This article interprets images of bicycles in two films – Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (Renoir, 1936) and Le Jour se lève (Marcel Carné, 1939) – whose directors each turned their cameras to the competing ideologies that fractured France over the course of the 1930s. Locating the practice of cycling within its contemporary economic, political and sociological contexts, this analysis proposes that Renoir and Carné’s respective portrayals of cycling chart evolutions in French national identity and express French society’s expectations of the future during the rise and precipitous fall of the Front populaire in the turbulent years preceding the outbreak of the Second World War. Particular attention is lent to the relationship between cycling and concerns raised by Léon Blum’s government, including industrialism, enterprise, health and le loisir.