Friday, December 30, 2016

Profane Parrot Cyclist of 1896 (Human Interest Journalism)

The Sunday edition of the New York Journal of the late 1890s ran 40 pages or more, which was a lot of space to fill for a newspaper of that time. Some of the space was filled with human interest stories associated with fashionable or trendy topics of the moment, such as cycling. Below is a reasonably typical example, going on at considerable length about not very much.

It seems from other articles that at least at this point in the "bicycle craze" the New York Journal was not in favor of women wearing bloomers, so perhaps the paragraph (indicated in bold text below) is more an expression of the point of view of the publication and not just the parrot.

A Profane Parrot that Rides a Bicycle

A BICYCLIST parrot Is a conspicuous figure of life on the Boulevard and other uptown thoroughfares which are given up to the riders of the wheel. Everybody Is to be seen on a bicycle nowadays: old women, old men, babies and so forth. It is, therefore, not surprising that a parrot should make his appearance, for no creature could be more active, gay and sociable.

But this particular bird deserves mention for other reasons than the mere fact that he rides a bicycle. His conversational eccentricities are the amusement and the terror of the bicycling community.

The bird's full name is Don Cesar, and his owner Is J. J. Walsh, of No. 490 Sixth avenue, who tells endless stories of the indiscretions of the bird.

The Parrot that Rides a Bicycle

Do not expect to hear that Don Cesar turns the pedals of a bicycle himself by any means. Even If that were possible he is too averse to hard work to consent to any such arrangement. When he wants exercise he takes it on the wing, but the tongue is the member which he chiefly loves to agitate.

He perches in the middle of the handle-bars, on the spot where some enthusiastic bicyclists place their babies. There he stands and vociferates and scratches himself. Now and then he ducks his head down to see how the front wheel is going. It Is a wonder that he has never punctured the tire and dislocated his beak, but that has not happened yet.

Occasionally he leaves the handle-bars and takes a fly into the air. For a parrot he is a good flyer. Having taken a view of the crowd, of the river, or whatever may be in sight, he returns faithfully to the wheel. Mr. Walsh slackens his speed slightly when the bird goes flying.

Don Cesar Is a green and red parrot of South American birth. At one time he belonged, like most parrots, to a seafaring man. During that period of his career he visited the principal ports of the world and learned at least four different languages. These languages consist chiefly of profanity.

It brings prosperity to have a parrot on board ship, just as it means means certain misfortune to have a black cat. Once Don Cesar was left ashore in a saloon in Rio Janeiro by a thoughtless mariner. The ship had weighed anchor, but a deputation of seamen, having represented the gravity of the situation to the captain, the longboat was manned and Don Cesar was rescued. When he was safe on board he swore with such vigor that every one was satisfied that he would have brought evil to the ship If he had stayed ashore.

One of the most dangerous things a sea man can do is to give away a parrot who has learned nautical ways. But Mr. Walsh earned the friendship of a sailor to such an extent that he gave him his parrot, Don Cesar, a bird of rare experience. Now, the bird has changed his proud position of mascot on a ship to the equally eminent one of figurehead on a bicycle In the streets of this metropolis.

Don Cesar's favorite languages are Spanish, Italian, French and German. You may hear him almost any evening on the Boulevard carrying on a monologue of this sort: "Noni d'un chlen, veut-tu ficher la pals'?"."Corpo dl Bacco."."Tas d'idlots."."Caramha."."Allez au diable."."Pesta."."Ach du lieber Gott!"."Oh, la, la!"

According to his owner Don Cesar becomes speechless with rage at the sight of a woman in bloomers. He sets up a fierce, hoarse shriek, which he keeps up for several minutes, at the end of which he is in danger of falling off the handle-bars. Evidently he has old-fashioned ideas on the subject of women. He believes that they should stay in petticoats. When they are so attired he is very affable, submitting to have his head scratched, but, sad to relate, he does not relax his profanity.

Don Cesar enjoys bicycling very thoroughly, otherwise he would not go riding. He gets the best part of it, the fresh air and the excitement, without the exertion and the fatigue.

Of course he behaves himself interesting at other times than when he is on the wheel [bicycle].

It is his habit to salute his master when he returns home, at whatever hour this may be. His favorite greeting Is: "Hello, popper! I see you!"

He repeats this a number of times In a very loud voice, accompanying his remarks with a shrill, mocking laugh. This trick used to cause a little embarrassment to Mr. Walsh when the hour of his return was one which he did not wish to have announced to his family and all his neighbors. Any attempt to silence Don Cesar by threats of violence or throwing a cloth over him was met by louder shrieks. Don Cesar proved utterly incorrigible in this respect, and so his owner has become very regular in his hours.

Croozer Test Ride

Nowadays people often use trailers to travel around by bike with their animals - usually dogs, such as this photograph reused from Flickr shows. I don't recall seeing any parrots on handlebars, though. I have thought about having a trailer for my family dog perhaps in a few years when she is a little older and might appreciate it (more).

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Cyclists, Pedestrians, 1896 NYC

"Everybody rides a bicycle nowadays, and the pedestrian worries"
"Everybody rides a bicycle nowadays, and the pedestrian worries"

The New York Journal, May 10, 1896.

The summer of 1896 was the height of the "bicycle craze" of the 1890s - one of several "bicycle books" according to Although generally I think the bicycle craze of the 1890s is considered the most noteworthy - it followed the introduction of the "safety bicycle," which is not that different than bikes we ride today.

The New York Journal (aka "The Journal") is available for several years in the late 1890s online.

The above image came from an eleven page "Journal Bicycle Edition" supplement to the regular paper issue for Sunday May 10, 1896.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Bicycle: The Definitive Visual History (Book Review)

Bicycle: The Definitive Visual HistoryBicycle: The Definitive Visual History by DK Publishing

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a coffee table book with very nice photographs of bicycles, from the 1800s to today, presented in the usual "floating against a white background" approach used in Dorling-Kindersley way.

This is's information about the book that includes some images of the pages. It says, "To tell the complete story of cycling, Bicycle profiles famous cyclists, manufacturers, and brands, and includes detailed images, maps, and histories of key races and competitions - from the first recorded race in 1868 to the Cyclo-cross World Championships to the Tour de France, triathlons, Olympic racing, and more."

My local public library purchases books like this and I like to check them out and page through them, enjoying the photographs and reading the captions. Sometimes I even buy a few (very few) of these often not inexpensive books. Still, the pleasure generally is in the photography - and this book has a lot of good photographs of books. But to suggest this tells "the complete story of cycling" even at some summary level is silly - it doesn't.

Here is just one simple example - a significant (enough) recent development that now seems to be dying out was the messenger cyclist-fixed gear trend. After all, there were several different movies celebrating bicycle messengers over almost twenty years, from Kevin Bacon's "Quicksilver" to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Premium Rush." For the world of bicycling, it was interesting to see how the "classic" messenger bicycle evolved, at first a fixed gear created from a castoff 1970s road bike that might or might not have brakes since the easiest way to stop was to cease pedaling - and which was great for messengers because it was easily maintained, cheap, and at the same time unattractive to theft. Then others, mostly young, began converting bikes to "fixies" but with hubs that would freewheel since riding a true fixed gear bike is uhm kind of annoying, followed by fixed gear bikes (that weren't actually fixed) being sold by various companies new, primarily to so-called "hipsters." (When I checked with Google on the continued connection between fixies and hipsters, I learned that, "Hipster’s and fixies go together like Donald Trump and being completely out of sync with the reality of everyday life." Yeah.)

Now it isn't like fixies are a big part of cycling history, but given some of the more obscure stuff the book does include, largely because people like photographs in coffee table books of obscure visually interesting stuff, then it seems hard to agree this book is anything like "complete." Rather, it is "selective."

OK, here's another example - bike share is a not a type of bike, but bike share bikes are a type that would seem necessary to cover in the "complete story of cycling." Not mentioned.

