Is my love for my bike normal?

March 18, 2019

My bike feels like more than a metal frame with rubber tires, it feels like an old friend. I remember the time I flipped over my handlebars -I had foolishly hung a grocery bag off the end of them and when something in the bag became lodged between the spokes of my wheel it brought my bike to an abrupt halt and catapulted me onto the pavement. A man who had been driving past stopped to help and when he approached me my first question was, “Is my bike ok?” His brows made knots, confused by my misplaced priorities. My bike could easily be replaced, my head on the other hand couldn’t.

I was lucky because I had no serious injuries but I’m not the only one who treats my bike more like a loved one than an appliance. Karly Coleman, a researcher out of the University of Alberta, interviewed twenty-eight regular cyclists and she found that they all had strong attachments to their bikes.

“People talk about riding the bike and I, I’m trying to find a better term, cause you ride a horse -horse is doing the work and you’re just sitting along for the ride, like in a car, but the bike is you.” This quote from one of Coleman’s participants clearly articulates how his relationship with his bike was very different from his relationship with his car. He explains how his bike feels like a part of him rather than an object he uses.

People often choose specific bikes that reflect their interests and beliefs. Do you ride a mountain bike or a BMX? A city cruiser or a road racer? If you ride a mountain bike you might be classified as someone who loves being outdoors and who is adventurous. But if you ride a BMX bike you would be classified with a completely different set of adjectives, maybe as a risk-taker or someone who is easy going. This is one reason people feel attached to their bikes, because the bike helps represent who they are as a person.

Coleman also found that the bicycle is one of the few objects that we use the same way in childhood as adulthood and it often brings back happy, nostalgic memories of being a kid. For a lot of kids a bicycle meant freedom -a way to get around without requiring a parent to chaperone. When we ride bikes as adults we still feel these strong emotions of childhood and freedom and that creates a strong bond to the object creating the feelings -the bike!

If you regularly ride your bike around your neighbourhood you can probably relate to this last point. The participants in Coleman’s study said that when they’re on their bikes they feel more connected to the places they ride past. When you’re biking you might notice things you wouldn’t notice if you were driving a car, like a bird in a tree. And having no barrier between you and the great outdoors means you can smell and hear what’s going on around you in addition to seeing.  Connection is an important part of being a human, and because our bikes let us feel more connected to the places we live we value them higher than other objects we own.

I call my bike “the boy”, and I think my strong attachment to it (him?) motivates me to ride more often. Does your bike have a name? Let us know what it is by commenting on our social media or tagging us in a post about your bike (@gobybikebc).

Post by Kaitlyn Bailey, MSc, University of British Columbia

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