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The hidden potential of bicycles. “Bicycles have been used for so long as children’s toys and exercise equipment that we forget what useful technology they represent. They multiply our bodies’ speed and efficiency many times over.”

Discussion  8 comments

Tom Robertson

Is it bad that I judge the spandex crowd for this reason? Any time I see a cyclist in full Lance Armstrong regalia, including multi-thousand dollar road bike, I just think this cements bikes more as some sort of fancy hobby and not a viable mode of transportation, which it totally is.

Tyson Vinson

I understand Dutch has two completely different words for these and they're understood to be distinct activities more or less. "Fietsen" refers to the practical or recreational everyday activity and "wielrennen" is what they spandex crowd is doing.


There are two different words in German as well: "Fahrrad" for a normal, everyday bike, and "Rennrad" for a racing bike. Everyone has got a Fahrrad, only a few people additionally own a Rennrad.

Alex S

That's why I don't refer to myself as a cyclist, but a normie bicycler. A button down shirt is my go-to bicycle shirt.

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Cycling is a many headed beast, judging any part of it based on your versions seem fraught with danger - I span multiple depending if I’m commuting, riding for fun or for fitness. Better that we all get excited that maybe the automobilization of our cities has reached its apex and the future looks like it will have more pedals. And there is always Portlandia -

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Tyson Vinson

I realized with the mention of Low-tech magazine in this article that it's never been linked here, and I think that they're coming at sustainability from a pretty unique angle that readers here would appreciate.

Keith Franchetti

Great article! Bicycles are one of my favorite parts of being human. I love hearing about how they are the most efficient multiplier of human energy output while at the same time being FUN AS HELL!!!! Confused even with being a toy. So this means that a form of “play” is a key to a healthier future—for both Earth and our own individual bodies. What’s not to love?

Judging the whole endeavor on the basis of a specific style of dress, bike, or riding behavior is disturbingly short-sighted. But oh well. Making superficial, petty, and self-defeating judgements is another of our special human talents.

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