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Having touched mortality with a recent heart attack, Tom Ryder sets off across the desert on his bicycle in an odyssey of meaning. His destination – Phoenix, the city of rebirth. Behind him is an abandoned wife, a discarded job, and a life of conformity whose weight became so great it threatened to crush him. Ahead is a rendezvous with fate and a truth long hidden in the recesses of his mind.


Bicycle Rider

Bicycle Rider is the most autobiographical of my screenplays. Many of the scenes that occur in the script happened to me. Like Tom Rider, I was shoved into the room where my father had just died and told that I must accept death by looking on it. Like Rider, I convinced myself that love was an illusion so I could protect myself from its loss. I also looked down into a casket and saw the scar on one of the hands of the corpse lying there, but it was my brother's corpse, not a stranger's, and the hand might have been a duplicate of my own.

When I first pitched the idea to my then (and in almost every respect, best, and now late) agent, Allen Greene, he said, "Ah, it's a variation on The Swimmer." He didn't mean by this that it was a copy of The Swimmer, merely that it was a genre relative. The Swimmer is a short story written by John Cheever published in 1960 and later produced as a feature film starring Burt Lancaster. It’s the story of a man who swims across Westchester County, New York, from swimming pool to swimming pool, and the revelations he experiences as he meets old neighbors and friends. I thought about Allen's comment a lot and eventually concluded that Bicycle Rider and The Swimmer were both odyssey tales, stories about the quests a person makes outward into the world that reveal truths that are hidden inward, deep in his soul.

Early in my life, just before adulthood, I lost my father and brother, the former not unexpectedly, the latter a clap of thunder, both dead within a year of one another. I carried the scars from their deaths for many years thereafter, carry them now truth be told, although they are old scars today and thus less painful. What happened to me then caused this script to be written. Like Tom Rider, I was slow to realize the truth, and also like him, I accepted it when it finally became undeniable, as we all do.

I have not ridden a bicycle since before the deaths that seeded this screenplay, so the instrument of Rider's quest, at least as it relates to me, is completely a metaphor. My instrument was writing, and for me the quest has not ended. Still pedaling.

-- Richard Taylor, Cambria, California, August 2010


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