In declaring Friday, June 3, 2022 to be World Bicycle Day, the United Nations states that the recognition “draws attention to the benefits of using the bicycle — a simple, affordable, clean, and environmentally sustainable means of transportation. The bicycle contributes to cleaner air and less congestion and makes education, health care, and other social services more accessible to the most vulnerable populations. A sustainable transport system that promotes economic growth and reduces inequalities while bolstering the fight against climate change is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

Worthy goals indeed, but what’s the point of blogging here about bicycles? Well, bones and bikes have more in common than you realize.

Let’s start with the name for one of the original “velocipedes” from the 19th century—the “boneshaker.” It was appropriately named because its all-wood construction was supplemented by iron-ring “tires” encircling the wooden wheels, which would repeatedly jolt the rider while rumbling over cobblestones. Furthermore, consider the construction of each wheel, a firm circumference supported by a lacy interior network of spokes. Together they form a rigid, lightweight assemblage. Nature, however, has been successfully using this design for bone beginning several hundred million years ago. Also, bicycle frame construction quickly evolved from wood to hollow metal tubes, again emulating cylindrical bones. Both are nearly if not completely hollow, rigid, capable of resisting deforming forces from all angles, and lightweight.

Left: A Boneshaker. Middle and Right: Turkey and Human Bones Demonstrating Lacey Interiors

Another connection is that some people are fascinated with the idea of combining bones and bikes. Creative sorts have melded these two interests into some weirdly fascinating rides.

Bone Tricycles

Although bike-derived exercise is great for both the heart and lungs, unless you ride a boneshaker over cobbles, cycling does not strengthen and sustain bones in the ways that vigorous walking or jogging do. That is because your bone-producing cells must experience mechanical jolting to drive them into a manufacturing frenzy.

So Happy World Bicycle Day. Walk briskly for bone health, cycle for aerobic conditioning, and share the road generously with cyclists when driving, especially if they are riding bonecycles.


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