After five weeks, 12 posts, 14 games, and 11,146 words, my cycling tour of PC gaming ended on Friday. I’ve crossed the active warzones of GTA Online and PUBG, stunted down murderous descents in extreme sports games, tried to learn serious bike race tactics in strategy games, gone for a weird ride in a walking simulator, and even needed to ride my real bike for a game powered by Strava. For your convenience and enjoyment, that’s now all gathered here with some bonus bike thoughts.
In early July, I started writing about cycling in PC games to mark the 2022 Tour De France and inaugural Tour De France Femmes. I ride a lot in real life and enjoy watching the Tour, and wanted to share these pleasure while doing a lot of cycling in games too. I never wanted to cover every single game with bikes but the series did run long as I kept thinking of more topics to talk about (and kept making video montages of my little digital biking body being smeared across hillsides and tarmac). It’s been fun! Here’s the whole thing:
Serious identical men in the TDF game Stage 1 – Tour De France 2022
Where better to start than the official Tour De France game? I talked about the allure and tactics of cycling’s greatest race, which to me is a sightseeing soap opera across three weeks and thousands of kilometres. Alas, this game feels like neither cycling nor the TDF to me.
We bounce over to the childhood joys of riding bikes with pals and of customising your bike—and how even serious adult cyclists try to make their bikes look like. And I cannot stop myself from raising the worst fashion of this year’s TDF.
Ubisoft’s open-world multi-sport xtreme-o-rama has a wildly offputting rude ‘tude but its cycling experience feels great! With the game’s HUD turned off, I rattle through deadly downhill races and go on long aimless bike rides through American national parks. I remain delighted by how good this turned out to be.
I get lost in a walking simulator with a bicycle, dinging my bell to myself as I cross a desert where night falls fast. Which reminds me of getting lost and having adventures go wrong on my real bike. The game’s free, too.
To better understand the tactics and strategies of competitive cycling, I try two management sim games. My favourite of the pair is The Cyclist, which has a great board game feel.
Bird Snapper Stage 6 – Grand Theft Auto Online
While I own supercars, warplanes, motorbikes, attack helicopters, and a hoverbike in GTA Online, my favourite form of transport is the humble BMX. It’s the most fun way to roam the city and watch what other players are up to. The vulnerability of cycling tends to make other players humour your tourism, unless they plan to supermurder you. Which they might. Often.
Honestly, I just thought it would be funny to ride around warzones with my pals, dodging bullets and trying to ding out Chelsea Dagger on our bells. We never managed a full squad of bicycle bully boys but I still enjoyed both stealthy serious travel and dangerous daft antics—and I did kinda manage Chelsea Dagger. I was also impressed that the devs picked the perfect type of bicycle for stag & hen weekend bike hire.
This idle RPG feeds on data from real exercise recorded on Strava or Fitbit. I saddle up and put in some kilometres to talk about stats, data, seriousness, and why I think the question “Do you do Strava?” is often actually people asking me “So are you a prick about cycling?”
After puncturing a tyre on my real bike while riding for Wren, I get curious about bicycle repair games. I glance at two currently in development, then start wishing for a bike repair puzzle game full of fiendish fiddling, esoteric incompatible standards, distressing DIY bodges, mistakes making problems worse, and clumps of oily pet hair.
The Cyclist: Tactics Stage 10 – Aran’s Bike Trip
My tour joins up with someone else, accompanying an indie dev on his two-day bike trip in the Netherlands through a lovely little visual novel.
Lonely Mountains is a game of honing routes and shaving seconds to optimise descents, but also captures the feeling of adventures through nature. The best part is having preset points you can stop, get off, and admire the view, which has a lesson for me and me own cycling.
The tour ends with downhill mountain biking whose riding and stunting is so much fun that I don’t really mind that it’s wrapped in a bland roguelikelike structure. A reminder that however you ride and enjoy bikes is good if it works for you (and doesn’t endanger others).
That was the main feeling that developed for me across my Tour De Jeux: wanting to celebrate all types of cycling, bikes, and cyclists. I think some people expect snobbery and I want to defuse that. Myself, I ride a beat-up bike to get about town then have a good bike to ride distance on weekends, in a middle ground of ‘serious about cycling but not really fast’. Even in my fancy kit on a 100km ride, I’ll give a nod or wee wave to everyone I pass. No judgments; I’m just excited for all of us to be out on bicycles. In all sorts of games, too.
If you fancy more bikereading, my pal Hannah Nicklin, the CEO of Mutazione developers Die Gute Fabrik, wrote a fun wee zine about cycling and game bikes a few years back. She’s more serious about cycling than I am, and looked at bikes in games I haven’t covered. It’s named N+1, and you can get a PDF copy from Big Cartel for £1.50 (please do be patient if you buy one, because it’s just her e-mailing out download links).
Thank you for joining me on the Tour, gang. I was glad to hear about your own cycling adventures, your own passions, and how we had often suffered similar mishaps. And I was very glad to hear that all this had made some of you want to get back on your own bikes.
Alright, now developers need to create a rash of new bicycle games so we can do this all over again alongside the 2023 Tour(s) De France. Allez allez!