For an estimated 900 million people on this planet, riding a bicycle is part of their daily routine. Whether for exercise, pleasure, commuting, shopping or etc, bicycling is an extremely efficient method of getting around. With the correct road infrastructure, geographical and cultural climates, the bicycle is simply the ultimate method of travel. Since becoming an avid cyclist for both recreation and utility, I have been constantly refining my opinions and zealous attitudes towards this rediscovered method for transportation and leisure.
First off, as a method for transportation the bicycle is engaging in a way that driving a car or other passive sedentary method simply can never be. As a self-powered method of locomotion the bicycle requires musculature to be engaged, blood to be pumped, enzyme systems to be upregulated, fuels to be catabolized, etc, we won’t get into the physiology but you get the point that cycling is a method for empowering the body to do work. With this empowerment causes an almost involuntary focusing of perception on the present moment. Cycling puts you back in your body sort of speak, and with a typical lifestyle that is prone to over abstraction and distraction, I think this is one of the most beneficial attributes. There is nothing like feeling the wind whipping across your face to remind you that yes, in fact you are still alive! With that said cycling is not necessarily easy; I maintain that serious endurance athletes and ultra-endurance types of cyclists are gluttons for pain and are modern day ascetics. Part of the draw towards cycling for me is the difficulty, however the cost to reward ratio is very high. Perhaps I am unusual in that I like to toe the line between “is this pleasure?” or “is this pain?”.
Another positive quality of cycling is the speed of travel. Bicycling provides the perfect blend of speed, perception and range of travel. I think of the wheel as an extension of the leg. While riding you go slow enough to really see in detail the objects as they pass by, yet you are traveling fast enough to cover large distances at a time. In this respect bicycling is truly the most aesthetic method of travel as the combination of the quality of the view with the sheer quantities of views is unrivaled by other methods of travel. I do hold that walking is almost as pleasing a method of travel however it is inconvenient most of the time due to the slower speeds. In addition, because you are open to the elements and outside, you are much more open to actually interacting with the environment around you, i.e. pedestrians, wildlife, weather phenomena etc. Roadsides also have an interesting tendency of collecting interesting artifacts from passing vehicles. Over the course of my traveling I have found various electronics, money, a brand new bike tire, watches, and the whole gamut of roadkill and leftover meal detritus. You just never know what interesting items you may chance upon or people you will meet.
Just as there are car enthusiasts who are enthralled with the mechanics and aesthetics of the machine, the same can be said for cyclists. I myself am one of these people. Bicycles are beautiful creations, and the extreme variation in structure and function of the different types is astounding. Not to mention the degree of individuality that your machine can achieve with the proper mechanical and artistic eye. In a sense you can ride around on your own personal art piece, your own personal expression of artistic individuality. Tinkering, upgrading, polishing and adjusting the machine are all parts of the wonderful man-machine symbiosis that occurs when you develop a relationship with a bicycle. Over the course of riding the same bike over and over one develops a keen sense of proper functioning and a certain feel of the machine and the road. You must learn your machine and in a sense I think the machine must learn you. It is a partnership that you forge and it is certainly much more interesting and fun to bestow an anthropomorphized personality to the bicycle.
This main purpose of this meandering ode to the bicycle is really to announce my plan of riding across the United States this upcoming summer, beginning in May in Washington DC, heading north to Maine, then west across the great lakes area and the northern plains and finishing in August somewhere in Washington or Oregon. The exact route is still being planned however as an added wrinkle to the trip, I plan on visiting as many family members as possible along the way. I will be camping along the way, visiting as many state and national parks as possible and will carry everything I need on my journey on the bicycle using panniers. I just recently bought a touring bicycle that is an absolutely gorgeous vessel and rides extremely smoothly. I have no doubt that this bicycle whom I have named “A Brief Moment of Clarity” will be extremely reliable on my adventure. I will periodically update this blog as I acquire more necessary equipment, finalize a route plan and execute some practice rides and mini tours. If you know anyone on this route (or relatively close) that wouldn’t mind me setting up my hammock in their backyard please let me know! Also if anyone has any tips I am open to all suggestions, not necessarily cycling only related, just cool travel tips in general.
P.S. From now on with each post i will post the current song that i am listening to and a current book or article that i have recently read and found extremely interesting.
Song: Bluetech – Leaving Winter Behind (which is what ide like to do right now, Gainesville is freezing!)
Book: Symmorphosis – On form and function in shaping life
The bicycle and cargo of my wildest fantasies
The proposed route