Showing posts with label cycling history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cycling history. Show all posts

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Evolution of the Bicycle as a Tool-for-Living

A point of comparison - 15 years (or so) of mobile computing devices

One reason I appreciate bicycles is that a good basic bicycle can be highly useful even if only slightly evolved from what was in use over 100 years ago.

By comparison, we have mobile computing devices, which are disposable units (although we see uhm I forgot to dispose of several) that provide useful service for at best four or five years. Further, while mobile commuting are evolving, not all the evolution is in a positive direction for many users. The 2001 (or so) Palm Pilot M105 was a cheap plastic device that required docking with a PC in order to upload/download messages but it weighed almost nothing and having no glass, was difficult to break (and if you did, it was so cheap, it didn't matter that much). I was actually fairly good with the "shorthand" to enter text with a stylus. The next step, a "traditional" 2005 or 2006 BlackBerry, was much more truly a mobile computing device but best for doing email with its "real" (tiny) keyboard - the size of the screen made Internet browsing painful - but then, that wasn't the point. Then we have a now-old(ish) iPhone 6 - the main thing I use it for is email, for which the keyboard is not great (for me; I realize some are good at it). The browser is good but not the main reason I have this device. And compared to the Palm Pilot or the BlackBerry, it is heavier as well as fragile with its sheet of glass. (Alas now I find it necessary some of the time to have both a work phone and a personal phone and the two of them together weigh 5/6 of a pound, which is annoying.)

Most importantly the two older mobile devices are simply unusable due to obsolescence. There is no comparison with a good bicycle!

Bridgestone after snowy commute
A 1982 Bridgestone bicycle that I ride thousands of miles a year to and from work

About six years ago I bought the frame and fork for this Bridgestone on eBay for a little over $100 including the shipping. I then spent another ~$400 on a combination of used and new components to make it into an outstanding commuter bike. Other than the brakes I chose, which are a design introduced in the 1990s, nothing about the bike now represents a technological improvement over the bike as originally sold in 1982. I would be fine with riding the bike to and from work with the components that it had originally - that is, there is no way to regard any aspect of this bike as sold 35 years ago as obsolete. No one gives a second glance to this bicycle as they would if I tried to use my plastic Palm Pilot at a meeting at work, for example, or to use a different example, if I drove around in a 35 year old car.

Trek Singletrack 1995
Another ageless bicycle, a 1995 Trek SingleTrack

I purchased this bike two years ago from a bike repair "collective" ( that had too many bikes and was selling excess - it cost $60 more or less as shown, except it was missing a saddle (seat) and only had one pedal. Well and it was incredibly filthy. I added a pedal and saddle and cleaned it and it was immediately ridable. While at the time this was a "low end" Trek bike, it was still significantly more expensive than many similar looking bikes one sees for sale today - the difference was that this bike was made with well thought out double butted chromoly tubing for the frame that means it only weighs 27 pounds (which is good). I have put studded tires on this for winter and it is a great bike for icy conditions!

Side view
My one perhaps mistaken concession to modern bicycle technology - sort of

I did buy this bike new in 2007 - it is a carbon fiber road bike and I ride it in good weather. Avoiding rain reduces maintenance and the bike doesn't have fenders anyway. It is nice, weighs just under 20 pounds, or about five pounds less than the Bridgestone above. The "technology" that is advanced for this bike is the use of carbon fiber for the frame, which at the time had a certain appeal to me that I still understand, but I wouldn't do it again. Carbon fiber is simply nasty to dispose of, although apparently the bike frame is unlikely to wear out - but eventually someone will dispose of it. And creating it in the first place was not a green process, either. Carbon fiber bike frames didn't render my steel bikes obsolete for commuting!

I doubt I will ever buy another new bicycle. New to me, perhaps, but not new-new. New technologies for bicycles are largely optional (if not also perhaps highly attractive/sexy to some people) such as hydraulic brakes or electronic shifting. No thanks.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Double-Decker Bike Parking for Commuters in USA

Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio]
Employee parking in Dayton Ohio in 1902 - back to the future?

Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio] - detail
Two parking levels of bikes visible in parking shed (or "shelter")

In the detail photograph, you can see clearly that the rider-commuter to the right has a clip (or something) to keep his trousers from getting caught in the front ring of the drive train as well as away from the chain. The fellow in the middle would occasionally work late, it seems, since his bike is outfitted with a headlight.
Bicycle shelter, National Cash Register [Company], Dayton, O[hio]
Contributor Names-Jackson, William Henry, 1843-1942, photographer
Detroit Publishing Co., Created / Published[1902?]
Source Collection-Detroit Publishing Company Photograph Collection
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How Photos and Articles Appeared Across the Nation

Alvey Adee of Dept of State & Bicycle
The original photograph in the Library of Congress collections

The above image of the Department of State official, who happened to be someone who rode to and from work every day on a bicycle.

Adee article example 1
The photograph used in 1914 about Adee's trip to France, published in The Greenville Journal newspaper in July 1914

These kinds of short articles were distributed nationally by different services and often were used to fill up pages with human interest material. In the above version Harris & Ewing (the photography house) was given credit.

Adee article example 2
And the Grand Forks Daily Herald . . .

A rather more cropped version of the photograph and a shorter version of the text, above. They needed to fill up some of the page, but not so much.

Adee article example 3
And the Dakota Farmers Leader

This paper made use of the item as supplied, it would seem, like the first version. The darkness of the photograph in this last example has to do with the quality of the microfilm and (probably) not any real differences in how the photographs would have looked on newsprint.

One sees this sort of thing from time to time in Chronicling America, the searchable database of American newspapers from many states provided by the Library of Congress. Occasionally even involving bicycles!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Modern" Ambassador to Vietnam is a Cyclist

Ted Osius’ path to becoming U.S. ambassador to Vietnam began with bicycle diplomacy, soon after relations with Hanoi were restored in 1995. As a consular officer, he pedaled the countryside and endeared himself to the Vietnamese. Osius is gay and married, and represents a modern America: “I'm white, my husband's black and our kids are brown,” he says. Special correspondent Mike Cerre reports.

In the 1990s Ambassador Osius rode 1,200 miles throughout Vietnam as a consular officer and he still rides around the country as ambassador there today.

Of course, Secretary of State Kerry is well known as a serious recreational cyclist himself. The most amazing U.S. cycling diplomat in my view though was Alvey Adee who rode to and from work in Washington by bicycle over 100 years ago into his 70s. He would also travel to France to take bicycle trips in the countryside (until World War I, anyway).

Alvey Adee of Dept of State & Bicycle
Yes, John Kerry is 72 and Adee was 72, but times have changed and Adee didn't have the support for cycling Kerry has

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Presidential Candidates Seeking Cyclist Vote - 1895

Illustration from Puck [magazine], v. 37, no. 953, (1895 June 12), centerfold - click on image for a more detailed view

Title: Presidential aspirants take to the wheel! / C.J. Taylor.
Summary: Print shows the interior of the "Bicycle - Academy" which offers "Special Facilities for Presidential Candidates", and trying out bicycles are several candidates labeled "Harrison, Sherman, Allison, Morton, Tom Reed, McKinley, Stewart, [Hill], Flower, Cullom, [and] Peffer". Morton rides a motorized bicycle, Allison rides a tricycle, Flower has put his head through the front spokes, Stewart hangs onto a column, McKinley appears to be hanging onto Reed, and Hill's tires are leaking air. On the wall is a poster for an "1896 Scorcher".
Contributor Names: Taylor, Charles Jay, 1855-1929, artist
Created / Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 June 12.

Presidential aspirants take to the wheel! The bicycle vote has got to be catered to, and the best wheelman will make the best run.

At this point, the bicycle craze of the 1890s was building up - many cyclists went to indoor training programs to learn how to ride. Here, the presidential candidates are depicted learning how to ride in order to get the "wheelman" (cyclist) vote. Surprising number of candidates, although compared to what we have been through now . . .

Of course, at this point there were zero automobiles.

Also, looking at these presidential candidate names - Harrison, Sherman, Allison, Morton, Tom Reed, McKinley, Stewart, [Hill], Flower, Cullom, Peffer - most are completely unfamiliar a little over one hundred years later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Looping the Loop - Another Approach

Patent Drawing for K. Lange's Double Bicycle for Looping the Loop
Patent Drawing for K. Lange's Double Bicycle for Looping the Loop

From 1905, a patent application drawing from the National Archives.

Completely unworkable, one assumes. And oddly, at the same time, a "daredevil" named "Diavolo" was doing loops without any need for a special bike like this.

