• September 2015

The Zen of Biking, and Other Ideas to Cycle Through

“Life is like riding a bicycle: You don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling,” said Claude Pepper, 1900-1989, the US senator from Florida who became a champion of the elderly in a political career that spanned 60 years.

In 2000, the US Postal Service issued a 33-cent Distinguished Americans Series postage stamp honoring Pepper. And in this month’s Words of Wisdom column, we tip our hat to him and others who embraced the metaphor of the bicycle — the vehicle that we power with two wheels in tandem while sitting on a saddle-like seat.

Scroll down for a month’s worth of wisdom about the power of biking.

  • September 1: “Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” — Charles M. Schulz
  • September 2: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” — H. G. Wells
  • September 3: “Slow travel now rivals the fly-to-Barcelona-for-lunch culture. Advocates savoir the journey, travelling by train or boat or bicycle, or even on foot, rather than crammed into an airplane. They take time to plug into the local culture instead of racing through a list of tourist traps.” — Carl Honoré
  • September 4: “The difference between the Parthenon and the World Trade Center, between a French wine glass and a German beer mug, between Bach and John Philip Sousa, between Sophocles and Shakespeare, between a bicycle and a horse, though explicable by historical moment, necessity, and destiny, is before all a difference of imagination.” — Guy Davenport
  • September 5: “I simply haven’t the nerve to imagine a being, a force, a cause which keeps the planets revolving in their orbits and then suddenly stops in order to give me a bicycle with three speeds.” — Quentin Crisp
  • September 6: “Riding a bicycle is about getting back to basics. It’s good for the waistline and it’s good for the wallet, is what I’m saying.” — Phil Keoghan
  • September 7: “I really don’t like the gym. I like experiences, so I take any chance I get to go on a bicycle.” — Blake Lively
  • September 8: “One day I’m riding a bicycle in my neighborhood, the next day I auditioned for Menudo and was on a plane to perform in front of 200,000 people.” — Ricky Martin
  • September 9: “When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” — Emo Philips
  • September 10: “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can. Of course, I could be wrong.” — Terry Pratchett
  • September 11: “A stationary bike is a device that epitomizes the phrase “hurry up and wait.” ― Jarod Kintz
  • September 12: “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel … the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” ― Susan B. Anthony
  • September 13: “My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” ― Peter Golkin
  • September 14: “When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • September 15: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” ― Ernest Hemingway, “By-Line: Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades”
  • September 16: “To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire himself might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man’s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?” ― Angela Carter
  • September 17: “You know, bicycling isn’t just a matter of balance. It’s a matter of faith. You can keep upright only by moving forward. You have to have your eyes on the goal, not the ground. I’m going to call that the Bicyclist’s Philosophy of Life.” ― Susan Vreeland, “Clara and Mr. Tiffany”
  • September 18: “I had a dream about you. You were on a bike going 70 miles an hour, I could see you approaching my car in the mirror. You were trying to say something, so I jumped on the brakes as hard as I could. I guess I forgot I had tied your bike on my bumper.” ― Georgia Saratsiotis, “Dreaming is for Lovers”
  • September 19: “There is beauty in silence and there is silence in beauty and you can find both in a bicycle!” ― Mehmet Murat İldan
  • September 20: “So there is something perhaps more difficult to conceive of, sometimes born of resignation and sometimes not ― a life in which not getting it is the point and not the problem; in which the project is to learn how not to ride the bicycle, how not to understand the poem. Or to put it the other way round, this would be a life in which getting it ― the will to get it, the ambition to get it ― was the problem; in which wanting to be an accomplice didn’t take precedence over making up one’s mind.” ― Adam Phillips, “Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life”
  • September 21: “… bright-shirted racers of the Tour de France zoomed by like fantastically bicycling macaws.” ― Joseph O’Neill, “Netherland”
  • September 22: “A bicycle ride around the world begins with a single pedal stroke.” — Scott Stoll
  • September 23: “The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.” — John Howard
  • September 24: “Tens of thousands who could never afford to own, feed, and stable a horse had, by this bright invention, enjoyed the swiftness of motion which is perhaps the most fascinating feature of material life.” — Frances Willard, “How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle”
  • September 25: “Why should anyone steal a watch when he could steal a bicycle?” — Flann O’Brien
  • September 26: “The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” — Iris Murdoch, “The Red and the Green”
  • September 27: “When man invented the bicycle, he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.” — Elizabeth West, “Hovel in the Hills”
  • September 28: “The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands, and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.” — Ann Strong
  • September 29: “For instance, the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon.” — Bill Strickland, “The Quotable Cyclist”
  • September 30: “The bicycle, surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets.” — Christopher Morley


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