Every month citycycling will be taking a selection of cycling quotes that inspire in us an idea, a thought, a basis for why we do what we do. Or simply to point a finger and laugh at the rest of the world. This month: Efficiency.
"The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine" John Howard
"For instance, the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon" Bill Strickland, The Quotable Cyclist
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We live in a brave new world of seeking efficiency. Whether it's taking a carving knife to services to increase 'value for money'; or the latest, greatest, fancy-dan car engine that will get you an mpg above 60 through a combination of electrical help and stop-start tomfoolery. Tyre adverts are getting in on the act, with 'eco' tyres which save you money at what is portrayed as an 'evil' petrol pump (though if you read the small print at the end of the advert on the actual savings to be made it equates to about £60 over 3 years). Shell even have something called the 'Smarter Drivers Initiative' where people are taught 'eco-driving'. This seems to consist of teaching people to drive at or below the speed limit and not accelerate or brake too sharply. So, driving sensibly and within the legal bounds is 'eco'?
You want true efficiency? Can a car travel 100 miles on a can of Coke and a Greggs sausage roll? Okay, you might be knackered after doing it, but the human body is a marvellous thing, and when twinned with a machine as directly efficient as a bike, amazing things happen. Or at least you'd think they were amazing, given the looks of terror in the eyes of drivers when you suggest they could ride three miles more quickly than they drive. We're missing a trick on the promotion of this efficient way of travelling though. We need to advertise the type of fuel that IS required for cycling, rather than simply saying we don't need fuel in the form of petrol.
What am I on about? Sticky buns; chips; cakes; bacon rolls. Fuel that tastes nice. The human body does an efficient job of converting that lot into energy, which the bike does an efficient job of turning into motion, and in turn does an efficient job of turning that motion into energy-burning. If anything, on the bike, I want ever greater efficiency so that I can have an excuse to buy MORE fuel rather than less. Anyone who has finished a long ride will know that feeling of never-sated hunger in the evening, and the guilt-free piled up plate knowing that it has been earned. Go on a long drive and there's not a warm glow, or feeling of 'need more' as you squeeze the lever on the petrol pump.
Because no matter how efficient they make that engine, it will still come nowhere near close to that of a rider and his bike. The engine and machine. Fuel in, fuel out, with no need for a 'Smarter Rider Initiative'.