23 October 2008
The Five Cycling Senses - Touch
It's a touchy-feely thing, urban cycling. It's physical, organic and a feast for the senses. I figured I'd try to portray the five senses in relation to cycling in Copenhagen. Starting with Touch.
People don't talk about 'cycling' here in Copenhagen. You don't get to work and discuss the morning's commute with your colleagues. You may comment on the rain and whether or not you were caught in it but the whole act of urban cycling is so second-nature that it isn't even mentioned.
As I've mentioned before, we don't have many cyclists in Copenhagen, we only have Copenhageners who get around by bike. Sure, there are groups that hang out together. The sub-cultural bike messenger crowd and the fixies do their funky thang together. The woolen-socks in sandals/trimmed greying beard crowd join the Cyclists' Federation. The rest of us just ride around because it's easy and fast. 57% of Copenhageners say that's why they ride. 17% mention excerise and only 1% say they do it for the environment.
Since starting these blogs I've asked friends what they like about riding their bike everyday. The most common reply, it seems, is that it's nice to experience the fresh air and the weather. And then the conversation quickly moves on to something else. There's nothing really to talk about. It's a routine - an enjoyable one, sure, but just a part of daily life. We don't discuss teethbrushing techniques either.
So, the photo above falls into the Touch category. Feeling the light spring rain, snowflakes, a sudden downpour or the stabbing, painful slivers of ice during a storm on your face and hands are definately appropriate for Touch. Feeling the four seasons up close and personal is an aesthetic part of urban cycling, even if you get drenched once in a while.
Touch is riding with friends or loved ones. Sure, you can hold hands while driving but it's not quite the same thing.
And this kind of togetherness would be difficult in a motorised vehicle.
Our sense of touch applies to all of our body but it is our hands that most used. Therefore I've included a shot of hands on handlebars. Riding with a firm grip up a hill or a loose grip through the city or even just riding with one hand. Fingers reaching for the brake and squeezing it. It's all about you touching the machine and controlling it.
Even with one finger.
And even if it's two sets of handlebars.
There are various postures people use at red lights, as we've highlighted before. Many people just rely on their toes to keep them balanced at the light. Tensed muscles supporting a body and a bike, ready to push off at a moment's notice. A brief connection with the ground before sailing off on two wheels.
Just after that magical moment when 'lift off' is achieved and the bike is rolling forward of its own accord and the foot that propelled it forward has lost contact with the ground, the next event involves the foot finding the pedal. Seeking it out in a combination of instinct and experience as well as touch. It's second-nature. We don't have to look for the pedal, we know where it is. But the touch of the foot on the pedal confirms it and we can start pedalling away.
The cyclist on the left is seeking out the pedal with her foot. Preparing to accelerate.
Seeking out the pedal is one thing, but the foot sometimes needs to find purchase on the curb. Placed just right - according to individual taste - until motion is required once again.
Anyone else have any observations about Touch in relation to cycling? Add a comment and I'll start thinking about the other senses.