Of all the metaphors that capture the essence of bicycle travel, perhaps freewheeling is the most appropriate.
Think about it. When you stop pedalling and freewheel, you have ceased to exert any discernible effort. Yet you continue rolling forward anyway, propelled by your own momentum. Magic!
What makes this possible is the wheel – or, more specifically, the assembly consisting of axle shaft and rotational ball bearing. It is here, in the space between two atoms of polished steel, that can be found the transition between human and machine. Wikipedia informs us that bearings of this kind have been recovered from Roman shipwrecks dating back over 2,000 years.
(To understand the genius of this mechanical principle more deeply, grab some cone spanners and overhaul your front hub, or at least watch someone do it on YouTube.)
Similarly, when balance and curiosity pair up with that equally extraordinary invention known as the bicycle, they together express the same transcendental freedoms embodied by the free-spinning wheel and articulated in English with labels like “cycle touring” and “bikepacking”.
There are emotional parallels to be found on the road, too.