Wednesday Words: Bicycling Quotations on the Efficiency of Cycling

The Efficiency of Cycling

The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion.  Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

—Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1974

Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. 

—Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist

The bicycle  is more than a vehicle: it is almost as much of a companion as a horse or a dog, while the exhilaration of rapid motion, the accessibility of charming bits of nature, the mastery of time and space, afforded by this steed of steel, more than atone for social companionship which depends on no deep-seated affection.

—A.L. Benedict, 1897, “The Dangers and Benefits of the Bicycle” in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine

I’m lazy. But it’s the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn’t like walking or carrying things.

—Lech Walesa

When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.  Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man.  And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became.  Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others.  Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.

—Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts.

And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.

Steve Jobs

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