1905 - Daredevel does loop-the-loop on bicycle
Diavolo photographed in 1905

I blogged about this before; there are photos of this being done in 1903. So why the special bike idea? It doesn't seem like having wheels over your head would help of the bike fell across the loop.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bicycle History Program at Library of Congress August 8

Staff at the Library of Congress have organized a display of items from the collections related to bicycle history, which is described in a blog post and a press release.

From the blog post: The Library’s curators and specialists are gearing up and pounding the pedals for an exciting tour of the Library’s collections related to the history of cycling for visiting historians of the International Cycling History Conference. On Friday August 8, 2014 from 1:30-3:00 p.m. the Mumford Room, in the Library’s Madison Building, will be the hub for a special display of “Pedaling Through History: A Look at Cycling Collections Across the Library of Congress.” This special display is open to the public and will feature over 20 tables of show-and-tell items in all formats on the art, history, and science of wheelmanship (aka cycling).

From the press release: The display will draw from collections throughout the Library. There will be photographs, magazines, newspapers, comic books, maps and atlases, film footage, catalogs, sheet music, advertising posters and more. These materials will highlight an array of topics, including general bicycle history, European bicycles, bicycle races (including races from the early 1900s), bicycles in the military, trick riding, safety films and fashion.

The following divisions of the Library are contributing to the display: Science, Technology and Business; Prints and Photographs; Geography and Map; Manuscript; Rare Books and Special Collections; Serials and Government Publications; Motion Picture, Broadcast and Recorded Sound; European; Music; and Humanities and Social Sciences.

Déesse 16, rue Halévy, Paris - a poster of the sort to be on display

Friday, July 4, 2014

July Fourth Bicycle Race, 1902

From the the New York Tribune, July 5, 1902, an article about a bicycle track race on July 4, 1902. (I on the other hand went to Nationals baseball game today.)



The largest attendance of the year — fully eight thousand people — witnessed the bicycle races at the Vailsburg track, near Newark, yesterday. While no records were broken, the sport was excellent throughout, and the onlookers watched the finishes of the races with the closest attention. The weather was a little too warm for the spectators, but was of the ideal sort for the racing men, who do their best work when the sun scorches the pine ooze out of the board track.

Vailsburg is a merrymaking sort of a place. The enthusiasts who went to the track yesterday carried their pockets full of firecrackers and pistols. When a finish was to their liking the men and boys arose to their feet and let off noise and din, giving full play to their patriotism and satisfaction at the same time. When Kramer defeated Lawson, just returned from abroad, there was a fusillade of fireworks which made the rafters of the grandstand tremble.
And how did [Eddie] Bald win "in clever fashion?"
Bald, who had a lead of 100 yards, was in in good position from the start. Entering the homestretch Bald was in front riding with all of his oldtime fire and spirit, with nearly a dozen riders in a close bunch behind. One hundred yards from the wire one of the riders In the front rank went down with a bang bringing down five others with him. This left Bald with a clear field before him. He won by nearly twenty yards. None of the riders who fell were severely injured,

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Tour de France in the American Press - 100 Years Ago

I'm confident that there was more reporting in the U.S. press 100 years ago than I found, but there certainly wasn't much in Chronicling America. In fact, I just found the one story from 1913 (not 1914).

From the New York Sun for July 28, 1913. This would seem to be all the coverage for that publication for the entire race.


Winner Covers Distance In 197 Hours 54 Minutes

Special Cable Dispatch to The Sun.

Paris, July 27. The bicycle race round France, which began on June 29 with 140 competitors, wound up to-day, The total distance of the race was 3,387 miles and It was run in fifteen stages.

Twenty-five survivors started in the last stage of the race this morning from Dunkirk to Paris, a distance of 212 1/2 miles. All of these arrived here within twelve to fourteen and a half hours. The two leaders made the same time for this leg of the race, 12 hours 5 minutes.

Theiss [actually, Phillipe Thijs, of Belgium] won the first prize of $1,000, besides other prizes for different wins at various stages. He made the total distance in 197 hours and 54 minutes. Garrigou, who finished second, went over the entire route in 198 hours. The first and second men averaged more than seventeen miles an hour for the 3,367 miles.

The race was run again in 1913 but then World War I intervened so that the next running after that was in 1919. Note that in this article, the phrase "Tour de France" does not appear; it is "the bicycle race around France."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book about Schwinn HIstory in the Pubic Domain

Schwinn Roadster
Page from this company-sponsored history of Schwinn from 1945

Fifty years of Schwinn-built bicycles: the story of the bicycle and its contribution to our way of life. Arnold, Schwinn and company, Chicago. 1945. No author is given on the title page, but the dedication is from Frank Schwinn, son of the company founder, Ignaz Schwinn.