As someone who is somewhat interested in older Japanese bikes (Nishiki, Bridgestone, Univega, others) that had some popularity in the US before the Yen made them too expensive, I eventually noticed the strong Eurocentric and even UK-centric coverage. Cannondale has a fair number of examples included, followed by Specialized and Trek, but that's pretty much it for today's US companies.

There are some aspects that are to me really quite strange. Bikes are captioned with information about the origin (country), the frame material (ie, steel), gears (number of), and the size of the wheels in inches. The country of origin is the country of corporate ownership, not of the manufacture of the frame, which is how most people think about it. Or companies - Cannondale bikes that are "made in the USA" are bikes with American assembled frames, but many of the components come from Asia - the overall dollar value of the inputs to create a Cannondale in some cases might be less than 50 percent US. But for an example of a "hybrid" they have a Mongoose identified as "origin=US" which may be true as far as who owns Mongoose, but the bike was assembled from Asian components in Taiwan (or maybe China) but anyway, not in the US. And the way they measure wheels is odd, too - all the road bikes are described with 28 inch wheels, whether they are older ones with what are usually called 27 inch wheels or more modern road bike wheels that are a somewhat larger size that are usually said to be 700 mm wheels.

There are pages that point out the importance of the Pigeon bicycle for China. Another inset notes that bicycles are important in the developing world with a photo of some poor fellow riding his cargo laden bike in Kabul. Otherwise this is about bikes in the developed world, mostly Europe and somewhat the US. Which doesn't exactly correspond either to where the bicycles are made nowadays or where most of the bikes in the world are. But OK.

View all my reviews of cycling books on GoodReads.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

After the [Bicycle] Ride (1897)

After the [Bicycle] Ride-1897
After the Ride

Title: After the ride
Creator(s): Harmon, F. T., copyright claimant
Date Created/Published: c1897.
Medium: 1 photographic print.
Summary: Photograph shows man drinking from a glass and holding a piece of cake while sitting on door of icebox; bicycle at left.
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-11780 (b&w film copy neg.)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: SSF - Interiors -- Kitchens -- 1897 [item] [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Title from item.
Eating & drinking--1890-1900.

Somewhat oddly, the subject headings don't include anything about the bicycle, but at least the bicycle is mentioned in the "summary" - "bicycle at left."

Apparently the cyclist shown was wanting some refreshment after an early "tweed ride" (or "tweed run" - where today cyclists dress up to evoke early cyclists and their attire).

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

"Paying for his Fun" - Bike Repairs

Pays for Fun
Title: Paying for his fun

Summary-Man working on bicycle wheel.
Created / Published- [between 1890 and 1899]
Subject Headings
- Bicycles & tricycles--1890-1900
- Wheels--1890-1900
- Cleaning--1890-1900
Format Headings-Photographic prints--1890-1900.
Notes-Copyright by F.T. Harmon.
Medium-1 photographic print.
Call Number/Physical Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

It is a somewhat amusing notion reflected in this photograph from the 1890s that the bicycle rider "pays" for his fun - riding the bike - by spending time fixing the bike. Of course in the 1890s bikes were manufactured with lower tolerances and for a given amount of riding I would assume more repairs were required than for a good quality bike made today.

Still, for the most part I find working on my bikes to be relaxing, although I mostly do fairly basic stuff. I don't do anything with bottom brackets, headsets, or truing wheels. (I guess some people might say that doesn't leave much . . . )

Recently I had a little crash - I managed to end up with both the front and rear wheels out of true on the bike I was riding. I noticed the problem with the rear wheel immediately and got it fixed but it took me a while to realize the front wheel was a bit off - then I had it fixed also.

For me, paying someone to do certain repairs is better than the aggravation/frustration of trying to do it myself without having the right tools or much experience. I'm quite lucky since there is a shop about a mile away, Spokes Etc, where there is a dedicated wheel builder and "wheel mechanic", Bill Mould, who for 20 dollars will correct any true a wheel, putting in in one plane but also making sure it is still round.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Robots to Deliver DC Packages on Bike-Free Sidewalks

The above video isn't specific to DC

Apparently the delivery bots are a little late in arriving since it is November and they have not yet appeared

This article from a transportation think-tank suggests deliveries will start later this year.

By the end of this year, Washington, D.C. will be the inaugural testbed for a new type of delivery service: last-mile ground deliveries, performed by robots, for the low cost of $1.

Starship Technologies, a European company, is working with the D.C. City Council to establish a first-of-its-kind pilot program that will allow the company’s robots to conduct package, grocery, and food deliveries within city limits.

The company’s robots are a couple of feet tall and take up the same amount of space on the sidewalk as a pedestrian. Weighing in at 30-35 pounds, the inexpensive robots are equipped with nine cameras, two-way audio capabilities, and a lockbox for its cargo.

“They’re social robots,” explains Henry Harris-Burland, Starship’s marketing and communications manager. “The robot acts like a pedestrian and it knows it’s at the bottom of the food chain.”

From a cyclist's point of view, it is interesting and perhaps amusing that DC's central business district legal ban on riding a bike on the sidewalk is suggested as a plus - "Another advantage to testing in D.C., in addition to its low-density development, is that cyclists are banned from riding on sidewalks within its perimeter." The article has a map of the DC "no riding on the sidewalk!" area, which I suspect would be news to many who ride bikes in DC, based on my observations. Hopefully the robots won't be too surprised when it turns out there are some bicycles on the sidewalk being ridden after all.

Per this article the droid-delivery-bot operates autonomously unless it gets into trouble, in which case the remote operator would take over.

One wonders what if any cues the robot takes from pedestrians walking along with it - DC pedestrians are not known for being law abiding, I would say. (When I travel to Seattle I always have to remind myself of this local trait that I have acquired.)

What may have worked in Estonia to deliver pizzas may be more challenged by the US capital city. I guess we'll see. I can't say I'm looking forward to having short bots to watch for in addition to all the rest of it.

Of course there is the other aspect of it - didn't people on bicycles used to deliver stuff? Oh, sometimes they still do! Well, for the moment.

Special delivery messenger, U.S.P.O.
DC postman speedy delivery by bike (from a while ago . . . )

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Celebrity Bicycle Reporting (1896)

A rather fanciful article about a then-famous singer, Lillian Russell, in the New York Journal that was for the time a daily newspaper with more pages to fill than most as well as presumably more readers to attract, so apparently they were inclined to long dramatic reports.

Title-The journal, May 19, 1896
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
Created / Published-New York [N.Y.], May 19, 1896

LILLIAN RUSSELL'S UNLUCKY CYCLING, Thrown from Her Golden Wheel and There Are Disastrous Consequences.

In Collision with Another Bicycler Where Miss Schumacher Was Killed.
She Sprains an Ankle Badly, and That Is Only the Beginning of Her Troubles.

THEY ENSUE ON A HARLEM STAGE, While Singing in the "Little Duke" Her Ankle Weakens and She and Fred Solomon Fall Flat Before the Audience.

Lillian Russell, diva and wheelwoman, played an engagement with her famous golden bicycle at Manhattan avenue and West One Hundred and Sixth street yesterday afternoon that had not been advertised, and that very nearly resulted In serious injury to the noted singer.

By a strange coincidence her contretemps took place just at the place where Miss Theodora Schumacher met her death April 30, and Miss Russell, who is not at all superstitious, now says she believes "In that sort of thing a little bit."

Miss Russell went for her usual ride in Central Park yesterday afternoon. She wore a tan bicycle suit that fitted as if she had been melted and run Into it, and the gold lace with which it was trimmed was just sufficient In quantity to suggest the pomp and circumstance of the stage.


