It might have been from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or some other book involving motorcycles, but I remember some author saying that riding a motorcycle is the best way to experience a country. Since most people don't necessarily have the money or the gusto to own a motorcycle, I offer to all of you the next best option: riding a bicycle.

It's been less than a week since I purchased a used beach cruiser off of Craigslist, and my life has dramatically changed for the better. Call me crazy, but this has been more exciting to me than getting a new car.

I can give you the same hackneyed bullet points that bicycling is good exercise, bicycling is green, but my most compelling reason for riding a bike is rather straightforward.

Riding a bike is fun, plain and simple.

My boyfriend and I still talk about that one time when we were traveling through Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan. We rented bikes for a day, and something about biking through unfamiliar streets in a foreign country gave both of us a giddiness that neither of us could fully explain afterwards, except for a half-dazed "that was a lot of fun."

After all, riding a bike gives us the texture of the very ground that the city stands on. We remember certain potholes, or areas of certain cracked sidewalks where stubborn tree roots poke through. Long after I've come home from Japan, I can still close my eyes and remember the dirt, the grass, the streets that passed beneath my bicycle wheels nearly every day for an entire year when I commuted to work.

My theory is that just as how you should experience a city in different times of the day or different times of the year to truly know it, a city should be fully experienced in different velocities. Some experiences can only be accessed through the act of riding a bicycle.

When you think about it, is there not something inherently cinematic about riding a bicycle? When we propel ourselves forward on our bikes, we transform our surrounding static scenery into a breathing, living film reel of storefronts, trees, buildings, cars, animals, people that flash by our peripheral vision and disappear behind us.

We control the speed of our movie with our pedaling. More than that, as there are no windows or doors to separate our bodies from the life streaming around us, we are the movie. We become the cool breeze hitting our faces, or the rough, irregular bumps of asphalt beneath our wheels. With the camera lense of a window or a rearview mirror completely gone, we allow ourselves to feel the leaves greener, the sky bluer, the air more crisp and alive against our bare skin.

Object and subject, voyeur and art, everything merges into one. This is what happens when we bike.

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