By Jill Janov, Special to VeloNews

Cycling makes you smart

Cycling makes you smart


“Nothing compares with the simple pleasure of a bike ride.”
– President John F. Kennedy

Why ride a bicycle? When I asked 10 observers of the bicycle industry, they replied with inspired observations, unprintable expletives, lively endorsements of guilt-free dessert consumption and one common complaint — “Jeez, to pare it down to just one reason is difficult.”

A Zen teacher once asked his students why they rode bicycles. One said he rode to carry potatoes. Another cycled to observe the world. A third said it cleared the mind, and a fourth said cycling put him in harmony with all sentient beings. The Zen master was pleased, but when the fifth replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle,” the teacher sat at the student’s feet and said, “I am your student.”

Albert Einstein discovered the theory of relativity while bicycling. And Ernest Hemingway said that, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

And with government figures showing that 64 percent of American adults and 30 percent of children are overweight, it seems there are plenty of reasons.

How about gas prices hovering just below $2 a gallon? Or just take a gander at these reasons from 10 of the industry’s wittiest and most fanatical cyclists, and you’ll brave bitter cold just to hit the road or trails this winter.

* * *

1. Riding a bike is liberating in that I-still-feel-like-a-kid sort of way, and I’m not trapped in a metal/glass/infernal combustion coffin looking at the world through wide-screen television eyes. And parking is always free on a bike. And my bike starts every morning, even in cold weather.

–Hurl Everstone of Minneapolis is the publisher of Cars R Coffins, a Web site devoted to bicycle-punkrock-action.

2. Without cycling, I’d die consuming the quantities of beer that I do. I also ride for the scenery. And what other opportunity do I have for stuffing 250 pounds into too-small Lycra bib shorts?

–Matt Wiebe, a Santa Fe resident, University of New Mexico professor and technical editor of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News

3. I ride because it gives me an excuse for shaving my legs. If it weren’t for the six bikes in the garage, I’d be forever trying to explain why I look like a bearded lady on the lam from a carnival sideshow who got her head shaved in the drunk tank after flunking a cootie inspection. Plus when I’m stuck for something obnoxious to write or draw, a quick ride helps jar the nickel loose and set the music to playing. That, and the drugs.

–Patrick O’Grady, a professional rumormonger living in Colorado who vents periodically on this site and at

4. While pedaling over hill and dale, people usually notice and often talk to me. Because of this I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. Like a Southern Baptist song, the good has overcome. This has been the best reason of all for bicycling. I’m approachable when on a bike. It’s fun talking to kids and strangers about a sport and way of life that I love. Humanity awakens at the sight of a two-wheeled traveler.

–Loretta Esparza is a seven-year veteran of Salsa Cycles and a dog-lovin’ barista in California.

5. To coalesce the burning pure horrific rage as you face knuckleheads, debutantes and four-wheeled freaks in traffic.

–Bob Roll calls himself “a man barely alive.” A veteran of the 7-Eleven team, the first U.S. pro squad to tackle the Tour de France, he is the author of several books and a cycling commentator on the Outdoor Life Network.

6. Your ass. As in, if you ride a bike your butt ends up looking fairly tight — like two VW Beetles parking.

–Joe Lindsey of Boulder, Colorado, has been riding and racing bikes for 15 years, and covering the sport for the past six for cycling magazines. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympics and numerous World Cups and world championships. He enjoys photography, telemark skiing and Britney Spears videos with the sound turned off.

7. Riding a bike has always been a major symbol of independence and freedom. But the real reasons I go out and pound the pedals are sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
Sex: As the gap to geezerhood closes, stayin’ in shape for my favorite activity becomes even more important.
Drugs: A long time ago I realized that maintaining my awesome boy-toy bod while enjoying my modest beer habit was going to require a lot more exercise than it did in my studly youth.
Rock ‘n roll: While my guitar skills have never surpassed the mediocre stage, the stuff I play in my head when I ride is awesome. Just give me the steady rhythm of my fixed gear, some open road and turn it to 11, Jimi, ’cuz today we’re gonna rock!

–Ross Shafer lives with his wife, Mari, on the Rockin’ Bar L ranch in Petaluma, California. He is the founder and former owner of Salsa Cycles and owns and operates Six-Nine Design, which provides product design, prototyping, fabrication and tool design services.

8. Some people train so they can race; I race so I can train, so the all-important workout doesn’t get shoved to the back burner so easily. Nothing inspires like knowing you’re going to get your butt kicked in the next race if you don’t train. The fact that I get my butt kicked anyway is completely beside the point.

–Jef Mallett, a former bike racer and current triathlete and cartoonist. His strip, “Frazz,” appears in 150 newspapers across America.

9. My wife, Natasha, thinks cycling is great way to spend time as a family while burning a few calories. For her, the family ride is quality time. Then again, she does not have the trailer with 50 or so stuffed animals and the 2-year-old singing “Old McDonald” attached to her bike as we climb what must be Mont Ventoux. Hmm … now that I think about it, cycling is the best way to burn a bazillion calories and hang with the family.

–John Kibodeaux, a 16-year veteran of bicycle retail, owns High Desert Bicycles in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and also works full time for his daughter, Marguerite. He has a B.A. from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in dirty diapers, Sesame Street and anything Disney.

10. I live and breathe bike transportation. Does that make me a granola-crunching, world-saving utopian? Actually, my riding has a lot to do with what’s good for me. Riding makes me healthy. It saves me time. It makes me feel good and gives me energy to do more in life. Of course, getting around by bike is a green thing to do. And altruism does have its rewards. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind saving the world. Makes one want to crunch some granola.

–Joe Breeze has been building and promoting bikes for more than 30 years. His Breezer bikes from 1977 are considered the first mountain bikes. Today, his Breezer company is solely focused on bikes for transportation.

Jill Janov, a resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the former managing editor of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News and a regular columnist with The New Mexican, where this article first appeared.

And how about you? What’s your best reason to ride? Send it to us at and we’lll publish the best ones here on