Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cycling, a sport which bids fair to assume national importance in the British Isles. The bicycle in its various developments has enabled man by the use of his muscles alone to progress at greater speed, and with less fatigue, than has ever before been possible. The word bicycle is incorrect in formation, meaning two circles, and has been shortened to "cycle," whence the verb, "to cycle." The earlier progenitors of this modern machine were the various velocipedes, dating from the latter end of the 18th century, if not from the 17th, inasmuch as in 1691 John Greene took out on June 12th a patent for "new engines or carriages, driven or drawn by man or beast." In 1766 John Vevers, then head-master of the school "at Reigate in Surrey," invented "a travelling chaise to go without horses," the vehicle in question being a veritable four-wheeled coach, steered by a passenger and propelled by a footman, who operated levers from the rear. Very wisely the inventor added: "The velocity of these carriages depends on the activity of the managers." Most of these vehicles were termed, with unconscious sarcasm, "self-moving carriages." In 1779 an improvement or development of John Vevers' patent was produced by MM. Blanchard and Messurier, and exhibited in the courtyard of the palace of Versailles before Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette. Many such vehicles were tried, but in almost every case the labour was to be done by a footman or attendant, who was in some cases called upon to propel a heavy carriage and seven passengers, in addition to his own weight. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that the principle of balancing upon two wheels, one in front of the other, found practical development, and the earlier developments were, of course, extremely crude. The invention of what was known in later times as the Dandy Horse is usually credited to the Baron Drais de Saverbrun, Master of Woods and Forests to the Grand Duke of Baden, who was in 1818 resident at Mannheim-on-the-Rhine, and who there made and rode a vehicle known as the Draisnene, Draisienne, or Draisena. This was patented in France in the same year by Louis Joseph Dineur, on February 17, 1818. The Baron died in 1851. The Draisnene consisted of a bar of wood called "the perch" in England, carrying a pair of forks at each end, in which the two small wheels ran. The front pair of forks turned in a socket in the perch, and was guided by a handle which the rider grasped with both hands, a cushioned bar for the rider to lean his chest upon was provided in front of the saddle, and the rider progressed by striking his feet alternately on the ground on either side. A fair amount of speed could be attained on the level and, of course, down hill. The machine was done to death by the caricaturists, who never lost a chance of ridiculing the "pedestrian curricle."

The priority of Von Drais' invention has been questioned, as in 1816 Nicephore Niepce, of Paris, in collaboration with his brother, Claudelle Niepce, resident at Hammersmith, produced a machine on much the same lines as the Draisnene, called the celeripede. This was frequently ridden in the gardens of the Luxembourg, but may possibly have been copied from the Mannheim machine. In 1818 Dennis Johnson, a coach-maker, of Long Acre, London, introduced to the public his "Pedestrian Curricle," and this vehicle had a brief vogue, and was known as the "Hobby Horse" or "Dandy Horse." Important as were the principles involved, the "Dandy" failed to hold its own, though Dreuze in France mounted Government messengers upon them in 1830, whilst in 1836 Michael Faraday astonished the inhabitants of Hampstead by riding one, and the Duke of Northumberland and others used them. In or about the year 1840 a little group of riders of the Dandy Horse lived near Dumfries, and one of them conceived the idea of putting cranks upon the rear wheel, and connecting them with swinging bars, which could be put in motion by the feet. For the first crank-driven bicycle, the credit - hitherto given to Gavin Dalzell, a cooper of Lesmahagow, based mainly upon the survival of his original machine, fitted as described, to the present day - is now claimed, on what appears to be very good evidence, for Kirkpatrick Macmillan, a blacksmith, of Keir, Dumfriesshire. Suffice it to say, that about 1840 the first crank bicycle was made and used. Although this machine was crank-driven, it was not propelled by direct crank action, and it was not until the Exhibition of 1862 that such a contrivance was shown, Messrs. Mehew, of Chelsea, showing a tricycle with two small wheels behind and a front steering-wheel, driven directly by pedals on the cranks, of exactly the same type as those to be seen at any time amongst the velocipedes for hire at the Crystal Palace and other places of public amusement. Messrs. Mehew, as far as can be ascertained, do not seem to have applied the idea to the bicycle, but on November 20, 1860, Pierre Lallement, a Frenchman, resident in England, patented a bicycle driven by pedal action direct on the cranks.

Up to this point little attention had been given to the bicycle. MM. Michaux et Cie., a Paris house, manufactured a number of velocipedes, but this vehicle was regarded merely as a jouet d'enfant, and as such was shown in the 1807 Exhibition. A Mr. Somers, seeing children riding these machines in Paris, took the trouble to learn to ride, and then brought the machine over to Charles Spencer's gymnasium, and soon enlisted the attention of a number of athletes. But velocipedes of the old type were constantly in use; some varieties had four wheels and were worked by both hands and feet, somewhat resembling bath-chairs propelled by the rider.

The sewing-machine trade in Coventry was then at a low ebb, and when Mr. Turner asked the manufacturing concern, since known as the Coventry Machinist Company, to build him some machines, the order was accepted, and the foundation laid of what is now the staple industry and most important trade in the city, which is, in effect, the home of cycle making.

