"Bicycling...is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own." This was written in 1947 by cyclist and birdwatching author Louis Halle, then a member of the policy planning staff at the US Department of State. It's a well-known quote from an out-of-print book. Thanks to the modern wonder that is Google Books (pity about the copyright 'borrowing'), more of the bike quotes from the book have been found.

Bicycling likened to the flight of birds

BikeBiz.com has a ‘quotes about cycling’ page. Two quotes from Louis Halle (1910-1998) have just been added. One is highly political and, with rising petrol prices around the world fuelling armed conflicts, perhaps more telling than ever:

"To me the bicycle is in many ways a more satisfactory invention than the automobile. It is consonant with the independence of man because it works under his own power entirely. There is no combustion of some petroleum product…to set the pedals going. Purely mechanical instruments like watches and bicycles are to be preferred to engines that depend on the purchase of power from foreign sources….The price of power is enslavement."

The other is an excellent description of the flight-like freedom experienced by cyclists:

"Bicycling…is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. There are movements on a bicycle corresponding to almost all the variations in the flight of the larger birds. Plunging free downhill is like a hawk stooping. On the level stretches you may pedal with a steady rhythm like a heron flapping; or you may, like an accipitrine hawk, alternate rapid pedaling with gliding. If you want to test the force and direction of the wind, there is no better way than to circle, banked inward, like a turkey vulture. When you have the wind against you, headway is best made by yawing or wavering, like a crow flying upwind. I have climbed a steep hill by circling or spiraling, rising each time on the upturn with the momentum of the downturn, like any soaring bird. I have shot in and out of stalled traffic like a goshawk through the woods."

Both are from ‘Spring in Washington’, a birding book first published in 1947 with updates in 1957 and 1963. It’s out of print but an extract was found on Google Books.

The bird quote has been truncated for Health and Safety reasons. You want to read on? Do so at your own risk and don’t blame BikeBiz.com if you crash and burn by copying this anecdote from Halle:

"The best way to ride, especially downhill, is with both hands in your pockets and leaning backwards. This is not so hard as it looks; like a bird, you control your direction perfectly by unconscious shifts in your balance. Especially on the long downslopes, this is to know the freedom of the wind. The air rushing past your ears reminds you that the birds must be partially deafened by their own speed."



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