And why you should be doing it
I once came across a tweet that said something along the lines of: “there’s something so empowering about the fact that you can get on a bike and travel half way across a city, often faster than a car, using just your legs” and remembered what a thing of wonder the humble bicycle is.
Living in Berlin, I’m certainly no stranger to cyclists, but the realisation that a bike can be a vehicle of empowerment was an interesting one. Doesn’t it feel good, when you race down a hill, your fingers clamped in white-knuckle like grips, the wind whipping round your cheeks as you pass epic landmarks and whizz past cars stuck in traffic, with a hint of smugness?
Cycling gives us a certain freedom that driving and taking the train don’t, simply grab your bike and go. There’s no need to be dependent on ticket apps or succumb to the inevitable travel delays and missed trains, it’s just you and your bike. Beautiful. What’s more exhilarating, is the idea of exploring a new city by bike; experiencing famous landmarks and uncovering hidden gems by hopping off your bike and turning down a tiny nook or an alley. This way you can stumble across hidden beauties that you might not otherwise see like a little cafe slotted in the walls of a court yard or a vintage shop down a cobbled street. The beauty of a bike is that you can lock it outside, use the basket to hold your shopping and whizz off to your next destination, propelled by the power of your limbs alone. Perhaps cycling is a unique way to explore your own city, that you might have only viewed through sleepy eyes on your morning commute. If you don’t have your own bike, then there are usually plenty of cycling initiatives that allow you to essentially borrow one for the afternoon at a fair cost.
Exploring a city by bike is not just exciting but is beneficial for your physical and mental health; after all some of the happiest cities in the world are cycling capitals, like Copenhagen or Amsterdam! In a slightly more intuitive sense though, cycling gives us the chance to practise mindfulness. When we are on the saddle, racing down a road, there isn’t time to stare at our respective screens, instead we most focus on what is immediately in front of us, on the here and now and subsequently, we become mindful of our surroundings. We focus on pedalling, on braking, looking, signalling, on our surroundings. Without time to worry about anything else, you can practise a sort of mindfulness without the meditation on your morning commute.
So, we invite you to take a ride on your bike if you have one, rent one if you don’t and think about skipping the bus tour and heading for the bike rental store instead next time you’re in a new city.