Antonio Ricci is only one of several men who regularly stand outside his local municipal employment office in Rome every morning hoping that there is work available, it doled out on a qualification basis. This morning, he is told there is a job for him starting tomorrow hanging posters around the city. In getting the job, he tells a white lie in that he has a bicycle, a bicycle which is a requirement for the work. In actuality, he pawned his bicycle to put food on the table for himself, his wife Maria, and their two young children. At some sacrifice, he and Maria sell some of their possessions so that Antonio can get his bicycle out of hawk. They believe it is worth it as the return in employment salary and overtime far exceeds the initial capital outlay in getting the bicycle back. On Antonio's first working day, his bicycle is stolen as he is on his ladder hanging a poster. With little help from the police who tell him all they can do is keep the bicycle's serial number on file in case it does show up, Antonio, with his friends and his older son, adolescent Bruno, by his side, go on what seems like a futile mission to locate the bicycle, which could now be anywhere in Rome. But as Antonio views the bicycle as his and his family's means of survival, he will grasp at any straw to locate the bicycle and/or the thief, who he did see, and perhaps take desperate measures in these desperate times.