To the gay throng of riders and drivers along the West Drive the fair Lillian never looked prettier. She sped along at a merry pace, threading her way In and out of the procession of T-carts, broughams, phaetons and other park traps without self-consciousness. Every one turned to look after the well-rounded figure, and the gorgeous bicycle upon which it was so advantageously set off.

"She may lose her voice," It was remarked, "but so long as she has that bicycle we will adore her still."

That was but one of the comments her appearance called forth.

Miss Russell turned out of the Park at the One Hundred and Sixth street gate leaving tho policeman there bewildered by one of those smiles that it is her habit to bestow with such effectiveness.

A scorcher ice wagon was coming up Manhattan avenue at a pace that should have called for police interference. Miss Russell saw it. but she could not see the bicycler who, just at its far side, was riding hard to beat the Iceman and so rebuke the entire Iceman fraternity.


"Hi, there!" shouted the driver.

Miss Russell took that as her cue to dodge, and her experience having led her to be prompt when she hears her cue she wheeled suddenly to the left. The Iceman tried to pull up as best he could and his horses just missed the distinguished rider.

Rut the bicycler beyond had no time. He had not seen Lillian nor the glitter of her golden wheel and he ran full into her. There were yells from bystanders and the two bicycles seemed to be doing a golden skirt dance in which some hosiery was shown. Prom out the confusion came feminine Grand Duchesse's screams. The ice man pulled up and ran to solve the golden puzzle. Bystanders and a policeman also came, and with difficulty Miss Russell was extricated from the Involved situation. She was bruised and the pretty costume was pretty no longer. Her ankle hurt her, and the golden wheel was as If it were a game of jackstraws in which the trick was to pick out the back bone.

The man apologized so nicely that Miss Russell refused to make a complaint against him. The Iceman called a cab and the diva was helped into It and driven to her house, at No. 318 West Seventy-seventh street.

The article goes on to talk about her performances after this incident, which were affected by the injury to her ankle somewhat.

As it happens, the illustration in the article was taken from the photograph used to produce this item from the Library of Congress photograph collections - Lillian Russell is at the lower right:

Actresses Bicycle Riders

Title-Actresses as bicycle riders [7 illustrations of actresses with bicycles: 1. Effie Ellsler; 2. Cissy Fitzgerald; 3. Anna Held; 4. Queenie Vassar; 5. Mrs. James Brown Potter; 6. Miss Georgia Cayvan; 7. Miss Lillian Russell
Date Created/Published-1896.
Medium-7 prints : halftone.
Call Number: Illus. in AP2.L52 1896 (Case Y) [P&P]

Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
* Halftone repros. of photoprint.
* Title and other information transcribed from caption card.
* Illus. in: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 83 (1896 Dec. 3), p. 365.
* Caption card tracings: Sports Bicycles; Women ; Actresses; B.I.

Reading the wikipedia description of Lillian Russell, it turns out she was influential in a law passed in 1924 to limit immigration from certain parts of Eastern Europe (from which some of my in-laws ancestors came) as well as entirely from Asia. So while I guess I will publish this blog post it is not intended as a celebration of her views on that. At all.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Predicting Women's Attire After Bloomers Take Hold (1895)

"The Bicycle Dress" 1895

The Topeka State Journal. (Topeka, Kan.), 16 Aug. 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

An illustration in a newspaper in 1895 shows what the future of women's bloomers may be into the 20th century (which then wasn't very far away).

Further down on the page, there is this short article (or more like collection of mostly snarky and contradictory observations):

Fate has decreed that the bicycle girl in bloomers shall become a spinster, observes the Salt Lake Tribune.

The bloomer gives to a shapely women says the Galveston News, a great opportunity; in fact, two of them.

A Boston girl started on a trip around the globe and before she had gone 1,200 miles she received 85 proposals, she says.

If "equal rights" means anything, it means a man's right to keep out of the way of a woman who is just learning to ride says the New York Mail and Express.

Chief Badenoch of Chicago punishes rowdies who assault women in bloomers. He shows gentlemanly instinct. The question of what is a proper costume for a woman is not to be settled by rowdies on the street.

The women of Osnaburg, O., set their dogs on a Canton wheelwoman because she wore bloomers, says the Cleveland World. The women of a Connecticut town about 40 years ago gave one of their sex an order to leave town when she put on the first hoopskirt they ever saw. In six months they were all wearing them.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Washington Boy Shows Joy of Cycling

Boy on Bicycle (in Washington DC, 1890s)

Digitized image from a glass plate negative that shows some degradation. It was likely taken at a studio in the late 1890s. The descriptive record does not have an exact date. Studios sometimes had a bicycle and subjects would be posed sitting on a bike that belonged to the studio, but this I think this may have been the boy's bike - you wouldn't think a studio bike would have a headlight, and the front tire is quite dirty. But that's just a guess. He looks quite happy!

Title-Boy on bicycle
Contributor Names-C.M. Bell (Firm : Washington, D.C.), photographer
Created / Published-[between 1873 and ca. 1916]
Format Headings
Glass negatives.
Portrait photographs.
Portrait photographs
Glass negatives
- Title is unverified name of sitter or person who ordered the photograph, from handwritten label on negative sleeve or negative.
- Date based on span of years of C.M. Bell Collection.
- Negative number assigned by Library.
- Gift; American Genetic Association, 1975.
- General information about the C.M. Bell Collection is available at
- Temp note: Batch 55.
Medium-1 negative : glass ; 5 x 7 in.
Source Collection-C.M. Bell Studio Collection (Library of Congress)
Repository-Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Eliza Jane - A Woman Cyclist of 1895

Celebrated in song.

About this Item:
Title-Eliza Jane.
Created / Published-Boston, Massachusetts, c1895, monographic.
Genre-song sheet
Repository-American Song Sheets Library of Congress Rare Books and Special Collections


Complete Song, Words and Music, 40 Cents.

I. Eliza Jane she had a wheel, its rim was painted red;
Eliza had another wheel that turned inside her head.
She put the two together, she gave them both a whirl,
And now she rides the Parkway sides a Twentieth Century Girl.


"Oh, have you seen Eliza Jane a-cycling in the park?
"Oh, have you seen Eliza Jane?" The people all remark.
They shout "Hi! hi!" as she rides by; the little doggies bark,
For we all have a pain when Eliza Jane goes cycling in the park.

II. No more do skirts enfold her, tho' much her papa grieves,
But baggy trousers hold her in their big pneumatic sleeves;
For where you see the bloomers bloom she sits her wheel astride;
She makes a sight would stop a fight as in the park she rides.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

III. This is emancipation year, the woman movement's on;
Eliza plans to be a man, 'tis sad to think upon.
She thinks she needs the ballot now her freedom to enhance,
She wants to pose in papa's clothes; it is for this she pants.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

IV. Eliza had a nice young man, (Alas! 'twas long ago.)
As gay and fair, as debonair, as any man you know;
He saw her ride in bloomers, he screamed and quickly fled,
And as he ran, this nice young man in trembling accents said:

Ooooh, have you seen, etc.

V. Eliza's ma no longer speaks unto Eliza Jane,
She claims that dime museum freaks give her a sense of pain.
Her dad no longer cashes checks but wanders in the streets,
And thus he cries, in sad surprise, to everyone he meets:

Oh, have you seen, etc.

VI. Eliza's brothers saw her ride, and each one took to drink:
They made it flow to drown their woe, so that they need not think;
But there are woes that will not drown, not even in a well,
And in the worst of their great thirst Eliza hears them yell:

( Hic ), Wow! Have you seen, etc.

VII. Eliza to her tailor went, to try her bloomers on;
She came out from the dressing room and said with angry frown:
"These blooming bloomers do not fit!" The tailor said, Oh, law!
Excuse me, lady, but you've got them on hind-side before!"

Oh, have you seen, etc.

VIII. Eliza Jane has learned to swear since she became a man,
And when she finds it suits her mind she says her little—Rats!
It isn't very often that she feels that swear she must,
But she says it and she means it when her little tire's bust.
Oh, have you seen, etc.

