One of the advantages to having bike riding blogger and Facebook friends, is they share things that you enjoy to read. Sarah, of Honoring My Compass (an excellent blog in my humble opinion) did just that today. She posted an article on the History of Cycle Touring, which takes you through the earliest days of touring (late 1800s) with some amazing pictures! If you have a chance, I highly encourage you to read it.
Who knew HG Wells rode a bike? And wrote a story (newly downloaded to the Kindle, I might add) involving bikes? Many other authors I’ve read from that era rode as well.
I am not going to recap the article, since I think if you want to, you will read it, but I was intrigued with similarities of my bike history and the history of bikes themselves..The article explains that soon after bikes were invented, starting with the velocipede
and then moving on to more modern looking bikes, people thought they were the best things since sliced bread! (and since sliced bread had NOT been invented yet this was even cooler).
The bikes gave one freedom to travel wherever they wanted. People started challenging themselves to go ever father and ever faster. No need for trains or public transportation and they ate MUCH less than a horse!
This is same feeling I had when I first learned to pedal. On the earliest tricycle, I remember pedaling as fast as I could and then lifting my legs when I couldn’t move them fast enough anymore. My first two-wheeler, a heavy chunk of purple steel
with training wheels, flew down the hill of our trailer park after which I would push it back to the top and fo again! Later, when we moved to Washington and I lost the training wheels, I would ride for hours in Fir Acres, our new trailer park. There were 6 different roads, a cul de sac and slow cars, what better place to ride?
Then, just as the bikes of the 1800s got better, I started getting better bikes. The orange bike with a banana seat was my first “big boy bike”. I rode that thing everywhere and anywhere, both in Washington and later in Germany when we were stationed there. Just as in the way back days, this was a lighter, and faster bike, so I could go farther and have more adventures. Just as the earliest riders started longer tours, including riding around the world.
My first 10 speed and then a 12 speed, got me all over Ft Lewis, disappearing at first light and going all day long till dinner, alone or with Eddie and Sylvester, I was free to go anywhere, and see all there was to see.
But, with the event of the automobile, the popularity of bikes took a nose dive soon after the turn of the century. Bike clubs with 60,000 members lost 90% of them. Why pedal when you can drive and get there faster. Who needs a bike.
And,just as real life did, so did I. I turned 16, I got a car, and suddenly, as long as I could pay for gas (which meant I also got my first job, further curtailing freedom of the bike) I could go anywhere, as faster and farther than any bike. My bike usage dropped MUCH more than 90%.
I was never without one, though. In the basement, or the shed or the garage was always a bike waiting for me. When I would notice the tires were flat, I’d realize how long it had been since the last ride. It would be time to grab the pump, fill the tires, and go for a 10 mile ride or so. This would last for a week or two of “getting in shape”. but soon the bike would sit and go flat.
Fast forward 100 years in bike history and 25 or so in Mountainstroh life, and bikes have made a comeback in both the real world and with me! There are more paths, bike lanes, bike racks and bike shops than ever before. The number of bike commuters grows every day, and most companies encourage people to do so by providing showers, lockers, safe places for the bikes…
And as anyone who knows this blog, my cycling distances, skills and adventures continue to grow. My old station wagon is still alive and kicking today (1997, 306,000 miles) because it gets to sit more days than not due to bike commuting. I am in the best shape ever, as long as you don’t count the stomach that is a bet tubby from loving to eat!
Yep I get wet, yep it can be cold, but when you get a tail wind, or a down hill or both, and the huge smile you had back when you first rode hits your face again, you will wonder, just as I did, how I could have gone all those years without riding. If all goes as planned, I will someday be one of those seriously old farts who pass me anytime I go for a ride!
Like the wind folks!