“The world lies right beyond the handlebars of any bicycle.”
– Daniel Behrman, The Man Who Loved Bicycles
Yes, it does. In one of my League of American Bicyclists courses, we do an entry exercise that includes the question, “What is the one word that describes what learning to ride a bike meant to you?” The most-often given answer is, “Freedom.” And that’s one way to read the meaning of this quote. Learning to ride a bicycle gave a sense of freedom, a sense that the world opened up beyond the home in which we were growing up. Everything was possible.
As we grew, many of us gave up on the bike. We learned to drive a car, so we put away the “things of a child.” Never looking back, never again thinking about the sheer joy of something as simple as a bike ride.
But wait, there’s more. The bicycle is another way to get from Point A to Point B. For most people, nothing between those two points is important. But, let’s think back to geometry class. There are an infinite number of points between A and B. But while driving in a car you will hardly notice any of them. That big metal box becomes a cocoon, insulating you from the world outside. There are few sights that can be appreciated as you speed past them. There are virtually no scents to be appreciated, as the hermetically sealed compartment’s ventilation system filters and recirculates the air. There is no sound except the radio blasting out the hits, the news, or what have you.
But the bicycle gives a unique perspective. At its fastest (for most riders), it just approaches the minimum speeds used by motorists as they go by, oblivious to their surroundings.
But the bicyclist’s view of the world is different. He is in the moment instead of protected from it. She sees the road in a different, kinesthetic way. He feels the terrain, having to pedal just a bit harder during that slight undulation of the road. At those lower speeds, and since there is no power other than human power, the bicyclist is more involved when going from one place to another.
And, “Oh, that amazing scent! Which of the trees/bushes around me is announcing its presence?”
“Doesn’t that breeze feel great?” she wonders.
“Wow, I hate it when the wind smacks me in the face. Wind is harder than hills…”
There’s a greater awareness, and maybe even appreciation, of the world around you when you’re on a bike.
Freedom. Awareness. Appreciation. Yes.