IX. No more upon her red rimmed wheel the fair Eliza flirts,
No more she rides the Parkway sides in bi-fur-ca-ted skirts;
A park policeman ran her in one day in early Spring,
Because he thought Eliza taught the little birds to sing:

Oh, have you seen, etc.

X. Eliza dear, we sadly fear you have not started right;
You will not see more liberty by being such a fright;
Asylums yawn for you, my dear, and in the books we read,
How bloomers that too early bloom soon fade and go to seed.

Oh, have you seen, etc.

From Songs of Suffrage where it explains:

With the introduction of the safety bicycle (the first modern bicycle) in the 1880s, women found a need for clothing that would allow them the freedom to ride. Susan B. Anthony was quoted in an interview as saying, "I'll tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate woman than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood."[1] Women on bicycles were the object of humorous songs, some risqué, that marveled at the sight of a woman in trousers. "Eliza Jane," is a song published on a song sheet in 1895 that brings together the bloomers, the desire to vote, and the freedom of riding a bicycle, with lyrics that explain the scandalous risks the young lady was taking.

Puck Magazine - Bicycle = "Dress Reform" 1895

Title: The bicycle - the great dress reformer of the nineteenth century! / Ehrhart.
Creator(s): Ehrhart, S. D. (Samuel D.), ca. 1862-1937, artist
Date Created/Published: N.Y. : Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1895 August 7.
Medium: 1 print : chromolithograph.
Summary: Print shows a man and a woman wearing knickers and bloomers, standing with a bicycle between them, shaking hands; to the right and left are examples of nineteenth century fashion.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-29031 (digital file from original print)
Notes: Title from item.
Illus. from Puck, v. 37, no. 961, (1895 August 7), centerfold.
Library of Congress

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bicycles in War (Book Review)

Bicycles in WarBicycles in War by Martin Caidin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The record doesn't give credit to a co-author, Jay Barbree, who seems to have written books mostly about space exploration, including at least one other book written with Martin Caidin.

My father and his older brother both served in the U.S. Army during WWII and both were interested in aviation - they owned a plane together for a while. Growing up I didn't use the public library very much (it wasn't particularly close by) and read a lot of my father's books about WWII that included four or five books written by Martin Caidin about different U.S. fighters and bombers and their use during the War. I certainly remember them as engaging my attention - I'm pretty sure I read several of them more than once.

I got this out of the library where I work. It is probably not readily available these days.

Caidin's usual approach with his military aviation books was to describe the development of the aircraft and then to describe examples of its use in combat, focusing on particular pilots and units. Caidin and his co-author don't appear to have known that much about bicycles or otherwise think that the readers would be interested in the development of bicycles for use in war so that subject is not presented - the focus is on their use in several particular examples, including World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. He spends about 20 pages on the famous (in certain circles . . . ) 1,900 mile "march" of the 25th Infantry Corps (that was an all African American unit, except for the officers) in 1897 from Missoula, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The story of this unit is now covered quite well be various sources on the Internet, including this day-by-day account, the 25th Bicycle Corp, a page at the Fort Missoula Museum web site, and an hour long video, "The Bicycle Corps: America's Black Army On Wheels" (2000).

The Fort Missoula Museum site provides some of the technical information lacking in the book, for example:
Moss contacted the A. G. Spalding Company, who agreed to provide military bicycles co-designed by Moss at no cost. The Corps, consisting of eight black enlisted men, soon was riding in formation, drilling, scaling fences up to nine-feet high, fording streams, and pedaling 40 miles a day. Each bicycle carried a knapsack, blanket roll, and a shelter half strapped to the handlebar. A hard leather frame case fit into the diamond of each bicycle and a drinking cup was kept in a cloth sack under the seat. Each rider carried a rifle (first slung over the back, later strapped to the horizontal bar) and 50 rounds of ammunition.

The Spalding military bicycles were furnished with steel rims, tandem spokes, extra-heavy side-forks and crowns, gear cases, luggage carriers, frame cases, brakes, and Christy saddles. They were geared to 68 inches and weighed 32 pounds. The average weight of the bicycles, packed, was about 59 pounds.
For someone like me, with my interested heavily towards what the bicycles were like, this wasn't a particularly satisfying book. On the other hand, given that there isn't much published on this topic and was readily available (to me) it was a good enough read.

There are some b&w photographs included - nothing particular special alas, but then these are the days of the Internet and the book was published in 1974. I had seen many of those used before, but when the book was published, they were likely unusual to see.

Cycle orderlies under fire"Cycle orderlies under fire" - one of the photographs in the book, now widely published on the Internet (and even available for purchase from Getty Images, if you want to spend money)

View all my book reviews of books on cycling at Goodreads.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Sad Bike // Bicycles Locked to Poles (Book Review)


This is a few blocks from Nationals Ball Park, a few days ago. Ugh! This is a strange bicycle to steal parts from since it was a very low priced Mongoose junk bicycle when new, and the parts were probably the least good aspect of it.

I am reminded of this book:

Bicycles Locked to PolesBicycles Locked to Poles by John Glassie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got my copy used for $5.95 (with a free shipping special - guess I'm cheap) and it was even signed by the photographer.

On some level, of course, it's a terribly sad little book of photographs, but most of the bikes are just crap (missing various parts) so it isn't quite so sad. Perhaps.

The locks on some of these NYC bikes liked to poles clearly weighed more than the bikes (when the bikes were whole). I almost never see monster locks like these around here.

The inside of the front and and back covers includes these matrix table things that explain what parts of the bike on each page are includes, so you can see for example that the bike on page 81 has the frame but the fork is gone, along with practically everything else except the cranks and pedals. Amusing.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Four Mile Run Trail Detour

Four Mile Run Detour
Sign posted along trail

There is (lots) more information on the Arlington County web site.
Construction at Four Mile Run will begin on Sept. 20, lasting through the Fall season. There is a detour associated with the project.
The signs may have appeared last Friday I guess but there were no signs Thursday last week; supposedly construction starts tomorrow? But maybe not the detour.
Here is a PDF of the map I have a photo of, above.

Not surprisingly I am not crazy about the detour. I get the need for the project I just don't like the route of the detour, and that there is no sensible alternative. This detour is two miles into a 9.5 mile commute, but there is no alternative route via trails. The trail network is great except it is not very dense as a network. Phooey.

It is amusing (or something) to see the tacit admission that the present trails are not very good when it says, "As part of the construction, the Arlington trail will be completely rebuilt to current standards, including a new sub-base and asphalt surface." Of course they are just referring to the less than half mile of trail to be upgraded with this project; the remainder of this trail (and others) will remain sub-standard.

Friday, September 16, 2016

New Cycle Path Inauguration NYC 1896


Although about NYC and not Washington DC, an amazing article about the popularity of cycling in 1896, the high point of the 1890s "cycling craze."

Wheels from Park to Coney Island
Title-The Journal, June 28, 1896
Contributor Names-Library of Congress
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
WHEELS FROM PARK TO CONEY ISLAND-The New Cycle Path Couldn't Carry All Who Rode at Its Opening-Both Sides of the Boulevard Crowded with Paraders and Pleasure Riders-The Brooklyn and Century Clubs Get First Honors in Their Respective Divisions-PROCESSION THAT HAD NO END-Thousands of Spectators on Foot and in Carriages Thronged Every Point from Which a View Could Be Had.

"The new cycle path to Coney Island opens to-day," said the wheelman.

"I thought there was one alongside the driveway," said the horseman.

"There was, but this is a new one on the other side."

"What do you want with two cycle paths, you can only ride on one?"

With this crushing retort he of the horse moved away. If he had gone down the Boulevard yesterday he would have learned why two cycle paths were necessary.

