Twain’s quote on bicycling: Here’s the context

“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.”

Those words from Mark Twain pop up now and then in Twitter. Sometimes tempted to retweet, I always have second thoughts because the quote makes cycling sound scary and dangerous.

Context is important to understanding words, as always, and sometimes it’s hard to find. Here you go:

The bicycle Twain rode had little in common with today’s cruisters, road machines and MTBs.

It had two wheels, of course, but it was considerably more difficult to ride, according to Bicycle: The History by David V. Herlihy.

As Herlihy writes, Twain “made light of his epic struggle to master the imposing beast” in his essay “Taming the Bicycle.”

Twain wasn’t writing about pedaling down today’s trails, streets and highways. With some common sense and basic equipment (lights at night, for example), bicycling is a great way to get around.

Let me put it this way: Get a bicycle and ride it. You will not regret it.

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