Friend Ricky G posted this pic on the Princeton FreeWheelers Facebook page a few days ago, and I found it so evocative that I asked his permission to steal it.
I'm sure the sign is from some stable or other, trying to make the case that equitation is close to flight. But it's Ricky's bike in the picture that got me thinking.
We've all seen birds gliding and diving effortlessly through the air, and those of us on bikes may have made the connection to that experience when we're whipping down a hill. If the road surface is reasonably good, and the bike's in decent repair, the experience is smooth and exhilarating. (It's much smoother on a bike than on a horse, even if you know what you're doing on the horse.)
But I think ALL of riding the bike is like flying. When you look up at migrating birds, they're maintaining a pace to stay up there. And the "vee" shape that flocks of migrating birds assume is analogous to what riders do in a paceline, letting one rider pull another into the wind.
But I think even grinding up a hill is like flying. Here's why: We have those benighted geese that take up residence a few times per year near the commercial building that serves as the office in which I work. When they alight in the parking lot, and cars come, the geese don't just take off to get out of the way. They try to slowly waddle, or quickly run out of the way of traffic, and sometimes they don't make it and they get hit. If flying were easy for them, why wouldn't they just take off?
I don't think flying is easy for them. I think they work hard to get up to those high altitudes, and when they land, they might not have the energy for a while to do it again. It's easy to glide and dive once you're up there... but it's not easy to get back up. Just like it's not easy to get to the top of Coppermine or Federal Twist... and just like that, you might not have the energy to do it again once you've done it once today.
I really do think riding a bike is pretty close to flying. I'm glad we found a machine with which to do it.