In 1869 the word "bicycle" first appears in a patent office specification, the previous year having seen a "Show of Velocipedes" at the Crystal Palace - so often subsequently filled to overflowing with the thousands who visit the great annual "Stanley Shows." The development of the machine has gone on apace, and a thousand varying forms have been produced. For a long while the bicycle called, par excellence, the Ordinary, held its own; it was distinctly an expert's machine, required learning and mastering, but once this was accomplished, gave by far the best net results as regards comfort and ease. After keeping the lead for many seasons, it was challenged by the Dwarf, or so-called Safety bicycle, which ousted the tricycle, which had had a large measure of success from popular favour. The Safety, however, proved slower than the Ordinary in races, until the invention of the air tyre, which effected a radical change. In 1845 a Mr. Thompson invented and patented a tyre for wheels, filled with air under compression, and this principle was re-invented by a Mr. Dunlop, and applied to cycles. Like all inventions in their first stage, Mr. Dunlop's was distinctly crude, and the improvements effected, whilst they have reduced the tendency to burst on the part of the tyre, have slightly reduced its speed. Patented inflated tyres almost by the hundred are now upon the market, and the would-be user can have every grade, from the fast and less stable to the reliable and slow. The air tyre, applied only to the widely popular Safety, added some 150 yards per mile or more to its pace, and the Ordinary bicycle was of necessity left hopelessly in the rear, and even when fitted with the air tyre it did not prove a success. The adaptation of a mechanical action or gear to the hub of the Ordinary bicycle, however, bids fair to enable that type of machine to once again hold its own on road and path, the gear causing the driving wheel to revolve more frequently than the cranks. Inflated tyres, despite their immense advantages, such as the interception of vibration and pace, have, of course, many drawbacks, the principal of which are - the liabilities to puncture and burst, and the marked tendency to side slip - the most dangerous accident on Safety or Ordinary. Puncturing must be regarded as, on the whole, a necessary evil. A tyre to be fast must have thin walls possessing extreme flexibility; any contrivance designed to resist puncture will be found to seriously affect the speed of the tyre. Bursting is practically eliminated in all mechanically-fixed or gripped tyres, only those tyres fixed by solution or cement by means of exterior flaps being subject to it. Side slip is found in all tyres which are seated in abnormally shallow rims, and for road use a fairly deep rim in which the tyre is firmly seated is to be preferred.

Cycling has many economic uses apart altogether from its aspect as a mere pastime. The Carrier Cycle - the invention of Lacy Hillier - has been made by the great firm of Singer and Co. for the use of the Post Office, for many newspaper offices - these handy tricycles getting through traffic and up narrow ways where a cart and horse could not hope to penetrate - and for a large number of tradesmen throughout the kingdom. The adoption of the cycle for military purposes has met with unexpected success, and both in England and on the Continent the use of cycle-mounted infantry is rapidly extending.

Cycling is one of the best organised of our national sports. Its institutions include the National Cyclists' Union, presided over by the Right Hon. the Earl of Albemarle, K.C.M.G., himself a cyclist and joint author with G. L. Hillier of the Cycling volume of the Badminton Library. The "N.C.U.," as it is colloquially termed, rules cycling throughout England by means of "centres," promotes the Amateur Championships annually, and watches the interest of the sport on every hand. The Cyclists' Touring Club, known also by its initials, the "C.T.C.," has recently emerged from a period of internecine quarrels, and is once again prospering, and may in a short time be able to reassert its claims to be the largest athletic club in the world.

The sport owes much of its advancement and almost all improvements in the direction of lightening the machine to the publicity and experience gained by and on the racing path. Here the machines, reduced to the lightest possible weights, are tested in the most thorough manner, and the light racer of to-day is the roadster of to-morrow. The best recorded times are constantly being altered, and any figures given might soon be obsolete. Suffice it to say that a quarter-mile has been ridden in 28 seconds with a standing start, that one mile has been covered in 1 minute 48 seconds, that over 31 miles have actually been covered in 60 minutes, and that a distance of over 540 miles in 24 consecutive hours has been ridden. On the road, moreover, 397 miles have been covered in 24 hours; 100 miles have been ridden in a little over three hours and a half.

These records, however, are being broken almost day by day.

The fastest track in Europe - probably in the world - is to be found in the grounds of the London County Cycling and Athletic Club, Limited, at Herne Hill. The oldest club is the Pickwick Bicycle Club, dating from June 22, 1870; no other club has had so long a continuous existence. The Stanley Cycling Club is one of the most active and energetic organisations, promoting each year the great Stanley Show. The most prominent Midland Club is the Speedwell Bicycling Club, and the most active purely racing organisation is the London County Cycling and Athletic Club, Limited.

The most important and influential paper in connection with cycling is The Cyclist, published in Coventry, the metropolis of the trade, and the sport supports a vast number of publications wholly, or in part, devoted to cycling. Cycling has obtained a firm hold upon the public, and is daily becoming more general. A large number of ladies ride cycles, many good schools exist for the proper teaching of the art, and those who are unable to attend such institutions can easily learn by following out carefully the instructions contained in any one of the many text-books published. The gist of the whole, however, may be crystallised into one sentence: - "Turn the steering wheel towards the side to which the machine is falling." Carry this out, and the cycle is mastered. Dress is a very important item, and needs careful attention. Here, again, the maxim is short and easily remembered: - "Wear nothing but wool." So garbed, the rider, however uncomfortable he may be, will not be in serious danger; the smallest patch of linen will strike cold and chill him. Special shoes are necessary, they should open a long way down, have a stiffened sole and be cut high over the front of the foot. Intelligently followed, cycling is a safe and healthy recreation, a convenient method of travelling, and an enjoyable and exhilarating pursuit.