What Is Bicycle Day?

Every year on the 19th of April, psychonauts around the globe celebrate one of the most conscious altering discoveries of the 20th century. On this historic day in 1943, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann became the first person to dose themselves with LSD intentionally. 

What Does LSD Stand For, What Is LSD, And When Did LSD Become Popular? 

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) also known on the street as acid, is one of the most recognized and powerful hallucinogenic drug known to man. The compound became popularized during the cultural revolution of the 1960s when the drug was championed by literary figures like Ken Kesey and Hunter S. Thompson, as well as high-profile academics like Timothy Leary who famously coined the phrase “Tune in, turn on, drop out.”

The Effects of LSD 

The Effects of LSD

Typically, LSD is applied to blotter paper which is then taken under the tongue sublingually. The effects can come on as soon as half an hour from the time of consumption and can last for as long as twenty hours, depending on the dose. 

Users report physical effects such as increased temperature, dilated pupils, and decreased appetite. However, acid is usually taken for its mental and spiritual effects. The LSD experience is often referred to as a “trip” since the drug can, in a sense, transport users to another reality. Both auditory and visual hallucinations are commonly reported, as well as intense feelings of introspection and connectedness.

Users report these feelings to be pleasant and almost euphoric at times. However, LSD can also exacerbate negative emotions. Anxiety and paranoia can become acutely severe during “bad trips,” which can have a lasting psychological effect. 

When Was Acid Invented, And Why Was Acid Created?

origins of lsd

April 19th celebrates the first intentional dosing of LSD, but it wasn’t the first time Dr. Hoffman went on an acid trip. 

Hoffman was originally researching ergot fungi and their derivatives in an attempt to discover a new analeptic back in 1938 when he first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide. However, the project was tabled for five years. On April 16th, 1943, three days before what would become bicycle day, Hoffman decided to revisit LSD.

LSD is such a potent compound that even minimal contact with bare skin can result in a full-on acid trip—which is exactly what happened to Hoffman on that April day. His experience lasted around two hours and prompted the chemist to further explore his chemical’s effects on the human brain.

Bicycle Day Explained

Bicycle Day Explained

On the 19th, using himself as a guinea pig, Hoffman consumed a 250 mg dose of LSD—roughly the equivalent of three hits of acid. Within an hour of consumption, Hoffman began to feel the effects of the chemical. The sudden change in his perception terrified the chemist, and he asked the lab assistant to help him get home.

It was typical in the Swiss city of Basel, where Hoffman’s lab was located, for commutes to take place via bicycle. So on that fateful spring day, Hoffman, with a head full of acid and his assistant in tow, biked back to the chemist’s home. To borrow the language of the notorious Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, it was somewhere between the lab and Hoffman’s house when the acid began to really take hold. 

Upon arriving at home, Hoffman was overcome with paranoia and fear, exhibiting what would become classic signs of a bad trip. The chemist believed his neighbor was a witch and that he had permanently poisoned himself with his novel compound. In this state of fear, he rang a house doctor who reassured Hoffman that his vitals were good and there was nothing physically wrong with him.

After the visit from the doctor, Hoffman was able to relax and began to actually enjoy the visual hallucinations, which he described as, “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 ..."

When Is Bicycle Day, And How Was It Founded?

Over 40 years later, a psychology professor at Northern Illinois University named Thomas B. Roberts would become the first person to celebrate bicycle day. Roberts, who’s written extensively on the subject of psychedelics from an academic perspective, had originally wanted to celebrate the founding of LSD on April 16th, when the first dosing actually took place. However, the 16th fell on a school night, preventing the professor from partaking in potential festivities. He decided to celebrate the first intentional dosing instead since the 19th conveniently fell on the weekend.

The rest is history!

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