Typically books published after 1922 in the U.S. are still covered by copyright, but if published before 1964 (I think) then copyright has to be renewed after 28 years or the book goes into the public domain. Or perhaps the University of Michigan where this was digitized cleared the copyright otherwise somehow. Anyway, the full book is viewable through HathiTrust.

While primarily a book about Schwinn, looking back from 1945, there is quite a bit of general cycling history in this too (albeit presented in summary). There are some interesting photographs comparing a Schwinn factory in 1895 and 1945, and some discussion of the development of bicycle technology as it relates to technology in (then) automobiles and even airplanes. In many ways it is more interesting for someone interesting in Schwinn and bicycles than the much more recent No Hands that was published in 1996 but is more about Schwinn as some kind of extended business case study. (350 pages, published by Henry Holt & Co.)

Schwinn Family On Bike
The Schwinn family on a bicycle built for three

Schwinn's introduction of the balloon tire in 1933 is described in detail and makes clear that the bicycle industry in the U.S. following the initial craze of the 1890s had been negatively affected by the "single tube" tire that was difficult for individuals to repair but cheap for bicycle makers to sell.
The antiquated single-tube tire had been standard equipment on American bicycles from the 90's to 1933. Small double-tube tires were available, but expensive and little used. Everywhere else in the world only double-tube tires had been used for a generation, because they were readily repairable, while the single-tube tire was not. Small punctures in the single-tube tire could be repaired by makeshift methods, but large punctures could not be repaired satisfactorily, and a cut of any size meant the purchase of a new tire. The fiction that the American cycle buyer just wouldn't pay the additional cost of the practical, repairable, double-tube tire had taken root, and no serious attempt was made to encourage their use.

Schwinn Balloon Tire Ad 1933
Ad for Schwinn's 1933 bike featuring a balloon tire in the U.S.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"Bicyclists, Get Off the Road"

A letter to the editor of the Yakima Herald-Republic (in Washington state) is titled, "Bicyclists, get off the road" and starts out:
Yes, it keeps happening. People riding their bicycles on roads and highways designed for motorized traffic. Thank God my parents had enough common sense to beat my rear end and ground me if they caught me riding my bike in the street. Just because the law allows stupidity does not mean you have to make yourself a dangerous liability. . .
- and so on, from some fellow in Moxee (apparently a place in eastern Washington state).

What a point of view, from one a resident of one of the top bicycling-friendly states in the nation! I guess this says something about the divide between urban sensibilities and whatever Moxee Washington represents.

On the other hand, we have this.

The Power of Bicycling (Get Psyched) from Streetfilms on Vimeo.


One wonders if the Man from Moxee is aware that the Good Roads Movement" that created all these roads he feels belong to motorists exclusively was started by cyclists (then known as "wheelmen"). OK, OK - one could add that they were helped in organizing by bicycle manufacturers like Colonel Pope. One can read about these efforts in their monthly journal from the 1890s, entitled "Good roads: an illustrated monthly magazine devoted to the improvement of the public roads and streets." There were no motor vehicles.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Why They Were Called "Safety" Bicycles

The first popular bicycles were so-called "ordinary" bicycles - the rider sat high atop a single large wheel that had pedals attached directly to it with a single wheel that trailed behind. It was not easy to mount, it was not easy (apparently) to stay balanced, and since there were no brakes as such, stopping could be difficult - but if you hit the wrong sort of obstacle, you could come to a sudden and unexpected stop, pitching forward.

Recently I found two different booklets available online, both published in 1881 in Boston, that make the dangers of the ordinary bicycle quite clear.

Over the Wheel
As with all the illustrations in this little instruction manual, at first things seem manageable . . .

These two illustrations are from "Over the Wheel" - well, with a title like that, perhaps the emphasis on mishaps is not surprising.

Over the Wheel
As usual as portrayed in this booklet, the rider ends up in an accident

Another booklet in a similar vein is "The Illustrated Bicycle Primer" that similarly features illustrations with cyclists crashing in various ways.

So, once the bicycle as we know it today apppeared in the late 1880s, with similar sized front and back wheels and a chain drive system, it is hardly surprising it was distinguished from its predecessor, the "ordinary" as being the "safety bicycle."

