Monday, October 1, 2012

Scenes Along the Road – a little more

I've got a few more observations, and a few more pictures, that I'd like to put up here, as another cycling season nears its end. (This is a continuation of a previous post.)
Yours Truly in the middle of a century ride, some years back
There are those who will tell you that the bicycle is the greatest invention ever, but I’m not one of them. Not because I don’t believe it (I’m not sure I do, though I’m close) but because of my reluctance to speak in absolutes. Isn’t the wheel touted as the greatest invention ever? And bikes have two of them! But then, cars have four, and semi-trailers have god knows how many. Does that make them exponentially better?
Whatever. I am content to say that the bicycle is among the greatest machines ever developed, and leave it at that.
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle,” someone once observed. “Its passenger is its engine.” And this is one of the things that make bikes great: they allow you to travel point-to-point and, as its engine, get some exercise while you do it.
“Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish,” Iris Murdoch declared, in The Red and Green. “Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”
Pure in heart. Since bikes are fuel-free, they are environmentally sound. Between planet-threatening emissions and fluctuating gas prices, there may never be a better time than now to dump the car and embrace human powered transportation as the ideal way to get where you need to go.
There is a magnificent silence to bicycles that has enormous appeal for me. This may be most evident when riding, as I often do, through rural areas in the early hours of a summer morning. The only sounds are the steady clicking of bike’s freewheel, and the occasional warbling of a meadowlark. These are what I think of as bicycle moments.

Bicycle moments. Often they are fleeting, but they speak directly to the bike’s purity of heart: moments of blissful quietude that you can only experience on two wheels.

Of course, for a lot of people bike season is not ending. Community Cycles, mentioned in a previous post, holds workshops on winter cycling. But much as I love them, bicycles have their limitations. Few are willing to pedal to work in sub-freezing temperatures. Biking to the airport to pick up grandma and her three suitcases is out of the question. But for running simple errands around town, bikes – weather permitting, of course – are ideal.
The best thing about bicycles, though, may be that they are just plain fun to ride.

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