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I Love Bicycling; What Kind of Moral Monster Are You If You Don’t?

Every single person in this country can fall in love with bicycling again. More than anyone else, bicyclists are the ones showing us what freedom and liberty look like.

Maria Contreras Tebbutt on bicyclebicycle courierWinter bikingBarack Obama and daughter on bicyclesCAH bicycle 2020CAH riding up Mickelson Trail from Hill City to Crazy Horse, June 2013Donald Kerwin June 2009Lawrence County, September 2011Arnold Schwarzenegger on bicycle, c. 1970Greta Thunberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger on bicyclesWoman on bicycle in ParisCAH bicycle shadowSmaller houses, more bicycles! [picture from Paul TenHaken, Twitter, 2018.05.04.]women bicycling in NYC, 1970sCAH Bicycle Wheel Lake Herman Solstice 2009Tony Amert bicycling, July 4, 2008Joe Biden on bicycle, August 2020George W. Bush on bicycleWhile I love bicycling and encourage others to get two wheels and go, I have four problems my opening statement, two mostly semantic/factual, two of more philosophical importance:

1. Every single person can—Let’s not overgeneralize. I know some people who cannot get up on two wheels due to physical disability. Others can physically ride but practically can make bicycling part of their daily lives because they can’t afford a reliable bike, or they have no place to store a bike securely, or they can’t safely ride because their town is run by car-obsessed nitwits who don’t look out for bikes when they are driving or designing streets. I’ll ride almost anywhere, but I dig if you have concerns that keep you out of the saddle.

2. again—Some Americans have never ridden a bike, never mind actually fallen in love with bicycling. You can’t make something true again if it wasn’t true in the first place.

3. fall in love with bicycling—I studied math because I love math. But when I taught math, I told students I didn’t expect them share my love of math; I just wanted them to understand it enough to pass the class and use it for their needs, be they practical or recreational. Likewise French, pasta, and basic carpentry: you don’t have to love them, but being able to speak/cook/do a little of each can be useful and fun. Bicycling can provoke love, but I don’t expect love of everyone who puts a bicycle to use.

4. More than anyone else, bicyclists are the ones…. There’s the big problem. Riding a bicycle is neither exceptionally (more than) nor exclusively (the ones) patriotic or virtuous. Jazz musicians show us what freedom and liberty look like. So do sculptors and poets. So do long-distance runners.

We need to enjoy our hobbies without conceptualizing them as marks of moral distinction or superiority. You aren’t less of an American than I just because you exercise or travel by different means than two leg-powered wheels. Sometimes a hobby doesn’t signal any virtue; sometimes hobbyists are just having fun. The fun I have on a bicycle is sufficient reward in itself, without having to tear down folks who don’t get on a bicycle, don’t like getting on a bicycle, or get on other toys to divert and transport themselves.

The phrase More than anyone else, bicyclists are the ones… seeks to affirm those act like me and de-affirm those who act differently. We need to learn to be happy in ourselves and in our differences. We don’t need everyone else to affirm our choices by conforming with our actions. If you have to de-affirm others, overtly or subtly, to enjoy your pursuits, then you aren’t really enjoying yourself.

Gov. Kristi Noem, Twitter from South Dakota State Fair, 2020.09.04.
Gov. Kristi Noem, Twitter from South Dakota State Fair rodeo, 2020.09.04.


  1. Bob Newland 2020-09-05 09:12

    Every single person (and those coupled-up, as well) can fall in love with the torture of animals for sport and profit, if they really try. Let’s go strangle some calves!

  2. Loren 2020-09-05 11:45

    Kristi’s version of Trump-humping the flag? I can honor the flag/country without going to a rodeo to find “freedom and liberty.” Next, she will start wearing orange makeup. !@#%^&*

  3. Chris S. 2020-09-05 13:36

    I’ve been to a few rodeos in my time. When I was a kid I had older relatives who liked to go, and I went along. It wasn’t really my thing, and I never had the urge to go again. Frankly, I never thought about it. For sure I never thought liking rodeo made anybody more (or less) American than, say, liking bowling or pizza or basketball.

