In the James Bond films, agent 007 has ridden many motorcycles. The speed, danger, and capability of a motorcycle suit the MI6 agent nearly as well as his tuxedo or Walther PPK. But not every motorcycle action sequence is realistic. So who better to rate James Bond’s riding than Moto GP champion Casey Stoner? Stoner sat down to watch Pierce Brosnan’s BMW R 1200 motorcycle chase in Tomorrow Never Dies and separate the real from the rubbish.
The Tomorrow Never Dies James Bond motorcycle chase
Pierce Brosnan’s second film as James Bond was 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies. In the movie, he and Chinese Agent Wai Lin are captured by the villain and handcuffed together. When they escape into the city of Saigon, Bond hotwires a BMW R 1200 touring motorcycle. Atop the German bike, Bond and Lin flee the henchmen.
The two agents are handcuffed together for the entire chase. At first, Lin and Bond argue over who gets to drive the motorcycle. Then, for a while, Lin sits behind Bond. When she begins to slide off the bike, she wraps their handcuffed arms around his chest and operates the clutch side of the handlebars with her free hand. Later, she straddles Bond, telling him “don’t get any ideas,” and while facing backward, knocks various obstacles into their pursuers’ path.
Bond and Lin flee a convoy of rugged Land Rover SUVs and even a helicopter. They ride through Saigon markets, down alleys, and even across rooftops. At one point, Bond must jump the big motorcycle over the aircraft. Eventually, they slide beneath the helicopter’s blades to destroy it and escape.
Casey Stoner on Pierce Brosnan’s motorcycle riding scene
The premise of the handcuffed motorcycle chase is unique and even builds romantic tension between Bond and Lin. But Stoner points out, “Riding with two people (each) doing something different is nearly impossible. It would be easier to ride one-handed.”
Later, Bond accelerates the the big BMW and does a wheelstand. The Moto GP champion points out that with the large cruiser’s balance, it would rarely do a wheelie. He says, “that’s a very, very low probability to be able to do that.” He takes the opportunity to air a pet peeve with many action movies: “Wheelies do not help you go faster.”
When Bond and Lin jumped over the helicopter, they flew over a street. Then, they crashed through the roof of a building across the way. Then, finally, they landed on their wheels next to a couple making love, laughed, and rode away. Stoner says, “The jump is impossible. And just going through a roof and surviving it, and not breaking your backs on just the impact: that one was very, very difficult to see the realism in.”
Stoner also has some complaints about the sound effects used for the 1997 film. For example, he says the big bike “sounded very much like a scooter.” But he admits many films choose the wrong engine noise for motorcycles in post-production.
Overall, the champion rates the film’s motorcycle scene’s realism with an abysmal “one or a two” out of ten.