You should go for a bicycle ride

Here's why

Bikers%2C+looking+to+enjoy+the+fresh+weather+and+forget+the+quarantine%2C+were+out+and+about+near+the+lakes+and+Parkway+in+Minneapolis+on+April+23%2C+2020.

Antonio Risso

Bikers, looking to enjoy the fresh weather and forget the quarantine, were out and about near the lakes and Parkway in Minneapolis on April 23, 2020.

Will Nelson, Senior Columnist

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it.” – Mark Twain (1917)

Mark Twain’s words, though written just over a hundred years ago, still ring true. Bicycles have a truly timeless appeal. Cars and airplanes will fall into obsolescence, just as carriages and buggies and hoverboards before them, but the bicycle will live on. 

The reason for this isn’t hard to understand if you’ve ever ridden one. Bicycles are fantastic.  

When trying to think of an article to write this week, I kept trying to think of angles on the COVID-19 pandemic that no one else would think to write about. ‘How quarantine affects our perception of fingernail growth’ was a frontrunner. Needless to say I was more or less at a loss.

I decided to go for a bicycle ride and give the matter some heavy thought. On my ride, however, any thoughts about article topics or pandemics dissipated like early morning fog on a sunny day. I was in a state of perfect, euphoric bliss.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s so appealing about the bicycle, but I think a big part of it is the danger. 

Cruising down a hill at upwards of 30 mph with nothing between your soft, fleshy body and an asphalt surface with a frighteningly high coefficient of kinetic friction but a small pile of welded aluminum… it’s no wonder it’s so exhilarating. It’s just dangerous enough to give you that tingle of adrenaline, but just safe enough to make you feel in control.

Antonio Risso
A man waits for a light on the Lyndale Parkway crossing in the Tangletown neighborhood in Minneapolis on April 23, 2020 . The city has put a lot of effort into ensuring the bike paths stay maintained in these times.

The pace at which bicycles move is another factor. Walking is too slow and too safe. 

When walking, you fully experience the environment through which you are moving. Each step is just a controlled fall, reliant completely on your leg muscles to hold you up. There’s no danger of skidding across concrete, helpless against inertia.

Driving, on the other hand, is too fast. You’re in your own separate little world of metal, plastic and glass. You can look out the window and snatch a fleeting glimpse of a place, but you aren’t actually there. You’re in your car. You’re a liminal passer-by. The artist sitting on the hillside across from the highway probably isn’t going to put you in his painting.

Bicycling is the perfect medium. It’s the body working in perfect synergy with a machine. You’re travelling quickly through a space, while still being very much part of it. 

Antonio Risso
A mother and son spend the nice day riding around in Minneapolis on April 23, 2020.

Another wonderful thing about bicycles is their versatility. 

I used to work at a bike shop, and my job was to find the perfect set of wheels to suit each customer’s needs. It wasn’t very difficult. Bicycles sell themselves. 

I never saw a customer who couldn’t find one that they loved: low riding cruisers for seniors and wearers of sun dresses, three wheeled recumbents for wheelchair users, carbon fiber road bikes for triathletes, a pair of training wheels for kids. Trick riding, touring, trails, cross training, commuting, even the strange, dance-like artistic cycling; people use bicycles for anything you can possibly imagine. 

Aside from their phenomenal range of uses, as a means of transportation, bicycles are cheap, efficient, reliable, compact and easy to maintain. They’re such simple machines. You need little to no training to work on them. 

That’s not to mention the health benefits. It can be hard to get exercise nowadays with all of the gyms closed, but bicycling offers a wonderful alternative that can be as strenuous or as leisurely as you want.

The weather’s getting nicer (sometimes), so if you have an old bike sitting in the back of your garage, and self-isolation protocol in your area doesn’t mandate otherwise, take it out, fix it up, go for a ride, and give your worries to the wind.