Saturday, September 20, 2014

Health Benefits of Cycling (1890s)

From "Plain home talk about the human system--the habits of men and women--the cause and prevention of disease--our sexual relations and social natures" (1896)

Cycling is recommended for exercise to improve health:

Among popular modes of exercise, outing, and "sport," bicycle riding is the fin-de-siecle craze of the nineteenth century, and has, without doubt, tempted more people of all classes to healthful effort than any other form of exercise. It has been taken up by men, women, and children, of all ages from three to eighty, and is even being recommended as a new "cure-all" for a large variety of common complaints. Many physicians have not only experimented with its effects upon themselves, but also made a close study of the effects upon the people in general. Veteran riders have been subjected to inspection, to discover if any impairment of physique or function has been occasioned by it, but the tests thus far reported are very favorable to riding ,; the wheel." The lung capacity is markedly increased (about half an inch), and the heart (itself mainly a bundle of muscles) is somewhat increased in size and power — an effect which may in some cases be carried too far. In short, the whole muscular system shows development, for the muscles of the back, chest and arms are largely called into action, as well as those of the legs. Even in the men who ride "hump-backed" it has not been possible to discover any permanent physical deformity : but taking a spin, those who carry bicycling to excess, especially when not originally extra robust, are likely to suffer from nervous exhaustion, or by over-strain of the heart and arteries; and many sudden deaths, some from apoplexy, have followed speedy or long "runs."

Woman depicted riding a bike in an ad in The official directory of the World's Columbian exposition, May 1st to October 30th, 1893.

Text of the ad:

IF YOU ARE A BUSINESS MAN, to clear your brain, to smooth off the rough edges of business cares. The Rambler Bicycle affords a medium/air excellence for "comfortable exercise."

IF IN POOR HEALTH s you can regain good health through the judicious use of the Bicycle — the Rambler Spring Frame reduces excessive vibration and makes exercise safe.

IF IN GOOD HEALTH,, Bicycle Riding will keep you so. In your children the Bicycle lays the foundation of a healthful and useful life. A good intellect reaches its highest excellence only in a healthy body.

IF YOU ARE A WOMAN, the Bicycle affords a most pleasant means of obtaining exercise, which you, of all others, most need. Riding any Bicycle is exercise — riding Rambler Bicycles is "comfortable and luxurious exercise."

IF YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, Bicycle Riding will preserve your beauty. Exercise means health. There is no real Beauty without Good Health.

IF YOU ARE NOT A BEAUTY, you may at least make yourself more attractive. The Bicycle brightens the eye, puts a flush of health on the cheek, takes you out to nature, to the pure fresh air. They are yours ; enjoy them — do it "luxuriously" on a Rambler Bicycle.

Today any number of health and exercise benefits are claimed for bicycling - just Google "health exercise bicycling."

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Innovative Bicycle Design Not Appreciated (1893, today)

Image from page 89 of "The Wheel and cycling trade review" (1888)
Caption: First annual run of the International Crank Inventors Cycling Club

This is something a cartoon in the March 3 1893 issue of the "Wheeling and Cycling Trade Review". At this point inventors were constantly developing, patenting, and trying to sell innovative new bicycle designs of all sorts. For the bicycle trade generally this was likely a little tiresome, thus the attempt at something like humor.

A Kickstarter for an innovative bicycle design that is a little too innovative, apparently, judging by its lack of success.

It probably would have surprised the cyclists and bicycle sellers of the 1890s to learn that people are still trying to overhaul the basic design of the bicycle today.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Life is a Wheel: Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America (Book Review)

Life is a Wheel: A Passage Across America by BicycleLife is a Wheel: A Passage Across America by Bicycle by Bruce Weber

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A few years ago when I read the NYTimes more regularly, I saw an article by this fellow describing part of a bike trip he was making solo coast to coast across the US. I read it but for some reason I found it less than compelling and didn't bother to try to find other articles in the series.

More recently while trawling in an online catalog for new-ish books about cycling, I found a record for this book, which he created by reworking and expanding on the articles published in the Times. Somewhat oddly, the sub-title as reported in GoodReads isn't the same as what is on the book itself, which is "Love, Death, Etc., and a Bike Ride Across America" (and not "A Passage Across America by Bicycle").

Keeping in mind that the GoodReads "my rating" reflects _my_ impression of the book and is not a more general (or generic) assessment of the book as others might find it, I gave it one star because I simply lost interest (as in completely - I stopped reading it at page 83). People have been writing books describing their long distance trips by bike since bikes were first invented (a particular favorite of mine is "Around the United States by Bicycle" published in 1906 - the authors managed to ride at least a bit in each of the states in the continental U.S.) and there is a kind of continuum from "more about the _bike_ trip" to "more about the _author_."

Around the United States by Bicycle (1906) - route map

When on page 83 of the print edition he starts in on "background" about one of his past girlfriends (not his current girlfriend at the time of the trip), that was the end for me. I felt like this was too much memoir about this fellow who had drawn me in with a promise to describe a bike trip that only appeared in the narrative from time to time and was not sufficient to hold my interest.

View all my reviews of cycling books in Goodreads.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More Images of Cycling History to be Found Online

"Millions of historic images posted to Flickr" explains how the Internet Archive is harvesting millions of images from books digitized and online into a new Flickr account for Internet Archive Book Images.

At this point, having put "only" 2.6 million images online taken from books, it is not clear exactly which books were harvested from, but a simple search on "bicycle" produces interesting results.

A very early bike carrier for an automobile in use

The above image was found simply by browsing results of a search for the single keyword "bicycle" - the search looks at the title of the book but also (most usefully) text that is captured that appears before and after the image. This can be a somewhat "noisy" search but for bicycles it seems, mostly on point. The above image is amusing since the bicycle is being carried on the automobile as backup transportation, not to take the bicycle to some location to ride.
Speedway is a believer in the motor vehicle as the conveyance of the future, but in the present, that he may always feel safe from having to walk home, he has his motor car equipped in above fashion.

An early bike rack, from 1896

There are some problems, but not too serious. The two examples above were pulled from the trade journal, "The Wheel and cycling trade review," which Flickr identifies as being from 1888, but that is when the magazine started - these images are from 1896, which can be determined by looking at the links to the pages where the images appear in the digitized publications like this one.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Etape: The Untold Stories of the Tour de France's Defining Stages (Book Review)

EtapeEtape by Richard Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Moore's "Slaying the Badger" about the competition between Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault (known as the Badger) - it was a compelling read about the Tour de France towards the end of the "pre-EPO" era.

Moore is a good writer, and this is a well thought out selection of stages. The use of EPO is not ignored but doesn't overwhelm the stories, either.

I didn't realize it before starting in, but the author did interviews with most of the key participants in the stages he described to prepare this book - this contributes considerably to the quality of the book.

View all my reviews of cycling books in Goodreads.