There was a procession on the new path parade of 12,000 wheelmen and wheel women-more bicyclists probably than ever got in line before. The old path was just crowded. The whirr of the wheels, the crunching of the powdered rock, the flashing of the polished spokes, were just as continuous on the old path as on the new. Except for the absence of the banners and the way the grand stand faced, you could scarcely have told whether the greatest bicycle parade of this whirling time was on your right or on your left. Indeed some of those who started as paraders wound up as ordinary wheelmen, just bicycling because the roadway was hard and smooth.

The sky was fleecy, and the day fitted the flying sport like moonlight does love making. These last cyclists came too late to find their places in the long line, and rather than mix up the regular order of things they bolted as completely as the silver delegates did at St. Louis. They defiantly wheeled down the wrong side of the road, crying their war whoop and bidding the spectators look at them and not at a side show.

But all the world was not on rubber tires, though from the appearance of the streets and roads leading to the big meet it might have been supposed to be so. The Boulevard was crowded with carriages, coaches, carts and horse men and women, wherever it commanded a view of the new path. One big coaching party afforded a beautiful demonstration of the burial of long cherished animosities. Half the girls on the coach wore bicycle costumes. Piled upon the rear seat were three of the machines. The coaching horn hung in the case beside a bicycle bag. The outfit was not wheelier than it was horsey.

In the grand stand south of Avenue C there was a big holiday crowd, as enthusiastic as the baseball crowds used to be in the good days now gone beyond recall. The stand itself was a blaze of color and a blare of music. There were flags all over it, but the flags and banners were not brighter than the dresses of the women-for dress it was Suburban Day over again. When the music could be heard, which was during the gaps between favorite clubs in the parade, the children about the grand danced among the horses and carriages.

In spite of the crowd, fortunately no one was seriously hurt-not even a policeman.

It is only six weeks since work was begun on the path that was opened yesterday. It was a trifle slow, and punctured tires were not infrequent, owing to the sharp particles of pulverized rock. A few showers and a few days' riding will leave the roadway beaten down hard. Then there will not be a finer stretch of travelling country in the world than the five and a half miles of the new bicycle path to Coney Island.

The popping of the tires furnished the comedy element of the day. The crowd got to watching for them when the gasp of the punctured tire died on the Summer air and the far-away look came into the rider's eye the spectators on the edge of the track shouted cheering words to him In this manner:

"Watcher stopping for?"

"Here, keep that New Jersey atmosphere tied up!"

"Keep off the grass!" shrieked a thousand men when a chocolate costumed young man, who had been riding with his hands off the handle bars, hurtled through space and hit the lawn.

Such things as punctured tires and eccentric tumbles were the only accidents of the day worth recording, and they were not frequent enough to more than properly season the general enjoyment of the day.

There were three divisions in the procession: Brooklyn clubs first, then New York clubs, and last New Jersey and other clubs, Good Roads associations, L. A. W. and unattached wheelmen.
It was not intended as an ornamental parade and the decoration of wheels was discouraged, but a few flags and flowers managed to get into the procession, particularly among the spokes of the wheels ridden by women. Noticeable as a feature of the day was the prevalence of bloomers. The advanced costumes were fully as numerous as the skirts and they got more applause.
There could not have been a prettier sight than the seemingly endless procession wheeling down the splendid path under the flags between the green lawns. It was no wonder the paraders swung their caps and cheered all the way.
The article continues with a long list of individuals and organizations that received various recognition. Quite an amazing description.

Detail view of illustration

Monday, September 5, 2016

All Possible Bike Accessories

"All possible accessories"
A bike of 1896 shown equipped with all possible accessories
Title-The journal, May 10, 1896
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]
Library of Congress
"I wonder what a bicycle would look like equipped with all the accessories that are advertised!"

The Wheel has undertaken to gratify the curious. The illustration shows just how a wheel would look under the conditions stated. The picture is not overdrawn. Every accessory that is shown is actually on the market and offered for sale. Enumerated they are as follows: Lamp, bell, pneumatic brake, double handle-bar, canopy, camera, luggage carrier, waterproof cape, watch and watch holder, match box, speed Indicator, cyclometer, fork pump, continuous alarm (on front axle), balancer, cradle spring, child's seat, anatomical saddle, back support, rubber, mud-guards, handle-bar buffer, tool bag, tourists' case, spring pedals, toe clips, portable stand, changeable gear, gear case and temporary tire repairer. Twenty-nine articles in all. The Wheel

Today the possible accessory choices boggle the mind. I happened up the site of a newish bike company that offers as options:

Safety Features

Front/rear lights
Turn Signals
Intuitive brake light
Laser emitted “bike lane”
Front and rear camera
Collision detection

Tech Features

Built-in WiFi Hotspot
USB ports to power devices
Bluetooth Connectivity
GPS and Anti-theft Protection
Centralized Battery System
Power Generation Systems
App supported​

Low Maintenance

Make our bikes “hassle-free”
Belt drive
Less wear than a chain
No oil needed
Internally geared hub
Ease of shifting
No derailleur
No “cross chain” issues
All cables and power sources built into the frame​

Good Lord. I don't think that more complex systems than cars are equipped with (such as laser generated "bike lanes" you provide for yourself) make much sense but I could be wrong about that but I'm absolutely sure front and rear cameras are not safety equipment, they are a tool for assuring better results if you end up in court, and maybe as a way to record some travels for amusement's sake.

I guess Tech Features is to be understood as "distractions for when you are stopped" (or at least most of it). I particularly like "power general systems" in the plural. Whatever.

The low maintenance aspects - well, I guess that there is something to some of that, but there are always tradeoffs - and TANSTAAFL.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Road I Ride by Juliana Buhring (Book Review)

This Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find YourselfThis Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself by Juliana Buhring

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A different edition of this book had the sub-title, "My incredible journey from novice to fastest woman to cycle the globe." The one I read has the sub-title "Sometimes it takes losing everything to find yourself." The two different sub-titles emphasize different aspects of the same book.

Books about around-the-world bicycle trips started to appear at the same time as bicycles; in the 1800s cyclists would publish their book about the travel adventure and give paid lectures - sometimes there were other ways they earned something from these trips. Most were men, but the first woman credited to traveling around the world by bicycle, Annie Londonderry, made her journey in 1895.

Today what constitutes "riding a bicycle around the world" is closely defined by the Guinness world records people - Ms. Buhring's ride was in compliance and she set a new women's world record. I have read a number of cycling travelogues (first person "adventure cycling" books) but as noted with the two sub-titles, that is one theme of this book and the other is about growing (or finding oneself) as a person, which (although this sounds odd) I am less interesting in reading about.

The adventure cycling part of the narrative is fine, but I was not terribly engaged - I made it to the end of the book, but could have just as easily turned it back in to the library without finishing. But that is probably more about me. I'm not sure that this isn't a limit to how many of these sorts of books one can read and enjoy.

At the end, the author explains that she has become a ultra-endurance cyclist, participating and doing well in a number of events. She rode in the 2016 summer Ride Across America (RAAM) but had to withdraw due to illness. She seems likely to compete in further cycling events but ones that carry a lower dollar investment overhead than RAAM.

View all my cycling book reviews.

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Aid for Injured Wheelmen (the 1896 Advice)

Accidents happen, to all sorts of people, including Sir Richard Branson as well as more regular folks - and have since the first years of cycling. This article's presentation of corrective first aid measures seems pretty intense!

First Aid for Injured Wheelmen
The Journal, May 10, 1896, New York [N.Y.] Library of Congress

In the same way with the vast army of bicycle riders. The chance of Injury to any particular person at any particular time is very small, indeed, but when an accident does occur, as with the railroad, we agree In regarding bicycling as a very dangerous sport. The bicycle is new to the human race, but the body, with its nervous system, its heart, its lungs, and all its other organs, is the same old machine. The condition in which a patient is found after a fearful fall from an 1896 model bicycle presents the same symptoms, involves the same principles and calls for the same remedies as if he had been hurled from a chariot In the first century.
The article goes on in considerable detail, which can be read here. Yikes!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Folding Bikes Now and Then

citizen bike
My new cycling acquisition (a gift at no cost)

The folding bike has been around longer than you might think . . . . .

