By 1977, Queen were arguably the biggest rock band in the world thanks to international hits like Killer Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody, Somebody to Love, We Are The Champions, and We Will Rock You.
To record their next album, Queen moved to France for inspiration and produced one of the most iconic cycling songs ever. In fact, so iconic that Tour de France sponsors Škoda are using Bicycle Race to evoke all the joys of cycling – have a look at why.
Freddie Mercury was no stranger to political lyrics and metaphors, but Bicycle Race has a surreal edge that’s odd, even by Queen’s standards.
Legend has it that Mercury was inspired by the Tour de France peloton flying past his hotel window – the sudden and striking appearance of the peloton before they leave is reflected in the structure of the song.
Fat bottomed girls
Bicycle Race was released as a double A-side with Fat Bottomed Girls, and Queen went full rock’n’roll with the promotion of the singles. Queen staged an all-female bicycle race around Wimbledon Stadium, just to make sure they grabbed the attention of the press.
To ram the point home, they used images from the shoot for the covers, with various countries and broadcasters censoring Queen’s work depending on their sense of humour – and the law.
Cycle fans will note the obscene amount of steel-framed lug-welded bikes used in the video, most of which were classic race 10-speeds. The ladies favoured Campagnola groupsets with frames made by Gitane, Peugeot, Raleigh, and Colnago.
Ring my bell
One of the most iconic sections of Bicycle Race features a chorus of bicycle bells – bike shops in England had to order in extra whenever Queen played nearby as they were sure to sell out otherwise.
I want to ride my bicycle
Given all moral dilemmas that Mercury sings about, he’s emphatic about the solution to the problems: BICYCLE – the certainty with which the chorus of vocals repeatedly shouts the word is testament to Queen’s love of cycling, and the fact that they want the freedom to ride it WHERE THEY LIKE!