Most psychonauts have heard about Bicycle Day, an unofficial holiday on April 19th that celebrates the discovery of psychedelics.
The history behind this holiday — which is not to be confused with the official World Bicycle Day on June 3rd — is an interesting one that began with one of the first recorded uses of LSD.
Below, you’ll read all about the origins of Bicycle Day, when it started, the significance of the holiday, and how it’s celebrated.
What Is Bicycle Day?
Bicycle Day is a day on which psychedelic users celebrate one of the first recorded and intentional uses of LSD, just days after it was synthesized. It occurs on April 19th every year.
Why Is It Called Bicycle Day?
Interestingly, Bicycle Day is named because of driving restrictions imposed in Switzerland during the second world war.
Albert Hoffmann, the scientist who created LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), took the first significant dose of the new drug while at work. Because of the driving restrictions, he rode his bike home that day right as the effects of the drug started kicking in.
The resulting bike ride was just as bizarre and magical as you might expect from someone who just took 250 micrograms of LSD.
This famous bike ride marks the first intentional LSD trip ever documented.
What Exactly Happened On Bicycle Day?
LSD’s beginnings date back to 1938 when Albert Hoffman was developing what he believed to be an analeptic, a stimulant for treating various ailments of the lungs and circulatory system. When the drug didn’t perform as intended (on animals), Hofmann and his team shifted focus and all but forgot about the first synthesized version of LSD for years.
Five years later, in 1943, Albert Hoffmann once again gained interest in the LSD he had synthesized and decided to create a new batch. During the process, it’s believed that he accidentally absorbed some of the compound through his fingers and was exposed to what is considered a microdose by today’s standards.
He wrote in his journal at the time that he felt slight intoxication, an altered perception of time, feelings of euphoria, and somewhat unusual introspection.
This first recorded dose was three days later when Hoffmann decided to experiment with the drug on purpose. He recorded in his journal that he took a 250 microgram dose of LSD on April 19th at approximately 4:20 pm — yes, really.
When the drug started to take effect, he decided to leave his lab and go home via his bike. He continued to trip on the somewhat large dose of LSD while he biked home and continued his psychedelic experience at his house. This bike ride — along with the first international LSD trip — is what is celebrated every Bicycle Day.
Hoffmann would go on to record his entire experience, noting in what would eventually be his memoir, LSD — My Problem Child:
“I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.”
He wrote the next day that he still felt euphoric and optimistic about his experience, and he noted that the LSD “spoke to him.” The drug reportedly told him that he had discovered something extraordinary, something that would open people’s minds and make them introspective and at one with the world. However, the drug also noted that it could be dangerous in the wrong hands and that it would be largely misunderstood by many.
What’s the Significance of Bicycle Day?
Psychedelic drugs are a class of their own. They’re separate from what we might consider “party drugs” and are entirely distinct from alcohol or even marijuana. Psychedelics offer users an opportunity to glimpse within themselves and address underlying psychological or emotional disorder.
A single psychedelic experience is regularly compared to years of therapy that can bring immense understanding to the user’s life and self.
Those who celebrate Bicycle Day commemorate LSD for its mind-opening capabilities, not the euphoria or the “high” it creates.
For many people, tripping is a profoundly personal and grounding experience, allowing them to confront trauma in their past and things about themselves with which they need to cope and offering a deeper understanding of existence.
Bicycle Day is a celebration of drugs on the surface, but for psychedelic users, it’s a means of celebrating the compound that helps them cope with and understand life on a deeper level.
How Do People Celebrate Bicycle Day?
Like tripping on LSD, celebrating Bicycle Day is a personal experience for most people. While 4/20 is often celebrated by consuming cannabis with friends and fellow marijuana users, Bicycle Day is more often spent tripping in privacy or experiencing psychedelic-related art, music, or movies.
But you don’t need to take psychedelics to celebrate all that Bicycle Day represents.
Getting together with fellow psychonauts to enjoy music by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and other psychedelic-inspired artists or songs is a good option for safe enjoyment of the holiday.
Some of the ways people celebrate Bicycle Day include:
- Take a psychedelic trip (responsibly)
- Take time to learn about psychedelics, philosophy, and spirituality
- Watch psychedelic-inspired movies (such as 2001, A Space Odyssey)
- Read psychedelic-inspired books (like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)
- Explore psychedelic-inspired artwork by the likes of Alex Grey, Pablo Amaringo, or Lee Conklin
- Go hiking or camping
- Meditate or practice other mindfulness practices
- Check out local Bicycle Day festivals or celebrations
- Hofmann, A., & Ott, J. (1980). LSD: My problem, child. Psychedelic Reflections, 24.