“I like your broom.”
“Sorry, what?” I said looking a bit confused by my barista’s comment.
“Oh, ah thanks.” I look out to where I locked my bike up. The comment sinks in.
I have been commuting by bicycle forever. I mean that. I am fifty-two years old and I have never owned a car. I take my life into my own hands every single time I stretch my leg over the cross bar of one of my bikes. I own three bikes, no car. A fleet of bikes, if you will.
All the years I have been riding I have never heard the bike called a broom before. People I know who see me biking will remind me of the famous Almira (I always thought it was Elvira) Gulch/Wicked Witch’s theme from the “Wizard of Oz,”. This tune is seems to be specifically aimed for middle aged women on bikes. Even, I at times hear it in my own head. It can’t be escaped.
But, back to calling a bike a broom. Sure, when riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker with drop handle bars that goes by the named, Vetenari Weatherwax, I can indeed imagine myself leaning and turning like the best Quidditch players in any Harry Potter story. Coasting down large hills and mountains can certainly does feel like flying. I have also experienced riding through Manhattan traffic, weaving through traffic of all kinds and that too, can feel magical in its own way.
As a researcher, I decided to delve into the internet to find any reference to this particular description. I find a quaint story on Amazon called “The Broomstick Bike” by Vernonica Bennett. https://www.amazon.com/Broomstick-Bike-Veronica-Bennett/dp/1908195037 A charming story about a young boy left in the care of his eccentric grandmother and her motorcycle. Certainly, not the same thing as a bicycle but close. There is a broomstick bicycle on Gizmodo. http://gizmodo.com/5070819/broomstick-bike-is-perfect-vehicle-for-wannabe-witches Interesting, but the steering needs work.
I was excited to find an answer, or a kind of answer, on on Physics Central http://www.physicscentral.com/experiment/askaphysicist/physics-answer.cfm?uid=20080501013052
In this article a question was presented by someone in Switzerland. “Why is it easy to stay on a bike while moving, but impossible once it stops?” – AS, Switzerland. The answer came from physicist, Lou A. Bloomfield of the University of Virginia by comparing balancing a broomstick on the palm of your hand (broom head in the air) and the physics behind equilibrium, gravity, forward motion. The article without dealing with mathematical equations allows the reader to understand how gravitational force, equilibrium and forward motion keeps a bike stable and allows for weigh shifting to help steer the bicycle. With this information, I am theorizing that, along with magic, it is how Harry Potter and other Quidditch players can stay on their brooms. As you may have noticed in the films not everyone rides brooms. Back to Miss Gulch, she and her bike are transformed into the Wicked Witch. Like her bike, the Gulch/Witch handles her use of magic and physics quite well.
I may not have found the real answer to why someone would call a bike a broom, but I do know that everyday I find there is magic in riding a bicycle.