We rarely take time to appreciate the many clever mechanisms that make life so much more convenient for us than it was for our ancestors. In some cases, technological accomplishments represent thousands of years of progress, yet we typically use mechanical devices mindlessly, without sparing a thought for the ingenuity that went into creating them.
Next time you encounter a working bicycle, whether it’s your own, a friend’s, or in a shop, take a moment to admire its mechanical brilliance. Notice the chain. See how its alternating series of bushings and pins connect to make a flexible but strong spine, which embraces sets of toothy sprockets on the pedal shaft and rear wheel. See how the pedals spin on their own axes while the cranks turn, just as the moon spins while the earth rotates around the sun.
Lift the handlebars slightly to raise the front wheel off the ground. Turn the wheel, observing the circle it traces in the air, over and over. Notice the whirring spokes, and imagine how cleverly they enable the whole wheel to deform as it hits the ground before returning to its original shape, as a squashed tennis ball will.
Turn the handlebars, seeing how the front fork is slid through the tubular frame, combing rigidity with suppleness like a ballerina. See the brakes waiting patiently until they’re called for, to yank a cable that drags rectangles of rubber onto the rims of the wheel, halting the bicycle as if time were slowing down.
Notice the diamond-shaped frame, expertly welded at its joints. It is hollow, mostly air, yet will hold itself and all the bike’s components together, including a leaning, pedalling rider, through decades of miles.
Be curious about a bicycle, and it will transport your mind as well as your body.
This is an excpert from my book 'Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling'. Author-signed copies are available to buy from here.