First Safety Bicycle
An early "safety" bicycle

After not a very long time, the "ordinary" bicycles disappeared and the word "safety" to designate a bicycle also went out of use.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Oral Histories and Early Cycling

I'm still trying to understand some of the new search interface on the Library of Congress site.

I found that that the full text of interviews in the Folklore Project, Life Histories, 1936-39 of the U.S. Work Projects Administration, Federal Writers' Project is searchable - this includes interviews about "transportation," which is interpreted rather loosely.

I found one interview, for example, with one "Art Botsford" of Connecticut - the interview was performed in 1939 but the subject is mostly cycling, apparently in the 1890s.
I had a lot of fun on that old bicycle. Guess I told you about some of the trips I took didn't I? When I got through with that bike I sat down and figured up my mileage, and I found out that I'd been clear around the world, if I'd gone in a straight line.

“Yessir, I'd been over twenty-five thousand miles. Went over three hundred and sixty-five miles one week. Never did a century run, though I could've, easy as not. Some fellers used to see how many of them they could run up. A great trip was up to Springfield and back. That's fifty miles each way. You were supposed to make it same day, of course.

“I got out the shop one day at four o'clock. At twenty-six minutes after, I was down in Dexter's drug store in Waterbury, drinkin' a sody. How's that for scorchin'?


“Back in ' ninety-three I was down in Washington, D.C., time they had the convention of the League of American Wheelmen. They was three-four fellers stayin' in the same hotel with me from Springfield, had those Eagle wheels.

“One mornin' they got an old tomato can and got out in the street in front of the hotel and batted that thing around with their wheels just like they were playin' polo. Boy, I tell you they was good at it. They'd practiced it to home, you see. They had a crowd of people around watchin' ‘em before they got through.

“Some people here in town had them Eagles; others had the ones with the big wheel in front. I remember one lad, I'm not goin' to tell you his name. He used to get so drunk he couldn't stand on his feet, but put him on a wheel and he'd ride as straight as you please.

“Of course if he hit a bump he was apt to go tail over spindle buggy and when he fell off, he couldn't get up. Somebody had to help him on the wheel again, then he was all right.

“I see some of them take some nasty falls. Roads was pretty bad in them days, and it paid to use brakes comin' down a hill. Bidwell's hill was one of the worst. It was sandy as hell at the bottom, and when you hit that sand you was apt to go right over the handle bars.

“I come down there with a feller from Naugatuck one time, a new rider, I told him he better use his brake, but he said no, he didn't want to. He hit the sand and off he went tail over spindle buggy. Him and the wheel landed over in the bushes. Front wheel just crumpled up like paper. I pulled him out and he was groanin' and cussin'. Had a busted arm, I got him down to the nearest house and they went for the doctor.

“Great times, great times, on the bicycles. Then the automobiles come along . . . . .

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Laurel MD Race Track Used for Cycle Racing (1925)

Apparently this 1.1 mile track in Laurel Maryland was primarily used for auto racing but was also used for bicycle racing from time to time (in 1925). Here are some photos of the track in both "modes" in 1925.

The track on July 11 of 1925 for auto racing

Title: Laurel Race, 7/11/25
Date Created/Published: [19]25 July 11.
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-13958 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-F8- 36387 [P&P]
Library of Congress

Laurel Wooden Race Track 1925
The same wood track being used for a bicycle race a week later

Title: Laurel bicycle races, 7/18/25
Date Created/Published: [19]25 July 18.
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-14017 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-F8- 36590 [P&P]
Library of Congress

One of the individual racers

Title: R.J. O'Conner, Laurel bicycle races, [7/18/25]
Date Created/Published: [1925 July 18]
Medium: 1 negative : glass ; 4 x 5 in. or smaller
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-npcc-14014 (digital file from original)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: LC-F8- 36587 [P&P]
Library of Congress

If you Google "laurel race track 1925" you come up with blog posts and various sites selling images, none of which mention that the image comes from the Library of Congress. Peculiar. These are from the National Photo Company Collection at LC, digitized from glass plate negatives.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"Complete Streets" in 1905??

On the local WashCycle blog, I recently bumped into this new item video. I was only a little surprised to find that in it, as an example of "complete streets" from over 100 years ago, they use video footage from an American Memory collection.

