Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Cycling Events - 1897

In looking at American newspapers from the late 1890s, I found these two illustrations from the St Paul Globe and the Washington Times looking at cycling and Easter 1897.

An amusing illustration showing a variety of cyclists who would riding in an annual Easter cycling event

With an expectation that as many as 10,000 would be riding if there was good weather - that's a pretty high number. At the "opening of the Bicycle Easter Egg." From the St. Paul Globe, April 11, 1897.

In Washington the expectation was that "thousands" would be out riding - again, depending on the weather

From the Washington Times, April 18. 1897

Friday, March 29, 2013

Helmets & Choosing to Ride a Bike

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a think tank, has a new report about helmet usage and safety - "Effects of Bicycle Helmet Laws on Children's Injuries." Here is a summary:
Cycling is popular among children, but results in thousands of injuries annually. In recent years, many states and localities have enacted bicycle helmet laws. We examine direct and indirect effects of these laws on injuries. Using hospital-level panel data and triple difference models, we find helmet laws are associated with reductions in bicycle-related head injuries among children. However, laws also are associated with decreases in non-head cycling injuries, as well as increases in head injuries from other wheeled sports. Thus, the observed reduction in bicycle-related head injuries may be due to reductions in bicycle riding induced by the laws.
The report is interesting and some of what it says is of more general interest than just helmet usage by children. They aren't impressed with the rigor of previously done studies looking at helmet use by children (there are only two) and they take care to compensate for those errors. Their results suggest that the main reason why helmet laws reduce head injuries is more about reducing the amount of bicycling than by better outcomes from accidents thanks to wearing helmets. The last paragraph of the report concludes:
The findings from this paper indicate that while bicycle helmet laws are widespread and thought to be effective, the net effect of these laws on health outcomes is actually not straightforward. It is clear that there are offsetting behaviors and unintended consequences of these laws, and these effects need to be considered by policymakers.
Ksenia learns to ride a bike
My daughter some years ago, learning to ride and wearing a helmet - of course

While a rather indirect statement, the "effects" that they think "policymakers" (ie, legislators, mostly in state legislatures) should consider would be whether helmet laws are useful overall if the result is as much to reduce bike ridership as the means by which injuries are reduced. It seems hard to imagine anyone seriously advocating eliminating already established helmet laws for children (defined in a wide variety of ways, as the report notes) or opposing new ones, but it certainly seems worth looking at a study like this when considering mandatory helmet laws for adults.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Snowy Commute on March 25

Snow on ring

This is just before I entered the (car) garage with this bike that I rode due to the snowy weather - I didn't downshift to the "small" ring in front which is completely covered in snow-ish something.

Snow on cogs

There was something not right with the smaller cogs in back, so I only used the large three and switched back and forth between the middle and large rings in front more than I usually would. So here the small rings are all covered in snow.

Late in the year for this sort of thing.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski, Russian Racer of 1896

From The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal issue for March 26, 1896.

RUSSIA'S FUTURE CHAMPION - Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski and His Many Brilliant Performances.

Peter Akmatow-Dombrowski, the subject of this sketch, will, it is safe to predict, play a leading role on Russian race tracks the coming season; in fact, there is little doubt that he is the best man on the track in Russia to day. He is a native of Kiew and twenty-one years of age. Although active at racing since his fifteenth year, he was not prominent until 1895, when at Moscow he came within a fraction of an inch of winning the Russian mile championship from Djakow.


This being the first time he had met the faster men of his country, his performance caused intense surprise. All previous minor events in which he started were won by him, this being his first defeat. He holds the Eussian unpaced records for the quarter, eighth, and half verst, and the quarter English mile.

Coverage of foreign cyclists and particularly outside of western Europe at this time was quite unusual.

"The Scorchers Have Taken the Town" 1897

Humor of sorts, apparently

From "The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review" issue for June 18, 1897.

When they whiz by ~

Mark, mark!
The dogs do bark;
The scorchers have taken the town;
Some in rags and a few with jags,
But every mother's son of them with a wild and almost uncontrollable desire to run somebody down.

I have blogged about what a "scorcher" was in the 1890s before.

