How to Explain the Feeling of Bicycling to Someone who Doesn't Do It

[This is what you imagine riding a bike to be.]
When faced with the appearance of yours truly riding a bicycle through my normal American city, many people are flabbergasted. Jaws sink.  Eyes get wide. They slowly shake their head. They are wondering how anybody could ride a bicycle to get around in the USA. (This is particularly true in the winter in Minnesota.)

For many people, the idea of riding a bicycle on a city street for a few dozen miles each day is beyond comprehension. It's inconceivable! They probably imagine urban bicycling as some sort of torture: a 70s workout video, replete with dripping sweat and grunting exhaustion, amidst a dirty Mad Max hell leading to certain death.

Well, that's not right. The vast majority of the time, the actual experience of bicycling is quite pleasant. The other day, while riding home late at night through the city, I began brainstorming ways  to describe it to people.

Here's my recipe.

How to Describe What Riding a Bicycle in the City Feels Like

Combine the following:

1 part "the feeling of taking out the recycling" -- This is the feeling you get when you do some small not-too-difficult thing that you know is good for the planet. That satisfying plunk of putting down the recycling bin on the curb, and knowing that later that day a truck will drive by and pick it all up for you.
2 parts "the feeling of getting a good workout at the gym" -- This is the feeling of having used your body, the relief of having it over with, the knowledge that you will be healthier for it. That good feeling of stretching your legs afterwards.

2 parts "the feeling of going on a long walk in the woods" -- Bicycling is most often a solitary wandering. You're alone and riding through a city filled with trees and smells and sounds and houses and sometimes people walking around. A 45-minute ride through the city is like a long stroll. Your attention wanders as you become immersed in an urban world, making occasional discoveries, following a lightly worn path.

(optional) A pinch or two of "the feeling of fixing something by yourself" -- That satisfying feeling you get when you repair the broken piece of furniture, or fix a computer glitch without calling the help line. Because bicycles are relatively simple machines, with relatively simple parts, you can add a bit of this feeling according to taste.

Garnish with "the feeling of meeting someone from your hometown in a far away place" -- Bicyclists are often alone, but from time to time you see someone else on a bicycle and there's a feeling of camaraderie. "I'm not the only one," you think to yourself. Occasionally you chat, members of a select club. Secret handshake, etc.

Mix well and serve immediately.

1 comment:

Jinwen said...

I think the feeling may depend on different situations,in China, I rode Bicycle as a transportation tool to commute from home to school for about 10 years when I grow up, for me it is just a tool.
maybe in 100 years later, riding a bicycle will be a totally different conception.