Man’s Greatest Invention

While effortlessly and quietly cruising along on my bike on a perfectly perfect spring day today, I had the epiphany that there is no better, more pleasant, or more efficient way to move about on this planet than the bicycle. Then the following quote from Elizabeth West came to mind.

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.

Did you know that a gallon of gasoline contains approximately 31,000 calories? If a person could drink gasoline, they could ride approximately 912 miles on a gallon (assuming 34 calories per mile). Not bad for a vehicle that also provides so much (priceless) pure joy!

12 Responses to “Man’s Greatest Invention”

  • alan says:

    Couldn’t have said it better!!!!!!!!!! Of course, this after a post on (horrors!) electric bikes.

  • Joe says:

    I couldn’t agree more. When I was a teenager, I loved driving my car, as well as riding my bicycles (road and MTB.) Now, I hate having to drive anywhere. There are times that it is needed, but I dread those times. If for the main fact is the stress involved. the joy of riding a bicycle is the one of the greatest feelings I can have. And to have that every day, whenever I please is amazing. Wether a 3 mile ride to the cafe, 12 miles to work, 1 mile around the neighborhood, a 45 mile hard club ride, its all filled with a joy that comes from now where else. No matter what kind of bike, the price, its all joyful.

  • Eddie says:

    Yes, to travel by bike is a joy. I agree there is certainly “no better, more pleasant, or more efficient way to move about on this planet than the bicycle.” It has its limits, though. Even if I could ingest 31,000 calories at a time to bike to Los Angeles and back to visit my son, I could not afford the time to do so. So until time travel becomes an asset of bicycling, other means will have their place.

  • John says:

    I’d have to agree. While there are some limitations to the bicycle (as there are with any technology), there’s simply no major ecological downside to the bicycle, as there are with other vehicles. Moreover, bicycling helps keep me fit and brings me much joy, while driving just brings frustration.

  • DerrickP says:

    I could only echo what everyone else has said. The bicycle is perfect!

  • Tony Dyson says:

    I’d assert that perfection was attained with the recumbent tricycle, but I certainly agree with the general sentiment. When I commute by cycle, I arrive feeling relaxed and cheerful. Far too many people transform into complete idiots whilst they’re holding a steering-wheel. Sharing the road with them is simply unpleasant.

  • CedarWood says:

    For 31,000 calories per gallon of gas, I could haul in a lot of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers on my cargo bike and plant them in my 2-acre lawn. This time of year, the riding mower requires about 3.5 gal. of gas per week, which I also haul in by cargo bike.

    If I shrink my lawn by planting trees, I’m investing those calories instead of wasting them maintaining the status quo. If I then purchased a reel mower for the small amount of lawn left, I could burn those 31,000 calories myself, though not all at once, of course!

    Thanks for the numbers. They certainly bring things into perspective.

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  • Bren says:

    the 31,000 calories number reminds me of that long-standing debate about whether bike-commuting saves money. During the first year in which I raced competitively, I mapped out a budget of my bike-related expenses, and, on a whim, included ride food. To my horror, the price of my $1500 bike amortized over the first year came to less than the price of eating during the rides! I quickly stopped buying Gu and Powerbars and opted for home-made alternatives for between 1/3 and 1/2 the price.

    This understanding of the surprising cost-ineffectiveness of fueling my legs and lungs has made me reticent to tout the supposed cheapness of bike commuting. Of course, some of use have large amounts of “free fuel” tucked away in places where we’d like to be slimmer, and many of us would indulge in the additional calories regardless, so the the cost of fuel may already be built into our budgets (or backsides!).

  • kristin says:

    here here! when i was younger i used to be really into cars, even went so far as to go to the track and race. i sold my car last year and bought a bike and it’s the best thing i’ve ever done. yeah, sure driving was sometimes thrilling, but it never gave me the feeling of pure happiness biking does. towards the end of a long ride i always end up with this retarded smile plastered all over my face that i can’t shake! add to that exercise and NO OIL, and yeah, man should’ve stopped there.

  • RDW says:

    I’d certainly have to agree with Ms. West’s sentiments myself. I can’t imagine any other form of transportation giving me the pleasure which my bicycle does, and the year I spent car-free was the healthiest I’ve ever been.

  • Festus says:

    The only thing better are your feet. Great essay from John Stilgoe in Outside Lies Magic on how biking (and even better, walking) allow you to SEE more of the world, and to see more deeply. Check it out.

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