Apr 2021: The psychedelic history of Bicycling Day

Did you know that the humble bicycle is celebrated all over the world each year on April 19th?

This may not be such big news to the thousands of South African cyclists who buzz around the Cape each year at the annual Cycle Tour, or the hundreds more who take a trip through the Boland at the Cape Epic, or the sani2c riders who bomb down from the mountain to the ocean every year. However, the origins of the date for Bicycle Day may be a bit of a head rush for some cycling enthusiasts.

As an aside, it is worth pointing out that the United Nations claims Bicycle Day should be celebrated on June 3, but pop culture has a historical justification for celebrating the humble bicycle in April each year. At this point it is also probably relevant for us at FinishTime to put out a small disclaimer stating that we in no way condone the facts which led to April 19th being such an important day for cyclists.

According to Rolling Stone magazine, and verified by a brief internet search, it seems as if the annual Bicycle Day has its roots entrenched in an incident that gives the phrase “a trip on a bicycle” a whole new meaning, and why the most efficient form of human-powered transport will forever be linked to LSD – and we are not talking about Long Slow Distance training method of the 80s, but rather the arguably more interesting mind-altering hallucinogen.

LSD (the drug) was first developed by Albert Hofmann, a Swiss researcher in Basel in 1938. The compound yielded no visible results when tested on animals so he set it aside for five years. In 1943 he revisited his creation and accidently ingested a small amount of the chemical and sank into “a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination.”

A few days later, on April 19th, he decided to experiment on himself (after his first trip, I suspect this may not have been a deeply ethical stance against using animals for experimentation). He quickly realised this was going to be a lot more “interesting” than his first experience and so decided being in the office was not a good idea and opted to head home. Being the middle of WWII, he was not allowed to use a car (and in his condition this may have been a lucky coincidence) so he rode home on his bicycle. To put it another way, he was tripping on his trip home on a bicycle.

And that is why April 19th is known around the world as Bicycle Day. It also makes this Lance Armstrong joke a lot more relevant: “I don’t know how Lance Armstrong was able to win the Tour de France while on drugs. When I take drugs I cannot even find my bike.”

Here at FinishTime we DO NOT suggest you follow Albert Hoffmann strategy to enjoy your cycling, but there are a few more wholesome cycling events coming up which mean you can enjoy your cycle just as much as the Swiss researcher did. Oh, and we suggest only your favourite energy drink in your water bottle when you celebrate with a ride on Bicycle Day on April 19th.

With that training ride under your belt, the big event for cyclists to look forward to is the KAP sani2C which takes place on May 13-16. This spectacular event is one of the treasures of South African sport and any mountain biker who has not done it is missing out on a wonderful experience and a spectacular ride from Underberg to Scottburgh. And they do such a good job of clearing the trails you will not even find too many rocks on the route (Ed: So, no getting stoned then!).

For road runners, the cancellation of the Comrades was a major blow brought on by Covid-19, but all was not lost and the CMA have opted for a second virtual event and it is accessible to everybody, no matter where in the world you live. And the distances (from 5km up to a full 90km) for the Comrades Centenary Hope Challenge on June 13 are a lot more manageable than the traditional ultra-marathon event between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.

Off road runners can look forward to a relatively new set of trail runs in the Terra Firma Trail Running Series. The 10-event series started in March with monthly events through to December at an interesting variety of venues that should excite KZN trail runners.

Triathletes are not left out with the Blue Lagoon Triathlon at Club Mykonos in May and the Race to Stanford Triathlon in April providing some exciting options for the Western Cape multi-sport athletes.

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Runners in South Africa and around the world can join in the celebratory spirit of the Comrades Marathon Centenary via its second virtual event in the race’s 100-year history.

KAP SANI2C: May 13-16, 2021

The KAP sani2c is a three-day, 265-kilometre mountain bike stage race which takes place in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) in South Africa. There are now two versions of the annual, three-day event: The Adventure for more social riders and the Race for more competitive mountain bikers.


This 10-event series at various exciting trail-running venues around KZN, is a celebration of exercise and the outdoors. It offers an opportunity for younger runners to compete with their peers, regular weekend runners to challenge their friends and family, and the more competitive runners to compete against runners in their age category.


The Blue Lagoon Triathlon at the Greek style village of Club Mykonos on the West Coast is an Olympic and Sprint distance event which will host CTTA (Western Province) Triathlon Championships.