    If Rodeo Barbie leaned into Republican culture war bullcrap any harder she’d fall over. She’ll be surprised to learn a lot of those Fox Newz viewers she’s a-courtin’ with her “Look at My Chaps!” act don’t give a toss about rodeo. They’re just in the party for the racism and rage. Sure, they like Kristi dressing up and prancing around so they can ogle her from their armchairs, but they swoon over city slicker Kim Guilfoyle more than they yearn for Kristi on a horsie.

  4. Debbo 2020-09-05 16:38

    Small local rodeos that have several events for young ‘uns are fun. I don’t think mutton busting traumatizes sheep. Watching 9 year olds barrel race or pole bend is a blast. Basically the horse knows what to do and the child hangs on tight! That’s fun rodeo!

  5. mike from iowa 2020-09-05 16:47

    Barrel racing is also dangerous. I have a great niece in South Carolina who races barrels with her horse. Used to send her vids of barrel racing accidents and injured ponies.

  6. Debbo 2020-09-05 17:23

    Well who knew? Sutherland is home to a famous art studio! I should have explored when I was there. I really love his work. So much detail. 😳

    Thanks Mike.

    Jerry, Yeeeeeee-hawwwww!

  7. o 2020-09-05 17:51

    Funny, I don’t remember quite so much focus on rodeo when Candidate Nome was running against Billy Sutton, or rodeo making Billy a good American, who is showing us what freedom and liberty look like — albeit a Democrat.

  8. John Dale 2020-09-06 06:39

    Is it a good idea to hold bicycling hostage for political points?

    You should try it. It most definitely won’t backfire.

    People will ride bicycles and have fun regardless.

    And bicycles were the precursor to one of my favorite things .. MOTORCYCLES!

    Motorcycles are AWESOME!


    To make bicycles, it takes mining, welders, huge industrial equipment, and big hairy strong men.

    So, what’s not to like about that?

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-09-06 07:14

    Indeed, O, there is some serious counterprogramming for 2022 here as well. If South Dakota wanted a rodeo star as Governor, it had the chance to elect Billie Sutton in 2018 and almost did. Noem has to beat down that advantage by making people think she’s a great rodeo star. Can anyone point to any record of her participation in rodeo in high school or college? Her Snow Queen profile from 2016 says she did basketball, track, volleyball, and cheerleading in high school. She went to Northern for her first two years of college, so she wouldn’t have had a rodeo team then.

    Image over substance? You betcha.

  10. Donald Pay 2020-09-06 12:06

    Rodeo must be the sport of liberals. There are lots of rules and regulations governing each rodeo event. Scoring for some events involves a complicated way of scoring riders. Get this, those events mix in a score for the performance of the animals along with style points for the rider. It’s not enough to ride a bull for 8 seconds. You and the animals have to have style. RuPaul must have written the rules. Some events are more conservative, being timed events. It’s hard to argue with time, but if the calf escapes the knot there’s a somewhat arbitrary time penalty added on. Team roping is a team sport, so it’s by nature socialist. And high school and college rodeo is a team sport with socialist implications.

  11. cibvet 2020-09-06 12:50

    Two takes from these posts–John Dale likes big strong hairy men and kristi noem is a drugstore cowgirl. Also, I like bicycling for exercise and just a good way to breathe the fresh air.

  12. Bob Newland 2020-09-06 13:16

    Not to mention, Don Pay, that rodeo consists of a whole lot of cruelty to innocent animals.

  13. grudznick 2020-09-07 16:13

    Bob, didn’t you once kill a dog?

  14. leslie 2020-09-08 02:19

    “They choose malice as a way of life. And malice is the product of stupidity.” Quote from Professor N

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