Folding Bicycle 1895
St. Paul daily globe. (Saint Paul, Minn.), 30 June 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Library of Congress.

It May Be Doubled Up So As To Occupy Half Its Ordinary Space

Bicycle inventors come thick and fast. American inventive genius apparently has concentrated upon the wheel. Every week some inventor comes forward with some new device designed to make cycling easier or safer or faster or to make a wheel lighter. In France, however, the inventors. are experimenting with petroleum-driven bicyclettes. Why petroleum is better than the human leg, and why the "machine should be dubbed bicyclette are questions only a plausible Frenchman can answer. The petroleum bicyclette participated in the recent road race between Paris and Bordeaux. It gave a good account of itself.

A folding bicycle is, the newest novelty in the steel steed line. By a simple and ingenious arrangement the connecting rods of the frame may be folded until the machine is reduced to the size of one wheel, as shown in the illustration.

The inventor claims for the folding bicycle the possibility of storing it in one's room, the ease with which it may be carried up or down stairs or hoisted in dumbwaiters or elevators. It can be readily, doubled up for carrying on the shoulder up and down bad roads. Such a bicycle can be readily placed in a carriage or other vehicle for transportation. Doubtless, also, the policeman who has had an experience in leading the bicycle of a prisoner to the stationhouse will appreciate the merits a machine that can be folded up and carried under the arm, where it is powerless to work injury.

The inventor claims further that in its folded shape, the bicycle may be securely locked, but seems to forget that in its portable shape it presents an extraordinary inducement to the intending thief.

The folding bicycle is one of the things that, now that it has been invented, will cause people to wonder why it had not been thought of before. Dwellers in flats, however, where there are tenants given to storing their wheels in the lower hallway will be inclined to send their personal thanks to the genius who has shown how the most unwieldy thing ever invented - that is, while in state of repose — may be made less obtrusive and less dangerous. There is no reason why it shouldn't be hung up on a peg out of everybody's way.

The man who invented the baby carriage which could be flattened out and jerked under the bed or stool against the wall behind a sofa worked a great benefaction. It was the best thing since the jointed fishing rod. Then a Brooklyn man invented a piano which could be readily be taken apart and carried up the narrow stairways of an apartment house and, then set up in a little room, instead of being swung into an outside window, as a safe is generally put into an office building. But there are more bicycles than there are either baby carriages or pianos in New York, so for the present the inventor of the folding, bicycle is entitled to a seat on the right side of the throne.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Women as Early Bike Commuters

I copied a long first person description of the work of a NYC "bike cop" from 1896 into a blog post, Adventures of NYC "Bike Cop" of 1896.

Towards the end, there is this paragraph:

Teamsters [here meaning the drivers of horse-drawn wagons, the the-equivalent of trucks] make most of our trouble. The manner In which heavy trucks and freight wagons of all kinds swarm to the Boulevard in the morning hours, when there are thousands of cyclists, four out of five of whom are ladies, is most exasperating. On Sunday, when the asphalt is covered with wheel riders, what satisfaction can there be in driving a carriage or buggy into their midst? It looks like sheer contrariness. The hostility shown by many truck and wagon drivers against cyclists is of that mean nature that is found in envy of those who seem to be getting some pleasure out of life.

While the "four out of five" is not a scientific survey, it suggests many women in 1896 were commuting to work by bicycle, since it is doubtful they were out on weekday mornings for some other reason.

This 1899 film of employees leaving a Parke Davis factory in Detroit suggests also that women were bicycle commuters in those pre-automobile days. Presumably most of the manufacturing employees were men and the women in this video (given their attire) were the clerical staff? So their percentage of the total number of commuters is likely relative to their percentage of the number of workers there overall.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned Cyclists (Book Review)

The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned CyclistsThe Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned Cyclists by Eben Weiss

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some years ago I did occasional thumbnail book reviews for "Library Journal" - they had to be 150 words or less yet somehow explain the author's credentials, who the audience for the book was, what its purpose was and whether it was achieved, and finally a kind of thumbs up/thumbs down for other librarians ("suitable for large public library collections that insist on having very book about cycling for God knows what reason" - except that would take up too much of the allotted 150 words).

I have read Mr. Snob's previous three books. I used to read his blog, but at some point I felt it was repeating itself. And his books sort of seemed headed in that same direction, of making slightly reworded versions of the same jokes/anecdotes over and over.

I was surprised that he decided to right a how-to-own-a-bike book and acquired a reading copy from the local public library.

The decisions that authors and/or publishers make about titles tell you a bit about their hopes for book sales. In this case, what are we supposed to get out of The Ultimate Bicycle Owner's Manual: The Universal Guide to Bikes, Riding, and Everything for Beginner and Seasoned Cyclists? Well, that this is the bestest book ever for solving any information need we could have related to cycling - that this book is suitable for purchase by everyone and everyone (and also public libraries, don't forget them).

I would contrast this with the chosen-at-random off a library shelf Everyday Bicycling: Ride a Bike for Transportation (Whatever Your Lifestyle) by Elly Blue. Mr. Snob's book attempts to provide everything for everyone in 240 pages while Ms. Blue takes about half as many pages to cover a subject I would guesstimate to be about one-tenth as extensive as Mr. Snob's.

Not only that, Ms. Blue has both foreward and an introduction in which she talks a bit about herself and what she is trying to do with this book, what she hopes you get out it. Mr Snob by contrast jumps right in with chapter one, "obtaining a bike" - you were apparently given as much information about who this book is for in the title.

I didn't find this book particularly illuminating as a "seasoned cyclist" myself (by which I guess I mostly mean old) and was a little sad (or something) when it became clear that Mr. Snob wasn't able to work much humor into this (although not much surprised). It is somewhat difficult hard to put myself in the place of a beginning cyclist, but I don't think they would find this particularly helpful either, since it is highly abbreviated in its coverage of most of the many topics it hurries through.

I was surprised, my public library system purchased three copies of his earlier books but they seem to have decided that one copy of this one is sufficient. Perhaps the selection people at Arlington Public Library somehow figured out the unlikeliness of successful one-size-fits-all book on all aspects of cycling for all types of cyclists in 240 pages.

View all my cycling book reviews

Car Crushed by Rock - Highlight of a Cyclist's Commute on Independence Avenue?


Rock crushes car at Hirshhorn Gallery

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Adventures of NYC "Bike Cop" of 1896

Illustration for first person narrative from a "bike cop" in New York City

Title-The Journal, June 28, 1896
Place of Publication-New York [N.Y.]

This newspaper is described as follows: The New York Journal is an example of "Yellow Journalism," where the newspapers competed for readers through bold headlines, illustrations, and activist journalism. During 1896, the year of the so-called "bicycle craze," I see significant coverage of cycling, although the emphasis in on human interest and odd-ball stories, not about bicycle racing.

This long report from a NYC bicycle police officer is interesting for what it says about the times.


New York's Fastest Bicycle Policeman Writes of His Exciting Struggles With Runaway Horses and Hot Pursuits of Habitual Scorchers.

The Cop has come to stay. There will be more and more of him. The experiment of a bicycle squad has been so eminently satisfactory that the force is about to be materially increased. The fastest rider and most skillful wheelman of the force is Patrolman John J. Gilles, who has written for the Journal readers a very interesting narrative of his experiences as a Cop.

