Sunday, December 30, 2012

Modern "Commuting Wool Top" (Shirt)

For Christmas I received a very nice cycling shirt, made of Merino wool by Bontrager (which is part of Trek). I was a little surprised - I didn't realize that they made anything like this. I googled the full name of the thing and found it on their site and in various outlets, although I get the impression it may be discontinued - it was half price at several places and on the Bontrager site I was unable to find it either using browse or their search.

Perhaps Bontrager couldn't figure out how to market what is quite useful simply as what it is - a wool cycling shirt. They seem to have wanted it to serve as a fashion statement "on and off the bike."
On the bike, to the office, to the market, to the pub, around the city. If that sounds like you, then the 100% merino wool long sleeve Commuting Wool Top has the go-anywhere fashion and on-bike performance you need to transition seamlessly from riding your bike to looking right at home, no matter where your bike takes you.
Commute Shirt
The Bontrager wool commuter "top" (shirt)

In the list of "features" they continue to focus more on form than function: "Midweight, casual, high-collar long sleeve wool top for short commutes and trendy destinations." The "high-collar" part is simply a collar designed with buttons so that it can be buttoned up to create a high collar for windy or cool conditions - clever. There is also a single buttoned pocket on the back, off to one side, since cyclists may not have pockets in their shorts.

Certain features are pointless or silly - yes, there is a reflective edge to the one pocket, but in the dark this would contribute effectively zero. Even stranger are the epaulettes - are those a fashion feature for the hipster (or whoever) at the pub, around the city, etc.? For men I associate epaulettes like these with tour bus drivers and the like. And I don't understand why they don't call it a shirt or a jersey instead of a "top."

Adm. Arthur K. Wilson (LOC)
Now here are some epaulettes

The shirt is also a bit oddly sized, even by the standard of cycling clothing. I received and XL, which fits just right - but I am usually a medium for shirts, not large, so to have an XL fit is a little unusual. The site does say, "If you prefer a slightly roomier fit or are in-between sizes, consider ordering one size up" but this seems more than that - also the only sizes available are XL and XXL.

The MSRP is $79 which isn't that bad in my mind (given what I paid for a Merino wool "base layer" shirt last year) but it seems to be available from some outlets for half that, which seems a great deal.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sarah Grand & Cycling - A Later View (1899)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist who traveled in the United States to lecture (and presumably sell more of her books). In an earlier post, I looked at an 1897 article about her suggestions for optimal cycling attire for women. (This article was published as filler material in a number of newspapers in the United States.)

I have since found a similar sort of filler item, but a shorter one from 1899, Sarah Grand and Her Bike, that uses a photo of Ms. Grand to demonstrate that she was not a "new woman" who practiced what she preached - she did not "ride in bloomers or trousers."

Sarah Grand with Bicycle
Illustration with article from the Kansas City Journal., June 04, 1899

The Creator of the "New Woman" Does Not Hide in Bloomers or Trousers.
From the New York Journal

Sarah Grand, the author of "The Heavenly Twins" and the creator of the new woman in literature, rides a bicycle. We might expect her to ride in bloomers or trousers, or some other garment unlike any thing worn by the "old" woman, but instead of that we find her dressed in skirts of a decorous and graceful length.

Mme Sarah Grand has had herself photographed in bicycling costume just as she is about to mount her wheel. She has had this done because she wishes the public to know just what an ideal new woman looks like. You may see her on this page.

Sarah Grand is entitled by marriage to bear the good old Irish name of "McFall," but with curious taste she prefers the remarkably pretentious name of "Grand." Her husband was an army surgeon and she was separated from him. It is said that he was the original of the wicked colonel In "The Heavenly Twins," who was fond of long glasses of brandy and soda and of pretty girls, and for these sins was boycotted by his voting wife and brought to a sudden and terrible end by the author.

Sarah Grand is engaged regularly in literary work, but she achieved no success comparable to that of "The Heavenly Twins."

