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“My Bike Is Everything to Me”

a pair of photos of Bill Walton with his bike

Former NBA player and TV sportscaster Bill Walton died on Monday at the age of 71. He was a quirky dude and as someone who’s been known to veer off onto seemingly unrelated tangents, I appreciated his oddball broadcasting style. Basketball was good for Walton but it also ruined his body. In response, he turned to biking to keep active and to get around.

I am the luckiest guy in the world because I am alive and I can ride my bike. It is the ultimate celebration of life when you go out there and are able to do what you can do. I have not been able to play basketball for 34 years. I have not been able to walk for enjoyment or pleasure or exercise in 41 years, but I can ride my bike.

In a brief clip of a talk Walton gave (at the University of Arizona, I believe, the custodian of Biosphere 2), he elaborated on how important his bicycle was to him:

I love my bike. My bike is everything to me. My bike is my gym, my church, and my wheelchair. My bike is everything that I believe in going on in the Biosphere. It’s science, it’s technology, it’s the future, engineering, metallurgy - you name it, it’s right there in my bike. My bike is the most important and valuable thing that I have.

Walton knew: the bicycle is low-key one of humankind’s greatest inventions:

By contrast, a person on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than a pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, a person outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

As one of the commenters on this post said, “Tailwinds and smooth asphalt forever, buddy.”

Discussion  8 comments


I worked on both the retail and manufacturing side of bikes for a couple of decades, seeing it from the early days of MTB to its current form. I really love riding, but the moral high ground of the bicycle purist has also sheltered a commodity-driven, economically-rarified (in the US), and not very diverse industry from some necessary critique and change. Celebratory statements about bikes are often made by people who have the civic or trail infrastructure and economic freedom to experience just the positive sides of cycling. There are many places where the engineering advantages aren't enough, for reasons that include geography, climate, gender, and labor rights. There are also huge issues around the increases in traffic in formerly remote areas, due in part to the ease we can access those areas on our comfortable and fast bikes.

Daniel Copeland

I live in an area where I never see a cyclist unless they're decked out in a full road kit, spuds, etc, on bikes that rarely look like they cost less than $1k. Just a very weird self-sustaining threshold to entry that is hard for a place to overcome without some outside intervention. The times I've visited Munich, the thing that stood out the most was seeing regular-ass working folks in business attire, dresses, whatever, riding every kind of bike you can think of- mostly old, well maintained steel. (Also no helmets, but that's a related conversation for a different day.)

James Milton

All politics is local. Petition local, state and federal officials to place more emphasis on bike infrastructure. There are more than enough serviceable bikes available through the used market and donations to coops, etc (have you seen the bikes left behind at Burning Man?).

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Bill Amstutz

Never underestimate the feeling of freedom and happiness that comes with riding a bicycle.


While acknowledging the accuracy of Carla’s thoughtful comment (thank you for widening my perspective) this one hits home for me. It’s beautiful. As I approach my fifties I’ve been thinking a lot about the things from childhood that I loved and why most adults let those things slip away. After a childhood spent riding bikes (or someone else’s handlebars or pegs) I got back on a bike in my thirties and, like a song can time travel you back to a specific time and feeling, I pedaled right back into my childhood and giggled in delight. Adults tend to turn everything into a job, something to get done. Even bike riding, when I’m not careful, can slip into a thing that feels like work, especially when I lose myself in fitness goals like distance and time spent on the bike (the good/evil of strava), and I think Walton’s childlike perspective where you do something just for the pure love of the thing is important to keep in mind.

Riding a bike feels like flying. How did I let that feeling get away from me throughout the intervening decades?

Ryan Nee

Riding a bike feels like flying. How did I let that feeling get away from me throughout the intervening decades?

I want to print this out and hang it on my wall.

Kelly Mcclain

A beautiful response to a great comment about a great post. Trifecta. I could not agree more that riding a bike is something special to me. I live in a place without a bike culture and infrastructure that is not good for biking, and I miss it. I cannot part with my bikes, but I also cannot drive them somewhere to ride. All my future dreams have a good path to bike on in them...

Robin Sloan

I always marvel at the "flying gradient" here where I live, in the East Bay of the SF Bay Area, where a very subtle incline—a fraction of a degree—persists from the water to the base of the hills. Down in the flatlands, you can't "see it" with your eyes, but you can feel in on your bike: pedaling north and/or east is always subtly… UGH… and really not very much fun. On the other hand, pedaling south and/or west is always: WEEE! That flying feeling.

I wonder often if it would be better and more comfortable, overall, to bike every day on perfectly even terrain, Amsterdam-style… but, I don't know—the WEEE is pretty fun.

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