Tom Smith (Spencer Shires) is asleep in bed, but dreaming of his current passion, which is flight. His spirit lifts from his slumbering body and begins to float around the room as he takes in the pictures of aircraft he has pinned to the walls, then, convinced he really can fly, Tom starts heading to the window which happens to be open, planning to get out into the skies. However, just as he is about to cross the threshhold he is called for breakfast, which stops his reverie in its tracks. Nevertheless, it is the school holidays so he can get out on his bicycle and who knows? Maybe his dreams of flight could come true?
The Sky Bike was not going to show Tom taking to the heavens on his personal transport with the help of a friendly space alien à la E.T. The Extraterrestrial, for this was a production from The Children's Film Foundation, as those pigeons taking off from Trafalgar Square at the beginning indicated, quite appropriately in this case for getting off the ground was the theme of the movie. This was more of a Boy's Own adventure, or as close as the C.F.F. could get at any rate, so as usual with these efforts the young cast were pressed into service to foil scheming adult criminals.
This was the final film directed by Ealing stalwart Charles Frend, as the C.F.F. did tend to become an old director's home for professionals who could work cheaply and efficiently, though he was a long way from Scott of the Antarctic or The Cruel Sea. Most of these craftsmen worked fairly anonymously within the parameters set by the foundation, and Frend was little different, but managed to keep the plot moving along briskly as Tom meets the requisite ageing character actor common to many of these, here Liam Redmond as Lovejoy. No, not an early appearance for the roguish antiques dealer made famous by Ian McShane, but a funeral director who like Tom dreams of flying.
Whether he goes as far as actual astral projection as the boy does during the frankly bizarre introduction to this is another matter undisclosed, but after that trip into the mystical qualities of flight the tone settles down into the more relatively ordinary business of tackling the contraption of the title. Lovejoy has built a special manpowered vehicle which he hopes will be able to soar above the airfield he secretly keeps it at (in the hangar), and Tom happens to stumble across him trying to get it off the ground when he goes there to ride his (non-flying) bike - note the health and safety emphasis on Tom's cycling proficiency, letting the kids know the correct way to ride their two wheelers, if not their two wheels and a pair of wings.
Lovejoy wishes to enter his invention in a competition where a bunch of amateur boffins have been building pseudo-Leonardo Da Vinci style flying machines which against the odds really will work. The bad guys have a sleek silver model, and plan to win by cheating (they have a biplane to assist them), yet just as the plot is heating up, Tom has to go on holiday. You don't get James Bond or Indiana Jones breaking off from their adventures for a week's vacation, yet that's what happens here, with our hero uselessly instructing Lovejoy to contact his pal Porker (Ian Ellis) - who may be overweight, if you couldn't tell by that nickname - should there be any developments. Jealous of this distraction in their friendship, Porker promptly reveals all about the Sky Bike to the baddies, which sees Lovejoy kidnapped and Tom having to save the day, the finale of which features not one but three people falling into water as was traditional. Much as you'd expect, then, but valuable for nostalgists. Music by Harry Robertson.
[The Sky Bike is included on the C.F.F. DVD collection The Race is On from The B.F.I. along with Soapbox Derby and Sammy's Super T-Shirt. You get an informative booklet with it, too.]