"In the early 1880's Mark Twain learned to ride one of the old high-wheel bicycles of that period. He wrote an account of his experience, but did not offer it for publication. The form of bicycle he rode long ago became antiquated, but in the humor of his pleasantry is a quality which does not grow old."
It is amazing how far mankind can go if they have a little motivation and a vehicle to transport. The bicycle is one of those vehicles that has been an instrument used by people to get from point A to point B; not only transportation, but, theoretically a good time - if used properly! A lot has changed since Mark Twain was struggling with bicycles and the German language. Although, I am not sure mankind has evolved with the bicycle.
I have been riding a bicycle since my childhood; it started off slow but once I got the hang of it I could ride a bike as easy as walking. There are a lot of different styles of bikes, some complex and some very simple; the simple bicycles in theory are not too dissimilar from the bicycles Mark Twain fumbled around on. Mark Twain would probably be surprised to find out that in today's world the simpler the bike, the more "hip" the bicycle and bicyclist. When I say simple, I mean a frame and two wheels; that's it, no brakes of any kind and no extra gears, people are using their feet as their only form of stopping power.
With all mankind's achievements, all the safety devices we've created to help protect us against the experiences that some people had to learn the hard way; there are actually people who take the brakes off their existing bike or they build a bike with out brakes. How this can be considered "hip" and not borderline insanity, I do not know. I had the opportunity to ask one of these Hipsters why he doesn't have brakes and he responded, "I don't need them!" This individual was a college student and I could not help but wonder how he made it this far in life.
The other day I was on the Tuesday Tucson Night Ride, where anywhere from 100 to 300 people gather together to ride around the city. Probably 1/3, if not more, of the riders had bicycles with no brakes; and if riding alone with out any brakes isn't safe, try riding in a large group at night where a large fraction of people think that brakes are unnecessary and uncool. Furthermore, I watched first hand what happens when the group had to stop quickly and people without breaks went into desperate-measure-mode. There was a female rider who just couldn't quite make it, believe it or not, and crashed! I rest my case!
I myself am an adrenaline junkie, one who lives for the thrill and have been hurt many times chasing after a rush. However, I try and stay within the limits of reason, if there is a safety device that seems logical I use it. In summation people are crazy thinking it is "hip" to be unsafe; if there is a safety device (i.e., brakes, seat-belts, and harnesses) use them!
Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live. ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"