In the movie ‘Premium Rush’, there is the pseudo-cool idea that changeable (instead of fixed) gears and ‘brakes are death’ for messenger bikers dashing from one place to another on the super-busy streets of New York. This is based on the assumption that ‘The bike wants to go fast… Is steadier that way… Never been hurt going all-out. It’s just the hesitation that’ll kill you.’ This isn’t true because the bike has no mind of its own. It only goes as fast as the biker wants it to, with impatience and all. It might be steadier when faster, but not necessarily safer, if required mindfulness in riding it does not pick up just as quickly. Just because one has never been hurt going brakeless so far is no guarantee that there will never be an accident due to a lapse in mindfulness or due to unnavigable traffic conditions in the future! Even the lack of hesitation in how to go forth cannot penetrate a sudden jam that unexpectedly looms up seconds ahead!
It does seem cool how skilled bikers don’t always abide by society’s rules while always being in control, as if one with their bikes. However, if our mindfulness and external conditions are subject to change, it makes sense to have gears and brakes that can change and end speed too. Without brakes, one can be too fast to slow down. Yes, no typo in that line! This is equally applicable to other vehicles. Just because bikes are much more highly maneuverable does not mean it is infinite so with limiting conditions. Just because there is no fixed lane does not mean one should always be in the fast lane. In fact, no fixed lane ought to mean one should go on the slow ‘lane’ when needed too.
Going brakeless can be taken as a metaphor for being totally unrestrained, but this is an illusion, because a responsible biker would still know where to never go, such that lives of other riders, drivers and pedestrians might be endangered. If we see such moral restraint in terms of the precepts in Buddhism to be mindfully observed, these are the moral brakes of good bikers, who know what inappropriate areas of life not to ride into. Without such brakes, the most skilled biker could become the most treacherous, a swift and elusive criminal escape artist on the roads!
1 thought on “Brakes Are Death?”
It’s an old entry, but let me dig it out, ’cause I find it funny
and strange – how easily we forget our roots.
Brakes used to be death on Penny Farthings, also called the High Wheelrs,
ordinary Bicycles etc. The spoon brake was quite an unreliable device – when grabbed to strongly, caused a potentially fatal “header”, an over the bar collapse from the height of 60 inch wheel. It was usually safer to try to avoid the crash by mad turns, just like on a contemporary fixed gear bike with steep gearing. It’s a simle fact, well known to anyone cycling on such a bike.