Vintage photo of Albert Einstein riding a bicycle with quotation overlayed
Life is like riding a bicycle ~ Albert Einstein

Life is like riding a bicycle ~ Einstein

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.

Albert Einstein in reference to the Theory of Relativity.

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 websites 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.

It is the same with people as it is with riding a bike. Only when moving can one comfortably maintain one’s balance.

Albert Einstein. Translation 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)

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