Monday, March 18, 2013

American View of Russian Cycling, 1895

Американский обзор езды на велосипеде в России 1895

Article text from "The Referee and Cycle Trade", November 18, 1895

The full text of this (alas) unillustrated item is above, but I provide some highlights below.
CHANGING THE RUSSIAN - The Bicycle Said to Be Putting a New Face on Muscovite Characteristics.

. . . Not only does the new steed rule in the hurried Anglo-Saxon lands and in the busy Germany, but the Gaul and the Slav and the women of both have been swept away by the fashion and the Bois de Boulogne and the winding alleys of Yelaguine island are even as Battersea park. . .
and this extended reference to Tolstoy~
Carry the cycle into the world of thought; we can see at once that it has effected, or is effecting, a vast and subtile change. Already the mysticism of the Slav character must have received its deathblow. Introspection is essential to the mystic. Now, he who cycles (also she), if he introspects, is sure to be reminded with painful suddenness of the solidity of externals. Even a Russian mystic will become more practical after running into a steam-roller or down the bank of a canal. The familiar types of Muscovite fiction will vanish or remain but as fossils in a museum. The Tolstoic creed (which is not, by the way, the Tolstoic practice) of property, asceticism and non-resistance is blown to the winds in a sprint through the parks. Preach to a cyclist that all cycles, his own in particular, should be the property of everybody; that it is his duty to abstain from riding, especially on his own machine; and that he must take cheerfully the cutting of his tires—and in a second you will be preaching to the eddying dust, while the breeze bears back to you the lessening sound of a scornful toot.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fanciful Bicycle Ad from 1896 - Egypt & the Pyramids

From "The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal." January 9, 1896.

This was a trade publication that normally did not have color advertising - at this time there was a bicycle show in Chicago, so apparently this company chose to pay for a "premium" ad.

The bookplate at the front of the bound volume which contained this issue identifies it as having been part of the Patent Office library collection originally, but it was apparently transferred at some point to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian has been having some older materials digitized by the Internet Archive at the Library of Congress resulting in interesting "finds" like this.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bordeaux-Paris Winner 1896 and Simpson Chain

The Jules Beau photo albums have wonderful photographs of cycling from the 1890s and intot he next decade. Here is link to volume 3 for 1896. Below is one of the photographs from it.

Arthur Linton, who tied for the victory in the 1896 Bordeaux-Paris race

Title : [Collection Jules Beau. Photographie sportive] : T. 3. Année 1896 / Jules Beau
Author : Beau, Jules (1864-1932). Photographe
Date of publication : 1896
Subject : Sports -- France -- 1870-1914
Subject : Cyclisme

Mr. Linton from Wales tied the race that year and was given flowers, according to what is in the album, from the Gladiator factory. This is another image that shows the Simpson bicycle chain that I discussed in a previous blog post.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Simpson Chain Shown on Gallica - 1896 Innovation

Simpson Chain with two women riders 1896
Two women riders, Lisette and Eteogella, riding bikes with "Chaîne à levier Simpson"

In this photo album with mostly photographs of then-famous French and other cycling racers there is this page with two photographs of women on bicycles (or more likely, what is one bicycle, a Gladiator) equipped with a "Simpson chain", which was considered a way of gaining a slight mechanical advantage over a traditional chain (that is a chain fundamentally the same as what we use today).

The chain consisted of a series of metal triangles with pins at the corners (see this illustration) so that along the inside it was much like an extended version of a present day chain (with the pins a bit further apart). Each link was matched by two other links extending out to a third pin. In the front the force was transferred the same as a bicycle today with teeth into the inside links, but at the rear the force was transferred by the pins on the outside edge. It gave the bikes that used them a distinctive appearance since the chain stood out.

Apparently there were match races to prove the superiority of this chain but ultimately not enough were convinced and people with some engineering experience decided that there was in fact no mechanical advantage to this chain. Certainly it added to the complexity of the drive train of the bikes that used it and to some extent the weight. There don't seem to be lots of photographs of this chain on the Internet on bikes, and although these are somewhat low resolution, they show it reasonably well.