At about 22 seconds the American Memory footage from 1905 starts, ending at about 40 seconds

The piece is about a town in England where they are implementing a different kind of traffic control approach, in effect reducing barriers between different types of transportation modes, including motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians. They support this approach (in small part) with American Memory footage taken from "A trip down Market Street before the fire". This is an unusual set of short films created while driving down Market Street in San Francisco in 1905, before the Great Fire of 1906. It is considered valuable documentation of what the street looked like at that time.

Screenshot from American Memory
A number of bicycles are shown riding along with the cars, horses, street cars, and pedestrians

The annotation in the LC record and the statements in the video by the British urban planners reflect different analysis of the 1905 footage. In the annotated American Memory record it states that: "The near total lack of traffic control along Market Street emphasizes the newness of the automobile. Granite paving stripes in the street marking ignored pedestrian crosswalks, making the crossing of Market Street on foot a risky venture." The British urban planners, however, regard this as the "natural order" of things that has been ruined by stoplights and that stoplights (etc) only appeared "in the last 50 or 60 years" - in order to "segrate traffic from other aspects of life."

And, as I noted, they do not identify the source of their film clip, or that fact that it was clearly orchestrated (the cars, for example, have been observed to be the same cars over and over again, apparently driving around the block and getting back into view of the filming camera to make it appear there were more cars in the city than there actually were) and likely nothing like the natural state of SF traffic at the time. The kid on the bicycle shown above, for example, looks back to regard with interest the camera shooting the film that now includes him.

Full version of the film done in 1905, originally in three parts

Bicycles appear with some frequency; the riders seem fearless as they operate near the street car.

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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

100 Years of Bicycle Component and Accessory Design (Book Review)

100 Years Of Bicycle Component And Accessory Design: The Data Book (Cycling Resources) (Cycling Resources)100 Years Of Bicycle Component And Accessory Design: The Data Book (Cycling Resources) by Van Der Plas Publications

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The sub-title on the book itself is "authentic reprint edition of the data book." The "data book" referred to is a 1983 Japanese publication that Is several hundred pages of line drawings of parts of bikes, apparently taken from a variety of publications. It is somewhat whimsically organized, grouping together particular components and then providing examples from the 1880s through the 1950s. (It isn't clear why it refers to 100 years of data; the book doesn't cover 100 years.) the book was compiled for Japanese cycling enthusiasts originally. The Japanese book translated is a compilation from four longer volumes of similar materials put together by the president of the Japanese Joto Ringyo bicycle company.

The book's description says it includes English translations of the Japanese text, but there is little text provided so this doesn't amount to much. Apparently this American edition sound some interest since the copy I have is a second printing. Still, it is Something for enthusiasts and the almost complete lack of information about what one is looking at is peculiar. This book is not to be confused with something like "the Dancing Chain."

I happened to find this at Half Price Books in Seattle for 20 dollars and at that price it has a certain entertainment value but at the original price of $39.95 it doesn't seem worth having.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Punctured" - Love & Cycling, 1898


From the Library of Congress - full record
Title: Punctured
Date Created/Published: c1898.
Medium: 1 print : lithograph.
Summary: Man with arrow in chest, on a road holding a bicycle, facing a woman with a bicycle. Love.
* Lithograph copyrighted by Henry Graves & Company, Limited, London.
* This record contains unverified, old data from caption card.
* Caption card tracings: Bicycles; Love and courtship; Shelf.

Ah, librarianship - able to reduce anything to rather a musty discussion. Still, a nice lithograph, and amusing.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Betsey Jane On Wheels - Fiction & the 1890s Cycling Craze

Betsey Jane on wheels; a tale of the bicycle craze. - I found this online recently, digitized for preservation (and access) reasons at the Library of Congress.

Title page for "Betsey Jane on wheels," published in 1895

Online record for this book
Personal name: Brown, Herbert E.
Main title: Betsey Jane on wheels; a tale of the bicycle craze. By H. E. Brown.
Published/Created: Chicago, W. B. Conkey company, 1895.
Description: 285 p. incl. front., plates. 19 1/2 cm.
Subjects: Cycling--Fiction.

PDF of the entire book

Set of many of the illustrations from the book

The heroine in her bloomers

This book was apparently part of a subscription series that readers would receive "issues" of as one subscribes to a magazine - but each would be a different book. (Oddly this title was deposited on copyright promptly after publication in 1895 but apparently not cataloged for ten years. Keep in mind that I'm also a librarian, so such things are of mild interest - if only to me.)

