Bicycle: The History

by David V. Herlihy | History |
ISBN: 0300104189 Global Overview for this book
Registered by wingGoryDetailswing of Nashua, New Hampshire USA on 1/28/2018
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5 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by wingGoryDetailswing from Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Sunday, January 28, 2018
I got this hefty softcover from Better World Books. It's a lovely look at the history of the development and popularization of the bicycle, with loads of illustrations - satirical cartoons from British papers, vintage advertising copy, even some technical drawings. One thing that surprised me was how quickly the bicycle went viral, as it were, from the appearance of the first practical pedal-driven model in 1867 to a global boom in bicycle styles, clubs, races, and more. Indeed, one of the engraved illustrations is from Harper's Weekly in 1868, showing a women's race held in Bordeaux, with the determined-looking women peddling their hearts out!

The book goes into social and political concerns, from "it's unnatural!" to various forms of "women shouldn't ride, it's not healthy for them" (which it could be if they tried it in long skirts - the effect of cycling on women's fashions was one of many things that some people held against bicycles).

I found it entertaining that, from the very outset, voices were raised against cyclists for interfering with regular traffic, whether by riding on pedestrian paths and knocking people over (some of the editorial cartoons on this are pretty funny) or by blocking the streets when the cyclists had accidents of their own. Some of the quotes on this could have been taken from today's press, not least the cry for giving those dratted velocipedes their own travel-lane...

There are technical asides about such things as the bearings - early bicycles made do with old-style hubs, with hand-crafted (!) ball bearings being adopted later on, but it wasn't until the technology came about to automate the manufacture of hardened steel bearings that the problem was satisfactorily solved. And another aside brings in the US Confederate sub the Hunley, which was powered by a hand-cranked gear-shaft; the author speculates that if it had been designed for foot-powered pedaling instead, it might have been more speedy and nimble - and may have escaped its tragic fate...

One of the more colorful sections deals with the high-wheel era, when bicycles with front wheels from 45 to 54 inches in diameter became popular - at least among the riders youthful and athletic enough to manage the feat of mounting them without falling over. Apparently they were wondrous to ride, once you got going - and if it was tricky to dismount, well, that was part of the fun. But they were never going to be workhorse-type vehicles, and their day faded when the "safety bicycle" came in. (One of the illustrations on this era shows several young men from the Boston Bicycle Club riding their high-wheelers around a green in front of Boston's Trinity Church; the site looks so sparse compared to today's version, where the cyclists would be dodging traffic and tourists in Copley Square.)

The less spectacular but more widely-useful bicycles immediately became popular - including as vehicles for police; there's a Collier's Weekly illustration showing a cop on a bike catching and stopping a runaway horse!

There's more, a lot more, including the introduction of free-wheeling pedals and coaster brakes - cue the Schwinn bicycle, the first kind I ever had, and which I remember fondly to this day. There's a mention of the Raleigh bicycle company, whose lightweight ten-speeds became popular in the 1970s - I had one of those for my college years, and adored its nimbleness over the old Schwinn. And there's a nod to newer tech, from powered versions (motorcycles as well as the power-enhanced bicycles). All in all, a fascinating look at one of the most efficient and energy-saving means of locomotion ever developed. Even made me want to dig my long-unused mountain bike out of the basement and get it ready for some trail rides...

Journal Entry 2 by wingGoryDetailswing at Nashua, New Hampshire USA on Saturday, May 26, 2018

Released 1 yr ago (5/29/2018 UTC) at Nashua, New Hampshire USA


I'm adding this to the Biographies of Things bookbox, which will be on its way to its next stop after the Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy!

Journal Entry 3 by wingelizardbreathwing at Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on Saturday, June 09, 2018
I chose this from the box. Bicycles fascinate me in every degree---but who knew there was enough info on them to write a whole book! I'm looking forward to browsing this one.

June 27th ETA: Unfortunately, I didn't get the time to browse this one so I'm going to have to send it along in the box. But, who knows, the serendipity of BookCrossing just might bring it my way again someday!

Journal Entry 4 by winginnaewing at Aurora, Colorado USA on Tuesday, July 03, 2018
This book made a short stop in Colorado before continuing on in the Biography of Things bookbox (still traveling in honor of maryzee

(unless I can't fit all the books, then this one will find another home as it is super heavy :-)

Journal Entry 5 by wing6of8wing at Silver Spring, Maryland USA on Saturday, November 03, 2018
This book must contain a lot of really cool information, because it weighs three times what one would expect it to. Came home in the Biographies of Things book box.

Journal Entry 6 by wing6of8wing at -- Bookbox, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA on Friday, May 10, 2019

Released 5 mos ago (5/10/2019 UTC) at -- Bookbox, -- By post or by hand/ in person -- USA


The bicycle is once again on the road, this time bound for a first stop in New Hampshire as part of the Biographies of Things book box started by MaryZee and continued in her memory.

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Released 3 mos ago (6/22/2019 UTC) at The French Press Coffee Shop at Cape Harbor Marina in Cape Coral, Florida USA


Released as part of Booklady331's KTM Challenge (Link)
☺ Happy Traveling, Book! ☺

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