Theory: A bicycle is a bicycle unless it’s something else. What else could it be?
A bicycle that doesn’t go anywhere is an exercise machine. Or a kiddie ride. Or, as someone who is not me might say, a track bike.
A parked bicycle is an artifact. If it’s beautiful, it’s sculpture. If it’s ugly, it may still be sculpture. (A sculpture can be beautiful or ugly, though if a sculpture is defined solely by beauty or ugliness–if it doesn’t define, enrich, memorialize or challenge the enveloping culture–it isn’t much of a sculpture, and if the sculpture is non-representational it may not be much of a bicycle.)
Parked in front of a fast-food restaurant, a bicycle is an antidote to obesity. Parked in front of a bank, it’s a getaway vehicle. Parked because it needs repair, it’s a collection of parts. Parked because it can’t be fixed, it’s trash. Retrieved from the trash, it is nothing less than hope, all shiny and new.
(Note: A bicycle in a park may not be abandoned. Likewise, if a bicycle is abandoned it may not be parked.)
A bicycle in a book is a literary device that can be ridden by anyone who reads. If a bicycle is never ridden, it becomes another character within the infinity of unwritten Shakespearean tragedies.
If a bicycle is super light, it’s incredible. If it’s traveling faster than light, it’s impossible.
A bicycle on a hook is a tool in storage. A bicycle on a car’s roof rack is backup transportation. A bicycle leaning against another bicycle is a kickstand.
A bicycle that doesn’t fall over when released is a tricycle. If it’s likely to fall in any direction it’s a unicycle.
A bicycle that doesn’t exist is an idea. A bicycle that used to exist is a memory. A bicycle in a museum is a piano without keys, art without context, dance without movement.
But what is a bicycle? Because a bicycle can be a bicycle without…
Turns out it’s easier to say what a bicycle isn’t than what it is. A bicycle doesn’t seem to be time, a tree or a river, gravity, the wind or the sun though it links us with all those things.
Maybe a bicycle is a bicycle because it’s something else.