The full article as it appeared

A little research reveals that the photograph of Sarah Grand that was the basis for the newspaper illustration, claiming to show her as a "new woman" not wearing her suggested cycling attire was from 1896, before she made her declaration against using traditional women's clothing for cycling.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Russian Winter Tale - Bicyclist Chased by Wolves

A Bicyclist Chased by Wolves
From the Alexandria [Virginia] Gazette, November 11, 1892. Newspapers apparently had to fill their pages and had access to general interest stories of this sort - this one appears to have been published in several papers across the U.S. around the same time. No illustration provided, alas.

Mr. Fred Whishaw gives in "Land and Water" an account of his being chased by wolves in the district of Pakoff. He had gone to Russia with a bicycle, and at the time he fell in with the wolves was on his machine, having covered a distance of some 12 miles in an endeavor to "head" some elk. I had (he says) ridden but a mile or two on the return journey when it struck me that I ought to alight and refresh my machine with a few drops of oil but hardly was I on foot than, happening to glance back along the road, I saw something which at first sight caused a thrill of pleasurable excitement, but soon gave place to very different sensations. Hardly a quarter of a mile behind, and coming toward me at the long gallop which covers the ground at a wonderfully rapid pace, were five large gray wolves. I saw the leader raise his nose, and, catching sight of me, cock his ears and give tongue, just as a dog might. There was no doubt about the fact. I was being hunted. I was speedily up and away, and as I caused the pedals to whirl in a manner to which they were entirely unused, I tried to calculate coolly the probable relative swiftness of bicycles and wolves. I had at least ten miles to go before I should reach safety. I might possibly do that in three-quarters of an hour, if the machine and my breath held out. Could the wolves accomplish the distance in less time? The situation was by no means one for trifling. When I had ridden a couple of miles or so I ventured to glance back, the result being the instantaneous conviction that the wolves had gained upon me. They had gained a hundred yards at least. At this rate I quickly calculated that they would pull me down just about two miles before I could reach my destination and city of refuge, Lavrik; unless, indeed, they could not keep up the pace, which i flattered myself was rather hot.

Another two miles and another peep behind me. The wolves were barely two hundred yards away now, and coming along as though they enjoyed it. I could swear that the leading wolf licked his lips as he saw me look around. I tried a spurt. The road was as level as a billiard table, and I strained every nerve to the utmost, but even as I did so it was borne in upon me that spurting would not do. I must slacken off at once, for I could never keep up the terrific rate at which I was now traveling. In fact, I must economize all my staying powers in order to last out the distance at even my former rate of progression. Then suddenly an idea occurred to me. I would ring my bell loudly and continuously, and see what effect this would produce. I pressed the gong, and turned to observe whether the sound would check my pursuers. The effect was instantaneous. No sooner did the first clang of the gong ring out than the wolves, every one of them, stopped dead and disappeared behind the trees. I gave a yell of defiance and delight, and dashed on, ringing away for dear life. But my triumph was short-lived. Oh looking back a few moments after I found that my foes were again in full pursuit. However, I had gained a little.

