The Biking Lifeby: Naomi Bloom 3/1/2007
Words from the Wise
In its relatively short presence on our planet, the bicycle has prompted technological innovation, professional and amateur sports, a means of transportation, several pastimes and lifestyles. It has lifted us out of the doldrums, cast us down in despair, driven us to achieve lofty goals, goaded us to abandon all senses. It's allowed us to choose how we interact with our environment, based on how we perceive our bikes and ourselves riding them.
Ain't that grand? Especially when bikes and biking have inspired some of our planet's most articulate souls to write or pronounce well-chosen to express that grandeur.
Herewith some of my favorite words of wisdom about bikes, bicycling and/or the accompanying lifestyle. Some from the famous and infamous, some from ordinary cyclists like you and me. You can find more on posters in college dorms, but even more so all over the Internet. One way they keep cropping up is at the bottom of email messages from folks who share our passion for riding. (You may want to adopt one or more of these pearls of wisdom for your own sigs.)
About physical exercise
"Ever bike? Now that's something that makes life worth living! I take exercise every afternoon that way. Oh, to just grip your handlebars and lay down to it, and go ripping and tearing through streets and road, over railroad tracks and bridges, threading crowds, avoiding collisions, at twenty miles or more an hour, and wondering all the time when you're going to smash up. Well now, that's something! And then go home again after three hours of it, into the tub, rub down well, then into a soft shirt and down to the dinner table, with the evening paper and a glass of wine in prospect - and then to think that tomorrow I can do it all over again!"
Rich Stark, ultramarathoner:
"Some people are not in control of their cycling. The cycling is in control of them. You get to a point where you say, 'Oh my God, I'm a motor for my bicycle. I'm no longer a person.'"
Grant Peterson: Don't make the common mistake of thinking low gears will keep you from getting strong. Too-high gears will keep you from riding the bike,. . .[and]. . .put you right back onto the family sofa, in front of the television set. Low gears will have you out there riding, going places you simply can't go with higher gears. Nobody ever didn't go for a ride because the gears were too low.
"This is not Disneyland, or Hollywood. I'll give you an example: I've read that I flew up the hills and mountains of France. But you don't fly up a hill. You struggle slowly and painfully up a hill, and maybe, if you work very hard, you get to the top ahead of everybody else."
"Don't put any cycler up on a pedestal, except Lon [Haldeman] and Freddie [Rodriguez, I assume-nb]."
One of the coolest things about bicycles is that they're darn easy to fix; fun to fix, too. Everything's right there, easy to see and figure out. With basic hand tools you might already have around the house, you can make many common repairs. Just by riding the bike, you can usually diagnose problems.
Bob Weir, of The Grateful Dead and RatDog:
I've heard...that the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever devised by man in terms of calories expended for work done. Philosophically, I like that a lot. It's Technology, Servant of Man, in its very finest form."
"The pros and cons of various frame materials make for interesting technical discussions. None of it matters much as long as the bike fits you correctly and you're out there riding it."
Popular Science, 1891:
"There is something uncanny in the noiseless rush of the cyclist, as he comes into view, passes by, and disappears."
Stewart Parker, "Spokesong"
The bicycle hides nothing and threatens nothing.
It is what it does, its form is its function.
"Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world."
Susan B. Anthony:
"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
Frances E. Willard, author of "How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle":
"She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life."
"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair or the future of the human race."
Andrew J. Kirk:
"Work is the curse of the biking classes!"
Relationships and Romance
Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895:
"The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community."
"If you're a guy, don't try to be a mentor to every female cycler you meet."
"You can tell it's love when he waits for you at the top of the hill."
The Sweet Spot
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking."
"What makes cycling so glorious is how I can feel my whole body as it moves with the bike. The way my legs spin lightly in a fluid motion that betrays none of the force they're generating. How I move my shoulders to make almost imperceptible corrections to my steering. I can feel my breathing. It's harsh and quick, but each breath is still deep. I've never found any other way of so fully engaging mind and body, of functioning so completely."
John F. Kennedy:
"Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride."
Bill Nye, the Science Guy:
"Bicycling is a big part of the future. It has to be. There's something wrong with a society that drives a car to workout in a gym."
"Work to eat, eat to live, live to bike, bike to work."
"Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand."
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live.
I'm always on the lookout for more wisdom from articulate men and women who share my joy in riding a bike. I've found a lot of what tickles my fancy at these web sites. You may find other pearls more to you liking.
If you'd like to receive a gem in you email box every other week, subscribe to Adventure Cycling's free Bike Bits newsletter. It will share lots more information with you about what's going on in cycling just about everywhere.
OK, I've said enough about what there is to say about bikes and riding. Now it's time to, in the words of Captain Jim: "Shut up and pedal!"
Images courtesy of Jim Langley
Naomi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org