To the Editor of the Journal: On December 10 last I was detailed as a member of the bicycle squad of the New lork City Police Department and assigned to duty on the Boulevard from One Hundred and Eighth Street south as far as Forty-second street and Eighth avenue. In nearly seven months' service I have made many arrests. Of that let the police records speak; but I may point to the fact that although I have ridden in that time about 1,400 hours and covered over 11,000 miles, I have had but three bicycles injured, and only one of them beyond the hope of repair. In these instances I was deliberately run over once by a drunken cabman, and in the other two the damage was caused by runaway horses, which I succeeded in stopping. Stopping runaways is as much in my line as overhauling scorchers.

I had been riding a wheel for seven years before I was detailed to the bicycle squad. Let me state for the benefit of ambitious young who intend to come my way that my wheel is geared to 77, and that I can pedal my fifth mile as fast as my first, and that they will discover that every bicycle policeman has been selected because he can do a little 'scorching' himself.

It has fallen to my lot to have had more sensational experiences with runaway horses than my associates. I wish I could describe in words the feelings that take possession of me when, on my wheel, I am making a run against a maddened horse, perhaps to save life, as has been my good fortune, or to convince some reckless and often malicious driver that laws are not made to be broken. I may briefly refer to a few of my experiences. One of the [missing text] I had out of the ordinary was [missing text] of Pat Flavey, a plumber, [missing text] stolen a pair of shoes down on [missing text] Avenue. He was on the run when [missing text] with a crowd in pursuit. He was a sprinter for fair, and was rapidly drawing away from the crowd, in half a block I was ordered him to stop. He kept right on. Then I made a quick turn and struck him fairly with my front wheel. He went down together. He was up first and about to make off, when I used the shoes which he had dropped as a billy, and that brought him around.

The most serious adventure I have yet had was in the arrest of Patrick Curry, a cabman, with a pair of horses. Curry was apparently drunk, and had lashed his horses into a dead run. Ho bore down directly after me. Before I could swerve he had run into me, and my wheel was a wreck, while I was thrown, cut and bruised, to the street, and narrowly escaped the horses' hoofs. I hailed a passing cab, and, mounting the seat, started in pursuit. Curry was too fast for me. He ran into me at Sixty-eighth street. At Sixty-third street I jumped from the cab very hastily, borrowed a wheel from an astonished cyclist, and then we had a pretty chase down to Fifty-ninth street, and thence east to Sixth avenue, where I ran alongside, grasped the reins, and soon stopped the panting, foam-covered horse. This man Curry, who had nearly killed me, was fined $3 - just the same amount as four young men whom I arrested later the same evening.

In the recent stoppage of a runaway team and carriage containing Louis Mack, a well-known Eighth avenue merchant, and his wife, my wheel was totally wrecked. A forefoot of the nigh horse became entangled in the spokes of the fore wheel when I ran alongside. I was able to hold on by the head strap, and the team dragged me less than forty feet. Of course it was a very unequal struggle for a while, but I brought the horses to a standstill without a scratch but my wheel was a sight.

In running alongside of a runaway the great danger is in the fouling of the fore wheel. If this happens, it means the destruction of your wheel, and your only salvation is to hold on to the bridle until the horse stops. If you retain your seat and keep a steady grip with one hand on the centre of your handle bar, the machine will swerve only with the movements of the horse. There is danger, of course, but that is all In the business.

The bicycle squad of four has now been enlarged to thirteen, and so well pleased are the Commissioners with the results of an innovation of which Commissioner Andrews was the chief advocate, that it is generally understood that the Board is prepared to increase the steel-mounted force to forty and ultimately to extend it through out the annexed district. The Park Com missioners are also delighted with the work of the bicycle detail from their special police force, as well they may be, for several of the gray-coated force have valiant deeds to their credit.

I do not believe that the equestrian branch of the police service will ever be entirely displaced by a cycle corps, but there is no question-and the United States Army authorities will bear testimony-that for much of the service that cavalry are supposed to be especially fitted for, cyclists are in many respects superior. The longer the journey the better do the cyclists show up in the comparison. I refer, of course, to foraging and courier service, exploration, laying of field telegraph and telephone lines, scouting, and Weather Bureau observations.

To keep the police idea in mind, and presupposing that a police force and good roads are found together, there can be no question as to the superiority of the silent steel steed over that of the steed that eats oats, drinks water and must pause every few miles for rest. The cyclist who has ridden fifty miles is in far better physical condition than the cavalryman who has made a forced march of one-third the distance.

In the matter of patrolling, the cyclist will cover four miles-yes, more than that the horseman's one, and still be fresh and ready for more work. Ton miles an hour is slow work for what I believe the public generally calls the "bike cop." The hours of duty of the bicycle police at present are from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. and 5 p. m. to midnight. My cyclometer shows an average travel during the seven hours of fifty-five miles dally. During much of that time a proper performance of duty requires that I should pedal over my post as slowly as possible, keeping a careful eye out for violations of the law I am especially charged to enforce.

I must be ready always to do a little scorching on very short notice. When I need my speed, I am like the fellow and his pistol In Texas-I want it bad. I can make a road mile in two minutes and twenty-five seconds, and have had occasion to do so more than once in the performance of my duty. Two twenty-five will overhaul most any road scorching, and I will be pardoned when I indulge in a little self-congratulation on my ability to generally round up the fast young men who deliberately come out on to the Boulevard to have fun with the "cop."

There is not so much of that nowadays as there was early in the Spring. Then the young fellow who thought that he was a recqrd-breaker would notify his friends to be on hand to see the fun. I got so that I knew when there had been a little race informally arranged for and with me. I could tell it by the manner of the wheelmen who so innocently loafed about in my vicinity. I never let on, but waited until the "scoot" flashed by me. I don't want to boast, but no one of these has got away. I had the last, and consequently the best, laugh.

I have been given some very interesting and very long chases, especially when they have put tandems up against me. But I could afford the time for a stern chase, and sooner or later, I had my scorchers and let them make their excuses and apologies in court. Some of the men whom I have arrested for deliberately breaking the law were the most indignant, and denied flatly that they were moving at a rapid rate. I recall the case of one man who, when on trial before the Special Sessions, overdid the thing by swearing that his wheel was not going faster than three miles an hour. The Judge who knows something about wheeling, told the defendant that if he could prove his ability to ride a wheel at as slow a rate as three miles an hour, he would discharge him. As a matter of fact, it would take a trick rider to do that.

My observations on the Boulevard are that the average speed of the cyclist out for pleasure is fully ten miles an hour. He or she does not know it, but it is a fact.

For a lot of people above the average in intelligence, cyclists are very slow to learn that the regulations as to speed, alarm bells and lighted lamps are made for their own good. I will not say that I have found women unreasonable as a class. A lady need only be warned that she is violating [line repeats] need only be warned that she is violating [end repeat] is accidental. From others I have learned to expect a fine show of indignation. But the young men! Oh, the hundreds of times, to hear them tell it, I was to be broken for doing my plain duty! I did not realize how many influential people there were in New York, men who could make or unmake a policeman by a turn of the finger, until I began to enforce the lamp, bell and speed ordinance. But here I am still, what is left of me.

I will state right here that no one is going to get fat on the bicycle squad, Thirty pounds of my good adipose tissue has gone somewhere. The lot of the bicycle cop is not altogether a happy one, even if I he has but a seven hour watch. That seven hours is seven hours, and it often means a hundred miles of travel on a Sunday.

As to the cyclists themselves, they are no longer much trouble, except the 'scorchers' and I suppose there will be 'scorchers' as long as there are low foreheads. The lamps used now are less likely to go out than formerly. We have also succeeded in convincing the fancy trick riders that the stage and not the Boulevard is the place for them. It was necessary to arrest Ernest Nagle twice in one day before he learned his fault in this regard.