This work of fiction, over 200 pages, describes a family and then town's infatuation with bicycles and cycling. It precedes from one son taking it up, to the daughter (who wears risque bloomers), to the father and then finally the title character, the mother of the family, Betsey Jane. Issues such as whether women should ride bicycles (and if so, what they should wear) and the views of churches and government on cycling are dealt with directly (more or less - considering it is a work of fiction). Written in 1895, before the cycling craze hit its peak and was then overcome by the automobile, some of the suggestions about the future of cycling are optimistic or anyway didn't come to pass - are the suggestions about uses of bicycles on farms at all serious? I don't know.

The author steps out of his fictional role (as Betsey) and has the following conclusion, which is editorial in its tone.


As the most interesting part of a book is usually the conclusion I have concluded to finish this work by writing a conclusion, but will leave the reader to form his or her conclu­sion in regard to its merits.

I have attempted to give some idea of the bicycle craze which is now so prevalent, and although some cases may be slightly over­drawn, I think that I am justified in such overdrawing, as the bicycle craze will undoubtedly reach more alarming proportions another season.

The large manufacturers of buggies, wagons and street cars having noticed a decided fall­ing off in the demand for their goods, and, profiting by this experience, have concluded to meet the popular demand by converting their plants in bicycle factories. They have declared their intention to place wheels on the market at less than one-half the present prices, which will bring them within the reach of nearly every­one. When a good wheel can be purchased for twenty-five or thirty dollars, few people will be without one, for as a means of conveyance the cycle eclipses all four-footed beasts, as it is cheaper, safer and faster.

That cycling is a healthy and profitable recreation, none can deny, but, like all other good things, there will be plenty of people who will carry it to the extreme, and many others who will condemn the whole business on account of the injurious use which is made of it by a few.

Cycling is one of the few sports in which ladies can indulge with the same freedom and good results as the more fortunate masculine element of society. There has long been a want of something which will afford the ladies both sport and exercise, but so far nothing has been introduced which equals the cycle. Men can play base ball, run foot races, hunt, fish, box, wrestle and jump, but poor woman has so long been debarred from any active amusement, that, physically, she has been deteriorating, and now the cycle comes in as a good Samaritan. It affords an asylum, a refuge, a sort of fire escape, and gives the gentler sex an oppor­tunity to build up their well nigh lost physical powers.

What if some do abuse the sport and themselves also? It does not follow that cycling is wrong, any more than a great many other institutions which have suffered from the same cause, or that because a few church members do not live up to what they profess, that the church is entirely wrong, yet there are people who will argue on this basis, and tell you that cycling is not right, and that no intelligent or sensible person will ride a wheel. But the world would not be able to move in its accustomed orbit without some cranks, as the millenium would soon arrive and put an end to cycles, cranks and all.
The coming "car craze" had not yet tempered this fanciful view of the future

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fanciful Bicycle Propulsion - Sails (1896)

Article from the 1896 Washington Times describes a growing (at the time) popularity for sails fixed to bicycles.
Possible to Equip the Wheel Like a Ship - WINGS OF WHITE SILK
Connected to Bamboo Poles, the Sails Are Ran Up and Down as the Wind May Turn - They Make Wheel the Ideal Locomotion for a Sultry Day.

There is activity at the sailmakers, though this is the season when all sails should be finished and floating the blue horizon.

This unwanted activity is caused by the sudden appearance of the bicycle sail, out of which has sprung a demand for sails, unprecedented even in cup years. The bicycle sail is a little affair. It is made of duck or sailcloth, and its dimensions are a little more than a yard square.
Bike With Sales (1896)
Somewhat fanciful illustration that accompanies the article
The cost of white sails for a bicycle comes to something like $3, if you are contented with a good quality and a fairly white sail. If you want the silk finish and the dazzling white, you must pay for it fully twice as much.
This is not a perfect propulsion system, however.

In rigging up a bicycle's sails there is a great deal of care necessary. A person not an expert, starting off swiftly upon a wheel rigged with sails of his own making, would undoubtedly get a fall of the most sensational description. His sails being raised too high would carry him along at a top-heavy pace and he would be unable to keep back his machine by back-pedalling, or any of the arts known to the wheelman. More than that, it would throw him forward upon his wrists in a frantic effort to keep his seat. And the result would be awkward, even if he escaped calamity.
Another trend from the 1890s that met with some success in the press, but not in reality.