On we flew, my gong sounding harsh and strident in the silence of the forest. It was magnificent; at least it would have been if it had not been so horribly dangerous. There was a rut trodden by horses running all along the very middle of the road. I avoided this and rode at the side, which was smooth, for the runners of the light sledges do not as a rule wear the snow. It was easy enough, of course, to avoid the rut when riding straight ahead; but while looking round there was the danger of my front wheel slipping into it. and either checking the way of the machine or even causing a capsize. I had just turned my head to look round upon my pursuers for the twentieth lime - alas! they were still gaining, and were now within fifty yards. Hearing a loud clatter in front of me, I turned back again to see what new danger threatened me from that direction. In thus twisting back and round again I allowed my front wheel to go out of the direct line. The next instant I was in the rut, and. before I had time to see what was happening, was, with my trusty bicycle, buried a couple of feet in the snow at the side of the road. I gave myself up for lost. All this did not take long to happen, and as I emerged from the snow I was in time to see two things. The first object that met my gaze was a magnificent bull elk, followed by four smaller ones, just in the act of trotting across the road, not ten yards from me, striding through the snow at a long trot, their heads well raised and resting back on their shoulders. The other object was the little pack of wolves. Scarcely fifty yards behind me when I upset, these were upon me in a moment, and I had barely time to seize the heavy spanner of my machine and put my back to a tree when, to my delight, the wolves - then but five yards from me - pricked up their ears, passed me like a flash of greased lightning, and darted away in pursuit of the elk. I picked up my bicycle, and. to put it mildly, rode away with all speed. I think I rode those three miles in "record time," anyhow, I was fifteen minutes less than two hours from the start when I scudded into Lavrik, and if I had not ridden twenty-eight miles I must have done very near it.

Frederick Whishaw wrote a book about his travels in Russia, "Out of doors in Tsarland; a record of the seeings and doings in Russia" in 1893 but it does not include this story or anything about travels with a bicycle. The above tale seems to have come from a journal, Land and Water, published in England by the "Country Gentlemen Publishing Company" and does not seem to have been digitized. Yet.

Wolf from Flickr

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa on Bike; Letters to Santa, 1897

Santa Riding a Bike (1897)

From the Richmond Dispatch newspaper, December 19, 1897. Illustration above accompanied the text of dozens of letters to Santa Claus from children in Richmond Virginia, including these that have requests for bicycles.
Dear Santy Claus:
I want you to bring me a bicycle, a lock-bracletle, a doll-baby, sewing machine, and nuts, candies, fruit of all kind,and popcracker all kind; and bring them to my address, 216 N. 21 St.
Your little friend.
The next letter is from the same family ~

Dear Saunta Cause:
Please bring me a gun, a pound of shot, a bicycle, and some fireworks; that is all. I live at No. 216 21st Street.
Your little boy.

1212 Floyd Avenue,
Dear Santa Claus:
I want a bicycle and a watch and chain and a harp and a drum. That's all.
Your little boy, ELLETT READY.

Dear Santa Claus:
I wish you would bring me a bicycle and a bunch of switches; a pack of popcrackers, a box of candy, a air-rifle, and a pound of shot. Yours truly,
1401 Grove avenue.
Several letters are worded as if Santa's delivery of the items personally isn't part of how they understand things ~

Dear Santa Claus:
Richmond. Va. Dec. 2d.
Please send me a bycycle, and it will be thankfully received.
Yours respectively,

Dear Santa Claus:
Please send a bicycle and a wagon & goat and harness. From your little boy,
1123 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Va
A number of letters included requests for others ~

Dear Santa Claws:
I am a little boy 3 1/2 years old. I want you to bring me a bicycle, and a pack of popcrackers, a horn, and some candy. Phase bring Minerva (our colored girl) a bicycle, too, and my little brother Harold, something pretty. I am going to be a good boy, and go to bed real soon. Please come, Santa Claus; don't forget.
I was surprised by the extent of the requests made by many of the children's letters; this one balances that out somewhat.

Richmond, Va,
207 S. Pine St
Dear Santa Clause:
Christmas is nearly here, and I would like for you to bring me something nice. I will be thankful for anything that you bring me. From your little boy,

A few years ago I had a blog post with the similar illustration, shown below, taken from an ad for Stearns bicycles from the bicycle industry journal "Cycling Life" (issue for December 24 issue, 1896).

Santa On Bike (1896, Cycling Life)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas-time & New Woman Cycling Attire (1897)

Sarah Grand was a British feminist and writer - somehow an article about her development of a more modern cycling costume for women riders came to be published in a newspaper in Los Angeles in 1897. Wikipedia notes that she had traveled in the U.S. to publicize her novel mentioned in the article. The byline for the article is given as London.

