This film is part of Rentals

Wheels of Life

Bonkers bikes promo. They don't make 'em like this any more... or do they?

Advert 1929 8 mins Silent


This fun silent promo for Raleigh bicycles combines a splendidly silly story with ace footage of steel bike production. Our hero, an upright chap recovering from a nervous breakdown, recalls a dream about Sir Walter Raleigh (as you do...) and duly takes up cycling, putting himself on the road to recovery. Fascinating factory scenes showcase Raleigh craftsmanship.

The dream sequence follows the protagonist's viewing of Sir John Everett Millais' painting The Boyhood of Raleigh, which is held by the Tate. Wheels of Life combines (or collides) two common forms of promotional filmmaking: high-concept fantasy and nuts-and-bolts documentary of production processes. Both had been used for at least 25 years by the time this curio was made, and both are still used in today's digital advertising and 'branded content'. It's the fiction that tends to date, often seeming kitsch, while the actuality footage becomes more intensely fascinating with every passing decade. That's certainly the case here.