Fairly frequently, I dream I’m riding a bicycle. Sometimes the road is smooth, but more often I’m navigating difficult terrain or riding through crowds. Sometimes, someone bumps into me, but I don’t generally dream of crashing, even though I’ve had enough waking life experience with falling off my bike to have that sensation readily available to my mind.
Like other vehicles, bicycles are, at least at one level, about relationship. Unlike a car or bus or airplane, however, the bicycle (at least in my dreams) is built only for one, so in that sense it’s about my relationship with myself. More obviously, it’s about balance, and the ability to navigate life while maintaining a sense of balance. I always take such dreams as encouragement that I’m managing my life all right, even if not as perfectly as I’d like.
In my waking life, bicycles also represent an alternative to conventional ways of moving through the world. My spouse makes a habit of commuting to work by bicycle, and before an injury made riding painful for me, I strove to use my bike to get around town when I could, rather than driving. In that sense, a bicycle in a dream carries an ecological message as well, that I am (or should be) having less negative impact on the environment.
According to the Taschen Book of Symbols, “the bicycle symbolically evokes a vehicle of psychic energy and progression (the bicycle doesn’t move in reverse) that is personal rather than collective.” It goes on to point out the exception of the two-person bike, “that intimates the movement of a romance propelled forward by the synchronized eros of the couple.” (Taschen, p. 440.)
As professional races endure the grueling demands of the Tour de France, I have to also consider the way a bicycle can be a vehicle for pushing oneself beyond the usual limits of physical ability. It takes courage, endurance, strength and balance to run the hard races in life. And even on the easy downhill parts of life, when the rider can coast and catch her breath, it still takes focus and balance.

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4 thoughts on “Bicycle as Metaphor”

  1. I used to dream about bicycles in two different ways back when I was heavy into cycling. First, I used to dream that I was on a trials bike, riding over obstacles like stairs and rock formations on my college campus. (Here’s an extreme version of trials riding by Danny MacAskill. Wow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj6ho1-G6tw)

    When I was younger, I used to dream that I was riding motorcycle trails on my Schwinn Stingray, and inevitably, I would ride over an unseen cliff. Instead of dying when I hit the ground, though, I would either wake up during the fall or just land and keep going.

    I haven’t had a bicycle dream in years, though I don’t ride nearly as much as I used to any more.

    1. Wow, parkour on a bike. That’s pretty amazing. And riding over a cliff…I think I’ve been doing that for several months now.

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