The number one bicycle quote of all time.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
~ Albert Einstein letter to his son Eduard, 1930.
I thought of that while riding my bicycle.
These are some of my favorite quotes by one of my personal heroes. We published this online back in the late ’90s and since then it has proliferated over the internet like a virus. Thousands and thousands of website reference this quote, and hundreds of picture memes have been created. Above you’ll see one of the originals. But, it looks like I might be guilty of popularizing this fake quote! And — believe me — I do countless hours of research and cross referencing. However, back then, this source information wasn’t so easily available.
Warning: Like most things, Einstein’s bicycle quote seems may have been borrowed, evolved or corrupted, depending on your point of view. The exact quote from Albert Einstein was:
“Beim Menschen ist es wie beim Velo. Nur wenn er faehrt, kann er bequem die Balance halten.” A more literal translation is: “It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.” Courtesy of Barbara Wolff, Einstein archives, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.*
For a complete breakdown of this quote and a dozen similar quotes that may have influenced Einstein, please visit the Quote Investigator.
Famous Paraphrased Quotes
Citing quotations is really difficult. Even though I know better, I still have gotten it wrong. One quote I used to love to use was: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” The actual quote by Mahatma Gandhi is: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.”
And another example is: A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. And an embarrassing and expensive mistake I made was publishing a Lance Armstrong quote in my book that was most likely paraphrased or invented by his co-author; either way, the ensuing controversy regarding his doping scandal turned this section of my book from inspirational to embarrassing. I have subsequently released an anniversary edition and downplayed this section, though I admit it was inspirational at the time.
*2007, Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, Section: Notes, Epigraph: 1, Quote Page 565, Location 10155, Simon & Schuster, New York. (Kindle Edition)
More deconstructed bicycle quotes
The First Bicycle Touring Author H.G. Wells wasn’t just a visionary when it came to time machines or men walking on the moon, he also
Einstein’s famous bicycle quote explained. “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” See the original source.
Variations of this quote have been around almost as long as the bicycle itself. The earliest form being: “God needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”