- IMAGE GALLERIES
- CYCLORAMA SHOP
- Cyclorama Week
- Guide to Types of Bike
- Beginner's Guide
- Practical Information Articles
- Women's Cycling
- Cycling Technology
- Cycling History
- Issues and Inspiration
- Cycling Worldwide
- Cycle Sport
- Cycling Books. Reviews and Other Lit Crit.
- Bike Culture on the web
- Press department
The Wonder of Almost Nothing
JIM McGURN on bikes and literature.
I haven't written any poetry since I was 16, and, with any luck, never will again. But I remember one of my cringe-worthy juvenile efforts; about being part of the wind, intoxicated by movement, delirious with speed. A bit like how it sometimes is on a bicycle, but, ironically, I wrote my bardic bombshell at about the time I gave up cycling in search of motorised manhood. Motor mania is sold off the back of a spurious romanticism. There was a more cordial and innocent romanticism in the earlier days of cycling -- but I often wonder what good old Goethe would have made of the bicycle. Non-German readers may need to be reminded that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a late 18th - early 19th Century genius-polymath-poet-philosopher, perhaps best known for his version of the Faust story. His earlier works were infused with romantic idealism and heightened emotionalism.
What's Goethe got to do with cycling? Up till a few weeks ago I could have been a clever clogs and told you that in the very early 1800s he looked out of his bedroom window in Leipzig and saw students exercising on running machines: the first bicycles. Sadly I am now told that this is a myth, due to a misreading of his diaries. (Thank you, Professor Lessing). The students were instead having fun on public treadmills.
Goethe would have loved cycling. He'd have had his love-struck protagonists on tandems, and his Faust and Mephistopheles might have done their dirty deal in a Mercedes car showroom.
When great writers and thinkers were later presented with the lyric potential of the bicycle it was to be the Irish intelligentsia who took it to the heights of literary acclaim: their prose often fondled the bicycle as a gentle icon of a contented and much-loved rural society. Flann O'Brian laced the bicycle into many of his comic works, but it was Samuel Beckett who proclaimed and celebrated the power within the magic geometry of triangle and revolving circles.
Many great writers have sensed the glory of the minimal which lies in those few superbly arranged bits of tube and wire -- and now the media academics are joining in. We recently had a professor of genetics telling us that the bicycle was the most crucial aid there had ever been in genetic diversity. And Professor Steven Pinker, the American expert on language, has told TV audiences that the bicycle is one of his Seven Wonders of the World. To prove this he was filmed on his racer, in full, gorgeous Lycra and cool shades. Just think: you can't sit in your own pyramid, nor can you sniff the dandelions in the hanging Gardens of Babylon, but there's one Wonder that's all yours, to enjoy any time. Just hit those pedals and it'll write the poetry for you.