. Descenders has the cautious abandon of tearing downhill off-road, as does Lonely Mountains: Downhill. Knights & Bikes evokes the fun of zooming through puddles as a kid and racing your pal. I’m delighted that serious military sim Arma 3 added bicyles with a DLC pack. I still think the most fun way to observe the chaos of a busy Grand Theft Auto Online server is rolling around on a BMX, clearly a harmless idiot who just wants to hop over cars and grind railings while everything around me explodes. Hell, with a mod and some tech you can cycle around GTA by pedalling your actual bike. And I do like the chill vibes of Bernband dev Tom van der Boogaart’s game about riding bikes around a desert filled with pylons. Which virtuabikes have you enjoyed, gang?
Watching GTA Online’s alien wars from a BMX, nimbly dodging baseball bats and pool cues. Until a purple alien drove over me in a tank.
But all those fancy open-world games with cars and motorbikes yet no bicycles are terrible missed opportunities. I’d love bikes in something like Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds too. I’d also be fascinated to see devs experimenting more with control schemes that might capture more of the feel of cycling. Or a giant multiplayer walking simulator with bikes to trundle around with my pals. Or more hot bike tricks, or daft stunts in the back alley. And while I’m so very far from a competitive cyclist, I do enjoy watching races and would like to see more takes on that. Just more bikes, everywhere, thank you.
My biggest dream is a strange one: I’d love more crap bikes. I adore vehicles in games which express personality through quirks and wonks, and a bicycle sure can be quirky. Poorly indexed gears which leave the chain rattling. Bad brakes on one wheel that make stopping unpredictable. Misaligned handlebars which cause the bike turn to one side when you should be going forwards. A mystery squeak which evades all attempts to find its source. A saddle which unexpectedly slides back out of position. And mercy me, I adore the guttural grinding of a rusty old bell which can’t ring but certainly can still alarm people. Please, video games, give me crap bikes with personality.
Yes, absolutely I daubed my temporary mudguard with XTREME slogans and decals. Look, I only needed it for two days.
I’d happily see the puzzles and challenges of bike repair in games as well. I had to learn a lot about that myself, with bike shops backed up after everyone else in lockdown dug old bikes out their shed. For a mechanical device, a lot of processes feel surprisingly organic. Lots of touch and intution, wobbling and wiggling, listening, tugging, and caressing – with a real risk of spraying hydraulic brake fluid across your lounge. Mistakes were made. (If you need help with that yourself, I’d really recommend the London Bike Kitchen’s Hex Education online classes if they run again.) The madcap sim My Summer Car isn’t far off how I spent summer 2020 with my bike, especially when I built a temporary replacement mudguard from a protein powder tub and picture wire.
More bikes, please. Especially while the current parts shortage makes finding a physical bike a real challenge.