Teamsters make most of our trouble. The manner In which heavy trucks and freight wagons of all kinds swarm to the Boulevard in the morning hours, when there are thousands of cyclists, four out of five of whom are ladles, is most exasperating. On Sunday, when the asphalt is covered with wheel riders, what satisfaction can there be in driving a carriage or buggy into their midst? It looks like sheer contrariness. The hostility shown by many truck and wagon drivers against cyclists is of that mean nature that is found in envy of those who seem to be getting some pleasure out of life.

As a bicycle policeman I prefer to be looked upon as a defender of the rights of bicyclists. I am a believer in special bicycle paths. I would be glad to see the Boulevard turned over to the Park Department, and then heavy hauling or all vehicles drawn by horses can be excluded from it. That cannot be done now, and all that we can do is to try to enforce the spirit of the law of the road, which requires drivers to keep to the right. In the matter of the Boulevard, we construe this to mean to the right of the parked slip in the centre. In this the police have not been sustained by all the Police Magistrates. They differ materially in the treatment extended to offending cyclists and aggressive teamsters.

The public must have been surprised at the lightness of the penalties inflicted upon several drivers who were arrested after desperate resistance for imperiling the lives of hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians.

I hold that an expert on a bicycle can do more effective work in stopping runaway or recklessly driven horses than a man mounted on a horse, and he need not wreck a machine every time he makes a capture. The ability to protect his machine Is an essential qualification of the bicycle policeman. One of the original squad was sent back to patrol duty after wrecking five machines in less than that number of weeks.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bicycle News of 1896 - the Oddities

The Journal full page on cycling 1896
Image of the full page 40 of The Journal, newly online

This newspaper is described as follows: The New York Journal is an example of "Yellow Journalism," where the newspapers competed for readers through bold headlines, illustrations, and activist journalism. During 1896, the year of the so-called "bicycle craze," I see significant coverage of cycling, although there seems a heavy emphasis on oddities. All the stories on the page are about cycling.

The Journal page on cycling 1896 - detail, child's tandem
A tiny tandem is considered unusual enough to merit a news item

The Journal page on cycling 1896 - detail, bike with trailer for baby
Cyclist with a baby carriage trailer, again considered unusual

The Journal page on cycling 1896 - detail, child's bike
A three year old cyclist - a very young "scorcher"

Link to full page with text of stories for these illustrations.

Monday, August 1, 2016

New Chainrings 50 x 38 Teeth

Sirius - cranks
The first set of chainrings I installed on this 1982 bike frame - large ring 53 teeth, small ring 39

Most road bikes sold say ten years would have two chainrings (the ones in front, with the pedals) that would have 53 and 39 teeth. (Bikes with drop handlebars that look like a road bike but intended for touring and climbing long inclines would have an third smaller "granny" gear chainring, too.) This 53 by 39 combo is what I ended up with when I equipped the 1982 Bridgestone frame with some Shimano chainrings I found on eBay ("lightly used"). In back I have only seven gears, running from 11 teeth to 28. We don't have much by way of serious hills around here (or what few there are, I mostly manage to avoid) so this worked fine as far as far as hill climbing is concerned. Still I felt that I ended up having a lot of gear options that were simply out of range for most (or all) of my riding. That is, when riding with the 53 tooth chainring in front I didn't use the smallest two gears in back at all and the next ones not very much. I sensed that having fewer teeth on the front chainrings would improve my shifting patterns. I would probably be able to ride a more on the large chainring and not most of the time on the smaller one.

Vuelta chainrings
The two new U.S. manufactured Vuelta chainrings I found on the Internet

I did a certain amount of research. I eventually concluded that I could live without shaped teeth to assist with shifting, the so-called ramps, and so I didn't worry about that as a feature of the chains I was looking at. It became clear that the smallest small chainring that will fit on my bike would have 38 (rather than 39) teeth, but there were more options for the front chainring - I settled on 50 teeth. At first I was looking at Sugoi chainrings, but eventually I came upon Vuelta and that you can buy the Vuelta chainrings directly from the factory. And that the chainrings are made in the U.S. So I bought them from Vuelta - both of them were a little over 50 bucks.

Side view
A bike I still own, but never ride (which is a separate, annoying story) with a "compact crank"

I already have a road bike with 50 teeth on the front chainring - this Traitor that I bought new in 2009. I have had some problems with the brakes and generally fell out of love with this bike, so I am not using it, but the small large chainring was good. I could not just "borrow" (take) rings off of this bike (as I have taken a number of other components since I am not riding it) because the bolt arrangement to attach to the "spider" (the five arms that extends from where the crank arm for the pedal attached to the bottom bracket) is smaller to allow the small inner chainring. This allows the small chainring to have 36 teeth. I didn't want to buy a new spider and pedal arm just to get from 38 to 36 teeth on that ring.

Replacing the chainrings is easy as bike repairs or maintenance goes if you have the right tools, which were included in some set I bought a few years ago (fortunately). It took less than 30 minutes at a leisurely pace of work. I didn't move the front derailleur down closer to the chainrings but when I checked, the front derailleur shifting was still good - I don't see any reason to mess with the location of the derailleur in that case!

The results are great - as I said, I don't have hills so the improvement provided by one less tooth on the smaller ring is probably mostly in my head for what little use I make of the lowest gear available, but I can tell that having 50 instead of 53 teeth on the larger chainring is a noticeable and pleasing improvement. Yay!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sometimes the Bike Commuter is Lucky

Slightly threatening weather - clouds, anyway

For the past several days, the promised or likely weather was always a little bicycle commuter unfriendly. I don't let that bother me or keep me from commuting by bike. For one thing, the promise of some rain doesn't necessarily mean it will be raining during the commute!

Bridgestone Sirius with (cheap) fenders
Even if it is raining some, a bit with well-fitted fenders like this makes it not so bad

Thursday afternoon I did ride in the rain, but for about a quarter mile - the rain squall was going one way and I was going another.

Commuting every day, it may be twice a year that I find myself completely soaked in a driving rain while commuting. Part of the adventure, and I try to be prepared for it.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bait Bikes?

Bait bike?
Bike locked to bench for about ten days

Bait bike?
Bike locked to pole for about a week

I see these often along my commute - I sometimes imagine that the police lock these up as theft bait - that only seems a logical explanation because otherwise, why would bikes like these be locked up for so long? Just odd.

They are almost always oddly unattractive bikes - the first bike above is rideable - someone has updated an old cruiser bike as a fixie; the wheels and tires were reasonably new. The frame, however, was amazing for its rust - almost perfectly distributed across the entire thing. (This I would say however is not very attractive in a conventional sense.)

The second bike is even stranger. It's a Cannondale, discernible by the "handmade in the USA" on the chainstay. The components (brake levers, in particular) suggest it is almost twenty years old, but then it appears to carbon fiber? Or maybe it is aluminum. Someone has covered up the various branding. The funniest part is the chain used here, which looks like a chain you would use to lock up a motor scooter, not a bicycle.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Some Grim Cyclists From 1896

Donaldson Bicycle Lithos [of 1896]
Title: The Donaldson bicycle lithos for the season of 1896

Creator(s): Donaldson Lith. Co., lithographer
Date Created/Published: Cincinnati : Donaldson Litho Co., [ca. 1896]
Medium: 1 print ; chromolithograph ; 28 9/16 x 42 1/4 in.
Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsca-08976 (digital file from original print)
Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication.
Call Number: PGA - Donaldson--Donaldson bicycle lithos... (E size) [P&P]
Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

This is a poster advertising the lithographic services of the Donaldson Company in 1896. The riders depicted are noteworthy for their grim expressions. Or perhaps just determined.

Some of these sorts of posters on the Library of Congress web site were digitized from film reproductions, not from the original, and the color is often not quite right and they are otherwise not great. Good, but not great. This however was more recently digitized from the original item which is 42+ inches across, so it is a pretty nice digital reproduction. Not so noticeable perhaps from the JPEG I copied from the site, but there is a high resolution TIFF image there you can download if you want (which is 58.7 mb).