From "The Herald" (Los Angeles) December 26, 1897.

The illustration shows a much more structured design than the article describes

I have reproduced the highlights of the article, below.

By a judicious combination of ideas based on Shakespeare and common sense, Madame Sarah Grand, the world famous authoress of "The Heavenly Twins," has evolved a bicycle costume for women that is a startler. She calls her new bicycle dress for women her "Christmas bicycle costume,"and considers that in devising it she has given additional cause for rejoicing among women during the coming holiday season.

To begin to explain Madame Grand's costume, it is necessary to take the Rosalind of Act II, in "As You Like It," and, using her as a lay figure, to build the Madame Grand costume around her. Madame Grand is an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare, and the more she studied the free and easy grace of Rosalind of the russet doublet and hose, the more she became convinced that, had bicycles been in use during the Shakespearian era, the doublet and hose would have been the costume that level headed women would have adopted. . . .

So Madame Grand proceeded to think out her Rosalind bicycle costume, discarding one by one the nineteenth century articles of dress that fettered the sex when awheeling.

"No waist for me," said Madame Grand, at the beginning of her studies. "A waist on a bicycle is absurd. I can never bear to ride In anything tight, especially corsets, and I like to feel free and comfortable." And away went the corsets, and after them the waist, then the skirt and the bloomers, until Rosalind the lay figure was deprived of everything that pertained to modern costuming, and stood ready to be rehabilitated . . .

The costume is made for winter wear, although it can be fashioned readily enough into an attractive summer rig for the athletic girl. It is made of white fur . . .

"Nothing is unfeminine for a woman," she said, when asked about this point, "unless she chooses to make it so. I think we are beginning to show nowadays that we can do many things which used to be thought 'unfeminine,' and be womanly nevertheless. Bicycling Is one of them, and the wearing of a rational bicycle costume goes with it. The skirt is evidently not the thing. I have had two bad accidents from mine catching, and it was made by an excellent tailor. This is what led me to devote a good deal of thought to the subject, and made me come to the conclusion that an
easy and pretty costume might be modeled from Rosalind's dress."

One of several copies of a photo of Sarah Grand with a bicycle in 1896, but nominally under copyright of some sort.

Unfortunately I do not see any immediate possibility for access to Cycling World Illustrated, the magazine from which the image of Ms. Grand and her bicycle was apparently taken. The Online Bicycle Museum does have some pages of 1896 issues on line that are entertaining and particularly about women riders, but not complete issues.

Since I wrote this post, I discovered another later article about Sarah Grand and her cycling attire that I have a separate blog post about.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

U.S. Post Office Carriers With Bicycles (1903)

Another short video (silent film) taken from a paper roll that was printed for copyright deposit that is part of the America at work collection in American Memory.

TITLE - Carriers leaving building, U.S.P.O. [Version 2]

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.

SUMMARY - Male letter carriers of the U.S. Post Office are the subject of this series on the Postal Department. The camera was placed to show a large number of uniformed mail carriers as they leave the main post office to deliver letters. They can be seen walking down the steps of the building toward the camera position. Some mount bicycles and ride away, while others just walk. There are also some women in the film.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 22Aug03; H34973.
Cameraman, A. E. Weed.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 48.
Filmed August 5, 1903 in Washington, D.C.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: 2/2000 from LC lab; ref prints and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

USPO cyclists image from video
Screen grab from video showing several mail carriers with bicycles

If one believes the summary, some of the mail carriers are off to deliver mail on bicycle - perhaps one of them is shown later in this video (with his "flying dismount"). In the 1890s bicycles were very expensive relative to workers' incomes - by 1903 the prices had fallen quite a bit but securing them somehow would still seem useful, but this video and photos I see rarely suggest anyone locked their bikes up in public. Bikes are visible, stacked against one another leaning against a wall - if they were riding every day, one would expect something a little better than that.

