What is Bicycle Day? Well you’ve probably heard of 4/20—the international holiday that celebrates all things marijuana. But there’s another equally important high holiday that predates April 20th. It’s called Bicycle Day and it’s approaching fast.
When is Bicycle Day? It’s celebrated on 4/19 each and every year. And judging from its name alone you might think that Bicycle Day is a holiday to celebrate and commemorate the famed two-wheeled method of transportation. Or maybe it’s to honor the day in the 19th century when the bike was invented? Nope. Believe it or not Bicycle Day is the holiday to celebrate history’s first intentional LSD trip!
It actually commemorates Dr. Albert Hofmann purposely taking LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) for the first time after he had serendipitous discovered it. Why in the hell is it called Bicycle Day if it’s about acid? It’s known as Bicycle Day because Dr. Hofmann decided to ride his bicycle home after a bit of a freak-out from dosing himself with a large amount of acid.
On November 16th, 1938 while researching lysergic acid at the Sandoz Laboratory in Switzerland chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann started working on a totally random-seeming ergot derivative. At the time the material he synthesized was from the lab’s 25th experiment on Lysergic Acid Diethylamide-25 and named accordingly, LSD-25. Hofmann synthesized the substance in search of a medical stimulant for the respiratory and circulatory system. At the time LSD-25 seemed totally useless. So he put away on a shelf at his employer’s lab the seemingly innocuous substance, Sandoz LSD, and moved on to other experiments.
However on April 16, 1943 Hoffman had a nagging urge to resynthesize LSD-25 based on a hunch that it could be used as a medicine. So he followed it. Somehow through luck or fate a minuscule amount of the material came in contact with a portion of exposed skin on his finger. And of course this led to the world’s very first LSD trip.
Hoffman began to experience a change in perception, a slight dizziness and a slight increase in respiration. He described it as a “dream-like” and a “not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition.” The effects lasted for several hours. However the substance left such and impression on Hoffman that he knew he had to examine its properties much more closely.
Three days later—on a day that would go down in history as “Bicycle Day”—Hoffman did what any responsible scientist would do—experiment on himself, of course. He decided that he would start small with what he thought would be an inactive dose of 250 micrograms. However we now know that LSD is extremely potent and 110 micrograms is typically considered a common dose. Within an hour of consumption Hoff man’s perception began to ebb and flow rapidly. It soon became apparent that the doctor had miscalculated his dose and began to panic—convinced that his neighbor was a witch and that he was going insane. Hoffmann wanted to go home and wisely asked his lab assistant to escort him back to his house for the day.
This all took place during the war. Since gasoline was rationed Hoffman had no choice but to ride his bike home while heavily tripping on acid. He later wrote the very first LSD trip report detailing the vivid impressions that flooded his mind as he rode through the streets of Basel.
“Now, little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.”
Upon returning home Hoffman called doctors to examine his condition. Except for dilated pupils he had suffered no ill effects. He then had a hunch that LSD would eventually be used in a clinical sense as a psychiatric tool. Little did he know that it would explode in popularity as a recreational drug.
From 1949 all through the 1950s LSD was tested by the United States as a treatment for a number of different ailments including alcohol addiction, anxiety and psychosis. It was also given to patients for use during psychotherapy. However many psychiatrists, including Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary, began using LSD themselves and also started distributing it. It quickly spread and began to fuel a counterculture revolution.
By 1965 LSD production was officially halted. But many clandestine chemists had already begun manufacturing it and selling it to large segments of the population. Right after its official production was stopped LSD was categorized as a “Schedule One Drug” according to the Controlled Substances Act making it illegal to manufacture or distribute—except for scientific research.
Recently we’ve seen a rebirth in LSD focused research as scientists reclaim the use of psychedelics in their practice. In fact just last year scientists applied cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques to find out exactly what LSD does to the human brain. And microdosing, taking a sub-perceptual dose of LSD to increase mood, awareness and creativity among other enhancements, is a worldwide phenomenon—a far cry from it’s nascent days as a Silicon Valley secret for success.
