Can I ride a bicycle to synagogue on Shabbat? It's a long walk to and my knees aren't what they used to be...
Allow me to preface my response with a short introduction:
Firstly, I'd like to express my profound admiration. Your desire to attend synagogue services every Shabbat, coupled with your commitment to meticulous Shabbat observance is truly inspiring.
Shabbat is primarily a day of rest. We desist from all creative and mundane activities and spend our day immersed in holiness and rest. The word "Shabbat" itself expresses this idea; its literal translation being "rest."
Spending time in the synagogue on the holiest day of the week is beautiful. We connect with the souls of our friends and neighbors, which lends intensity to the prayers and the spiritual experience which is Shabbat. In the synagogue we also can hear the public Torah Reading and usually hear words of Torah from the rabbi.
Nonetheless, this all is "icing on the cake," all intended to augment and enhance our Day of Rest. It is clear that violating the day of rest in order to go to the synagogue would be quite incongruous.
See our articles on Prohibition of Work on Shabbat for more on this topic.
Now to answer your question:
Riding a bike on Shabbat poses several problems:
1) It is prohibited to carry objects in a public domain on Shabbat. Transporting an object by riding it is tantamount to carrying it.
2) Fixing a device on Shabbat is prohibited. If the bicycle breaks down, for example if the chain falls off, there is concern that the rider may fix it.
3) Riding a bike is considered a mundane weekday activity, one that we refrain from on Shabbat.
Click here for more on Shabbat rest.
Rabbi Dovid Zaklikowski,