CYCLING: Rides, riddles & relativity |

CYCLING: Rides, riddles & relativity

Chris Brown
Cycling Correspondent

There is a riddle that has been plaguing me for years.

(If I view conundrums and large questions in the forms of riddles, it takes the pressure and the edge off of the importance of the question and makes them more manageable. Per John Lennon: Whatever gets you through the night.)

I own a really neat machine called a bicycle. It can transport my body to undisclosed locations or destinations with 1/5th the energy that walking or running would require. It can handle various terrains in any kind of weather, consumes no fuel, doesn’t require water, rest or cool-down breaks and almost zero maintenance.

When it is functioning, it is almost absolutely silent and can be configured to carry hundred pound loads or even another human being. It weighs about 20 pounds and is about as big as me. When I am riding, I become totally independent from the need for other human beings — self-contained, sustainable and self-sufficient.

I own a few of them for different purposes. I like to collect them, trade them and desire them. I like to look at them and build them. I like to study the engineering and the mindsets of those who have built them to see the clever ways they have overcome issues to produce functionality. I enjoy the functional art, design, lines and the colors. I’m comfortable with the identity that riding one brings and the club that riding one allows me to mingle in.


So, I own the world’s most magnificent and amazing machine. Where am I to take it? What amazing thing do I do with it?

It seems with our limited time constraint of 70-80 years, we shouldn’t be spending our years collecting stamps, baseballs and coins but instead writing letters, throwing pitches and investing in people.

I see glimpses of the answer in foreign Italian films where the college guy jumps on a bicycle and rides across the cobblestone through the Italian countryside, into town past the barker, baker, banker, and the kitchen sink to visit his girlfriend. Then there is that picture of Einstein riding a bike and coming up with the Theory of Relativity. (Anytime a physicist rides a bike to a nuclear power plant, it seems like a very important “to-do” happening.)


Are you amazed? I am. I’ve spent hours watching You Tube videos of monkeys on bikes. To ride a bike, one needs to be able to steer and balance and turn the cranks with your feet. You also have to do these tasks in accordance with each other at the right time. It’s a very complicated process.

After watching the videos, I always notice the one significant moment in the process. Monkeys on bikes will always smash into things with the bike i.e.: fences, walls, each other. They have the skill set to ride but have no idea where they are going. It’s like their little monkey banana brains can’t process what they will be doing 10 feet from now — they don’t seem to mind. They pop back up, jump back on the bike, and start riding again until the next obstruction ends their ride. I suppose were this not the way-of-it, it might be terrifying. There would be monkeys on bicycles everywhere. For the aforementioned reasons, we would never catch them. Our streets and bike paths would be chaos. The price of locally grown Palisade bananas would skyrocket.

It doesn’t seem honest to assign the task of riding to a specific “important” location to justify the reason for owning the magnificent machine. It seems that owning and using the machine should be a natural part of the resolution process, i.e.: “Of course he rode his bike all that way. It was the only way that task could be achieved at such a high level of quality.” It was a means to an end. It was the fiddle player in the bluegrass band. It’s own importance should be self-actualized.


I realize, for many, this is way too much thinking for a simple bicycle ride, but just imagine what the implications might be were we able to discover the destination of such a marvelous machine and the importance of its most basic and practical use.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go for a ride and ponder it.

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