The summary states, "there are also some women in the film" - yes, but the two I notice are at the very end and are not letter carriers (and don't get on bicycles, either, unlike the Parke Davis employees video that shows many women riding).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

$6,000 Bicycle for Christmas ?

A recent Anthropologie catalog included an ad for "the Looker," a "handmade" copper bike from Van Heesch Design in the Netherlands. Anthropologie says it will get "better with age" since it will turn "brilliantly green." Only $6,000 dollars - oh, plus $250 delivery. Oh and uh "some assembly required."

Van Heesch has a channel in YouTube where they have videos of the $6,000 bike being used in different locales - here is Amsterdam

For good or bad, the metal portions of the bicycle are not made entirely of copper, rather it is a more regular sort of bike entirely plated in copper. There are lots of photos of the thing here. Don't want copper? Well, how about brass or perhaps zinc. (The possible appeal of zinc seems more than a little mysterious.)

None of this has to do with the traditional sort of Christmas "bicycle as gift" that I am familiar with, as shown in this photo from the Library of Congress ~

"Christmas of 1930" (with bike & tree)
"Christmas of 1930" photograph from Library of Congress

Item Title-Christmas of 1930. Norma Horydczak on bicycle in front of Christmas tree, wide view.
Horydczak, Theodor, ca. 1890-1971, photographer.
Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Theodor Horydczak Collection, LC-H812-1190-004
Full record at this location.

Of course it was during the Depression. I guess she was lucky to get a bike at all.

Perhaps you have decided that you can't spring for a $6,000 copper-plated bicycle that isn't assembled and costs as much or more to have delivered ($250) as an OK occasional-use bike from a box-store - OK, fine, be that way. But Van Heesch has a copper-plated bell - surely you can afford a bell? Actually, perhaps you can't - the site says, "if you’re interested in purchasing a bell please write an email to" Presumably they then look you up in various sources and come up with "your special" price. Or decide you can't afford what they want for these bells and then ignore you?

Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Online Book About Bikesharing Programs

Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding

Available here as a PDF.

A few bikes are "checked out"
Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington

LCCN permalink:
Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name: Shaheen, Susan A., 1966-
Main title: Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding / Susan A. Shaheen ... [et al.].
Published/Created: San Jose, CA : Mineta Transportation Institute, College of Business, San Joseƌ State University ; [Springfield, VA : Available through the National Technical Information Service, c2012.
Description: xiv, 138 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.

This is a "high level" review of the topic. It's good that it covers all possible issues and provides summary breakdowns in many categories but from this you usually won't know what the situation is with a particular bikeshare system for any particular category.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Early Bike Commuters - 1899 Video

44 second video copied from American Memory

It appears that the film starts just as the rush of workers on bicycles and on foot begins at the end of the work day. Was the policeman at left there every day to maintain order? While the copyright deposit date is given as 1903 the actual date of filming is July 5 1899. They would be just back from the previous day's national holiday (one assumes). Filmed in Detroit.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Screen grab - note a fair number of the riders are women

TITLE - Parke Davis Employees

CREATED/PUBLISHED - United States : American Mutoscope & Biograph Company, 1903.
SUMMARY - Photographed from a single-camera position, this film encompasses a scene of a large number of people either walking or riding bicycles as they leave what appears to be a factory. The title indicates they are employees of a drug firm.

NOTES - Copyright: American Mutoscope & Biograph Company; 11May03; H31670.
Cameraman, F. S. Armitage.
Cameraman credit from Niver's, Early motion pictures, p. 245.
Duration: 0:44 at 20 fps.
Filmed July 5, 1899 in Detroit.
Source used: Niver, Kemp R., Early motion pictures, 1985.
Received: ca. 1991 from LC lab; ref print and dupe neg; preservation; Paper Print Collection.

Parke Davis worker 1903
Number of riders builds . . . no one wears a helmet, of course, but they all seem to wear hats

Parke Davis worker 1903
One fellow politely doffs his hat to the police officer