“So this is how the cyclist meets the world: he meets it from above! He moves away at a crazy pace without touching the earth’s surface with his feet; he is a cyclist, which means almost as much as: I am the sovereign of the world.” – Thomas Bernhard, “A Child”
Whoever rides a bicycle experiences feelings of fulfilment and fullness: deliverance from bodily constraints, elation of speed and independence, escape from the sadness of life. This was the case for the very first cyclists and continues to be true for every new child who conquers his new set of wheels. “I felt I was sailing in the air,” recalled a great intellectual like Ezio Raimondi. Bicycles are a source of happiness for women, for whom it is an instrument of emancipation, and for the main character of Vittorio De Sica’s neo-realist masterpiece, “The Bicycle Thief”, who finds work thanks to his bike. Today, bicycles represent the happiness of getting away from modern civilization and envisaging an unhurried, people-friendly world. Poets, writers, philosophers and ordinary people have expressed their gratitude for the bicycle and acknowledged it as a source of pleasure. In this book, the author tells the story of the enduring collective love for pedal-powered two-wheelers.
Stefano Pivato formerly taught Contemporary History at the Universities of Trieste and Urbino and currently works at the University of San Marino’s Department of History.