Thursday, January 20, 2011

On the Aerodynamic Characteristics of Tibetan Prayer Flags Under a Top Tube

TPF Boundary Layer Disruptors deployed under the top tube

I tied a string of Tibetan Prayer Flags beneath the top tube of my commuter bicycle, Yasuko. What I gleaned from the linked article on Wikipedia is that these are lung ta flags because they are horizontal. "lung ta", the article states, is Tibetan for "wind horse". The colors are supposed to be hung in this order, and stand for the elements and the Five Pure Lights. Surrounding the horses pictures on the flags are mantras. The section of the article titled "Symbolism and Tradition" was most interesting to me for the purposes of tying them onto my bicycle, but in case you are disinclined to click the link, or perhaps philosophically opposed to Wikipedia, I will cut to the chase and quote one relevant section: "By hanging flags in high places the "Wind Horse" will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras."

To be frank, I'm not very confident that something like that, specifically, happens in practice, nor do I think there's a way to discern if it does, or doesn't. However, I am certainly in line with the intent of that. I can get behind the idea of wishing to propagate "peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom," and if flying some Tibetan prayer flags on my bicycle lets one or two people know that is my wish, maybe some good can come of it. Paradoxically, maybe it actually can happen, since it is straightforward enough to imagine that someone who understands the symbolism of the prayer flags flapping in the wind created by the forward progress of my commuter bicycle through the warm desert air may be inclined toward those mental states or practices through the experience. The idea isn't that the flags cause gold coins to drop out of the air, or that they alter the rotation of the planet, it is that by flying them you transmit the message promoting peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Which on second thought may be possible to do. If you accept a kind of metaphorical interpretation of "pure air" then, referring to an atmosphere of promoting these grand concepts, and impure air the opposite, then that also seems possible to me. Or at least, a very happy thought. Which I can always use more of.

Me promoting peace, purifying the air around the Soleri Bridge and Plaza this morning, seeking happy.

They flap around a lot less than you might think. In practice, the flags seem to find positions of aerodynamic equilibrium to hang out in, and then make happy little pinging sounds when they bump against the tube when I turn, or when the wind changes, or my speed alters.  Not sure where they would fall on the Aerodynamic Drag Chart for Human Powered Mobility, however. More road testing required.

Peace! Wisdom! Compassion! Strength! ping ping ping. Get up. Go ride.



  1. Prayer flags attached to your top tube, what an interesting idea. I like it.

  2. Any move to promote peace and harmony no matter how small is worthwhile. I burn incense in front of Budai (popularly called laughing Buddha) almost daily for that. It doesn't change the world but for a moment it changes me and that can change the world.

  3. I always wondered what those cables were for. Now I know.

  4. Regardless of the religion, anyone who incorporates prayer, peace, compassion, strength and wisdom into a bike ride is a quality individual in my book. Great thoughtful post, J.

  5. love that shadow pic. and the flags peeking out of the shadows.

    nice post.

    I'm thinking of stealing your clsoing line and modifying it for my own purposes: Go out. look up.

  6. I shall have to think about that one. They do look cool, though. And they probably do encourage happy thoughts.

  7. Oldfool, more incense burning is a good thing.

    Ted I still don't know what they are all for, not really.

    Big Clyde, thanks! Perhaps if more people thought like that...

    Mr. Clowncar, it wouldn't be stealing if you do it during the dark of night, and no one sees you.

    Steve A, when it comes to happy, I'll take probably.

    RTP and limom, my Brothers of the Chainmug, I'm popping some popcorn, who's with me?

  8. Love it! I read this a few days ago but couldn't get to write a comment until now. What got me about it was, my wife an I had just spent a good amount of time at the Tibetan Cultural Center here in town. What a coincidence!

  9. Apertome, cool, the universe unfolds in ways that seem like surprising overlaps, which perhaps would seem more evident if only we could see deeper...or, yeah, that's quite a coincidence!

  10. Wow, I don't think I would've imagined doing this, but what a great idea! ...I thought I'd been feeling more peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom floating around in the air of late...

  11. kkrz, if you can feel it way over there, these may be working! Or else you just happened to encounter a random blue square of compassion fallout on the breeze.


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