Technology empowers. It multiplies our effort, and frees us from work. It improves our analytical capabilities and lengthens our memory.
And, technologies converge. Calculators become computers. Computers get integrated in cars and coffee makers and shoe horns. Soon cars will drive themselves. We all want this, most of us anyway, because we are curious and because we are lazy, because we need more food and time and money, and because we are obsessed with dominating our environment.
In the ’30s, bicycles got primitive transmissions, which have evolved over time to give riders more precise and specific control of power input. Friction shifting got indexed. Electronic shifting happened. Wireless electronic shifting happened. We got disc brakes from cars/motorcycles. Then we got hydraulic disc brakes.
What was fundamental about the bike changed, but it was still a think you pedaled. You powered it yourself. But then, E-bikes, which have been around in some form for decades, finally reached some technological watershed in battery life, and now they are proliferating like proverbial rabbits during a warm spring season.
Is it ludicrous to wonder when self-riding bikes will arrive (see photo above)? If self-driving cars have such an obvious future, why wouldn’t self-driving bikes? They are both transportational technologies, which must, by the rule of Ray Kurzeil, converge and evolve until we are all one interconnected thing, everywhere and nowhere and sublimely happy about it.
This week’s Group Ride asks, when is a bike not a bike? Will the sport we have known and love continue to exist in the next century? Or will it remain in some vestigial, eccentric way, all high-wheelers and mustachios, the throwback hobby of the preternaturally thin and hairless? What do you think is elemental about cycling? And are the basic values of turning pedals and steering your own course enough to keep the bike a bike forever?
Image: The Riderless Bike