Getting’ RAD in Alberta

Accidentally reliving the best BMX movie of all time

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We once pet-sat for a dog named Hector in Alberta, Canada. Hector was a brilliant dog to look after for three weeks, and Alberta was a personal highlight of the last leg of our US road trip in 2018. It wasn’t just the dog, or the landscapes, pristine waters, rocky outcrops, beautiful mountains, or myriad wildlife, it was also because Hector’s home turned out to be a stone’s throw from where the best BMX movie of all time was set and filmed: RAD

Trailer for RAD (1986) (sound might be very quiet, FYI)

What an incredible coincidence! My mates and I watched RAD close to eleventy-billion times. To this day I can still recite it almost word for word. It had a special affinity with me because one of the main characters shared my name. We even kinda looked the same:

Headshot comparison of Bart Conner from the BMX movie RAD, with Bart, the author of this blog
Bart / Bart

The discovery was made purely by accident: Kelly and I drove out to a nearby town to see a real-life local rodeo. We parked a few hundred metres away and on the walk up I saw a sign identifying the town as “Cochrane”. I turned to Kelly and said in a hushed but excited voice: “Think about it! TV Corners in every corner of the town, showing on network television the SPIRIT OF COCHRANE! …and of course my bicycles.”

I had just spontaneously quoted a scene from the movie.
She’d thought I’d gone crazy. (See the scene here at 0:10:32.

“Ha!” I said, “That’s the name of name of the town in RAD! How cool is that?!” We then went to the rodeo and I put it out of my mind.

Sign on warehouse reading Cochrand Lions Event Center
Cochrane Lions Event Center

Later that evening I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, the town name was more than a coincidence. I googled it, and sure enough Cochrane was where RAD was set and filmed. And what’s more the main street where we enjoyed some ice-cream after the rodeo was where the “cake in the oven” scene was filmed1, and the ice-cream shop was also in the movie!2.

Let’s walk this sucker3

I set about trying to find some locations from the movie. With the help of this website, I found many spots near to where we were staying, but most had changed and been replaced with other buildings. One important location which remained was Bowness Park where the qualifying races were held4. The qualifying race scenes were high-energy and high-emotion and are my favourite of the movie. High-intensity BMX racing plus Aussie treasure John Farhnam’s passionate voice on over the top, made it all the more special.

I took Hector for a long walk to explore. I was surprised that even after 25+ years the overgrown forest-y areas of the park did ring a visual bell for me:

Foresty slope underneath a highway bridge
Still from the qualifying race scene in the movie RAD
Qualifying race location (or near enough to it).

As did this part of the playground where Cru tests Cristian’s BMX skillz:

Playground benches used in the movie, RAD

Still from the 'child's play' scene in the movie RAD

Still there! Playground benches used in the movie (see at 1:01:55)

Hector and I spent a couple hours walking around in a fog of nostalgia. It was… wait for it …RAD! While sitting down for a brief sip of water I jumped online, found an original one-sheet movie poster from 1986, purchased it, contacted my poster framer of choice5 and told them to expect something in the mail.

Linen-backed movie poster stretched out on a wooden floor
Impulse buy, no regrets.

This poster’s not winning any design awards, but even as an experienced and nit-picky designer I can look right through the bad design see some of my best childhood memories.

I’m in awe at how lucky I was to be able to physically stand in these locations and see them with my own eyes. Even thinking back on it now I feel my heart rate rising in excitement. The experience was never on my bucket list, but I sure as hell added it — and checked it off — in 2018.

  1. Cake in the oven scene: 0:23:46
  2. Ice-cream shop scene: 1:12:38
  3. Walk this sucker scene: 0:04:36
  4. Qualifying race scene: 0:44:10
  5. One of the four shops in the US doing proper archival linen-backing of posters. Do not trust a framer who wants to glue your posters to a board!