Like Alexander the Great on his trusted black stallion Bucephalus, my own journey across the vast Eurasian continent was atop a noble black steed. On a bike, powered only by our own energy, we can become intimately acquainted with the geography of our world. Though only travelling a narrow ribbon of road on the map, on a saddle we can suffer along the rocky roads, sweat up the long grades and marvel at the vastness of the land when seen mile by mile. While we can maneuver through traffic in London, Istanbul and Shanghai; and cross the Alps, Caucasus and Pamir mountains; we sense that it is the in-between spaces that give a place its meaning. Navigating through corn fields in France or the oil fields of Azerbaijan, riding over the sand-swept roads in the desert or snow-covered ones in the mountains, these mundane features of the terrain are now as familiar as the creases on my palm. Far from the opera houses, the simple farmer hoeing her field or the table of men sipping tea between cigarettes and dirty jokes—these unheralded people form the fabric of their cultures. We are humbled to know that the world is still large and unexplored when experienced on the human scale.
The bicycle—this simple machine—allows us to understand things as they actually are; our senses are heightened, our bodies thank us for the movement and fresh air, our minds are clear and strong, our zeal for life renewed.