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!