It's All About the Bike
It's All About the Bike

It's All About the Bike

Robert Penn
Full Title
It's All About the Bike
Last Highlighted
November 28, 2022 10:56 PM (CDT)
Last Synced
June 8, 2023 1:11 PM (CDT)

There was a democracy to the bicycle that society was powerless to resist.

The bicycle is one of mankind’s greatest inventions — it’s up there with the printing press, the electric motor, the telephone, penicillin and the World Wide Web.

‘Ever bike?’ Jack London wrote. ‘Now that’s something that makes life worth living!

The American bike mechanic, Lennard Zinn wrote: ‘Be at one with the universe. If you can’t do that, at least be at one with your bike.’ After three years and 25,000 miles,

Seat tube angle: measured in degrees relative to the horizontal plane (ST∠° in the diagram), they can vary from 65° to 80°. Steeper angles (75°—80°) push the rider’s weight forward on to the handlebars and are less comfortable over long distances,

Head tube angle: again, measured in degrees relative to the horizontal plane (HT∠° in the diagram), it has a marked effect on steering characteristics and shock absorption and can vary from 71° to 75°. Steeper angles mean a bike handles more quickly — turn your head and the bike turns too (such bikes are often described as ‘twitchy’ or ‘Italian style’ and are favoured by pro racers for criteriums — short road races round city centres, with many tight corners and a densely packed peloton).

Denis Johnson, an enterprising London coach-maker who custom-made Draisines, opened the first riding school in Soho, in 1819.

The next great evolutionary leap for the bicycle happened in Paris during the 1860s: rotary cranks and pedals were attached to the front wheel of the Draisine and the ‘velocipede’ was born. In 1868—70 it sparked a fashionable craze — ‘velocipede mania’ — on both sides of the Atlantic. The addition of pedals meant the rider’s feet were off the ground all the time.

The first Parisian velocipede manufacturer, Michaux et Compagnie, opened an indoor training school in 1868, beside their new factory.

Free lessons were given to people who bought velocipedes; the rest hired instructors by the hour. After half a dozen lessons, riders were sent out to brave the streets. When

In April 1869, the Pearsall brothers opened their ‘Grand Velocipede Academy or Gymnaclidium’ on Broadway, New York.

The famous acrobatic brothers, the Hanlons, also opened a school. Some ‘velocinasiums’ advertised women-only classes, and hired female instructors. Books of riding instructions were published. Entrepreneurs quickly spread the craze for riding ‘academies’ or ‘rinks’ across the country: by late spring, Boston had twenty schools,

Again, a plethora of riding schools sprang up, usually associated with a bicycle manufacturer. When Columbia Bicycles relocated its headquarters in Connecticut, the à la mode offices featured, on the fifth floor, ‘the most complete riding school in existence’.

In 1884, at the age of 48, Mark Twain said, ‘I confessed to age by mounting spectacles for the first time, and in the same hour, I renewed my youth, to outward appearance, by mounting a bicycle for the first time.

Twain’s essay, Taming the Bicycle, on learning to ride a high-wheeler with a hired instructor or ‘Expert’,

I’ve often wondered if it is this — the eternal serpentine course of the bicycle, the ‘dignified curvature of path’ as H. G. Wells called it — that lies at the root of my love for the machine.

‘We don’t do planned obsolescence. We don’t have model years. We don’t change products annually. In fact, the I-inch threaded headset we still sell today is exactly the same as the model Chris King first started making and selling to his friends in 1976.’

Our goal is 25 per cent of all trips in the city to be taken by bike.