Back to Bike Day
Bicycle Day wouldn’t become officially celebrated as a holiday until April 19th, 1985 in Dekalb, Illinois. This is when Thomas B. Roberts—a Professor at Northern Illinois University—decided that psychedelic enthusiasts aka psychonauts “needed a weekend” of their own to celebrate.
The anniversary of Albert Hofmann’s initial and accidental exposure to LSD on April 16th stood as an obvious choice. Unfortunately that day fell on a boring ol’ Tuesday during the middle of the week. So Roberts decided to hold Bicycle Day on Friday April 19th—the day when Hoffmann experimented with LSD for the first time, got hella high and rode home on his bicycle.
Customs and traditions
Of course celebrating Bicycle Day for many likely involves taking LSD. There’s probably no better day to take LSD than on Bicycle Day since it’s a worldwide tradition. If you can find actual Bicycle Day LSD, you know blotter with the famous Hoffman bicycle image, even the better. But we don’t recommend that you actually go out on a bike ride while tripping on LSD as your coordination may be impaired.
Instead go for a walk while tripping on acid and make sure that you take a look at your surroundings. What’s amazing about LSD is that it makes it seem as if you’re seeing everything for the first time. So imagine the awe of witnessing an exquisite red rose or a wispy white cloud set against a brilliant blue sky—FOR THE VERY FIST TIME.
Make sure to also listen to some music during your trip. We always recommend anything by the Grateful Dead. Psychedelic tracks like “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane, “Are You Experienced” by Jimi Hendrix, and “Strawberry Fields Forever” by the Beatles may actually take on a whole new meaning while you’re tripping on acid.
Maybe try a few psychedelic movies? We can recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey, Easy Rider, The Devils, Behind the Green Door, Suspiria, Altered States, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but we’re stoners—not movie geeks. So your mileage with movies may vary.
Bicycle Day SF
This year’s national Bicycle Day celebration is once again in SF. The famous annual event will return to its home at The Midway in San Francisco, the same venue that hosted Bicycle Day 2017 and Bicycle Day 2018.
“San Francisco’s Bicycle Day Celebration is not only a concert, but a petri dish of creativity, inspiration, and sensory stimulation,” say the promoters on their site. “World-renowned visionary artists live painting, an immersive art gallery and exhilarating performances play a large role in this annual festivity that is always packed to the brim with heart-opening experiences.”
Bicycle Day SF will feature performances by The Polish Ambassador, Slow Magic, Rob Garza (Thievery Corporation), Bluetech, Wyatt Marshall (Dirtybird/Desert Hearts), MiHKAL, El Papachango, Dissølv, Evan Casey (Desert Hearts), and Justin Campbell (Desert Hearts). The event will be illuminated with live visuals courtesy of Android Jones.
In addition SF Bicycle Day 2019 will feature a blotter print museum curated by Mark McCloud and the Institute of Illegal Images, an art gallery courtesy of Tribe13 Gallery and Android Jones, floral design by Anthony Flowers Ward, psychedelic relics from Shakedown Gallery, live painting, local vendors, interactive installations, organic food, and much more
LSD’s lasting influence
It’s nearly impossible to trace the influence of Hoffman’s “Problem child” since he synthesized it and first used it seventy plus years ago. We know millions of people have used LSD since those fateful days and we know that many more millions have been impacted by its influence —from ideas, to technologies, to art, to social movements.
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life,” boasted Apple founder and techno guru Steve Jobs. “LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.”
The stigma from Timothy Leary and the counterculture’s wild exuberance for LSD is still tough to shake. However in recent years LSD has been slowly undergoing a rebrand that is much more in line with Hoffmann’s original vision: Using psychedelic materials to treat psychiatric ailments.
Anyhow happy Bicycle Day 2019. Let us know how you’ll be celebrating in the comments section below?
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