Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Monday, May 29, 2017

General Motors Had a Legit Cycling Connection - Who Knew?

"Good Pedaling Position"
Illustration from "Bicycle owner's complete handbook of repair and maintenance," 1953
Title: Bicycle owner's complete handbook of repair and maintenance.
Main Author: Kraynick, Steve, 1911-
Language(s): English
Published: Los Angeles F.Clymer [1953?]
Subjects: Bicycles > Maintenance and repair.
Physical Description: 126 p. illus. 22 cm.
The illustration of the winking cyclist above, showing his "good pedaling position," comes courtesy of the New Departure division of General Motors - that seemed surprising for this 1953 book. So time for a little research. Aha, here is a bit of history of New Departure.

Brief video history of New Departure manufacturing company which developed a popular version of the coaster brake (known as the New Departure Coaster Brake) as well as ball bearings and other machined parts for different finished products. They were acquired by General Motors but continued with the "New Departure" name, and to make bicycle coaster brakes. The New Departure coaster brake dates to 1898!

New Departure Coaster Brake

The New Departure coaster brake was still in use when this book was published; instructions are provided for its repair.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

1973 Raleigh Sports Bicycle & a 1973 Bike Repair Book

Someone who I know who is in a retirement home decided he wasn't going to be using his bike and offered it up on a listserv, with more information than that it was a "used bike in rideable condition" - when I learned it was a Raleigh, I decided to take it.

Raleigh Sports from 1973 - seen from above

In the 1960s when I lived overseas, my parents bought me a bike much like this one, with the three speed hub shift and full painted fenders. This is a somewhat later model but much the same thing - a 1973 "Sports" model. Despite the name, the bike was a utilitarian transportation vehicle-bicycle and not particularly sporty. However I remember it was great fun to run when I was in fourth and fifth grade. (Unfortunately later my parents decided we should get rid of it, which probably made sense since it would have been too small - but still, a little sad now.)

The Sports model is described by Sheldon Brown - including this paragraph:
Most modern bicycles are designed with the primary intent to catch your eye on the sales floor, and persuade you to buy. That is not what a Raleigh Sports was about...these were designed to provide solid, dependable transportation for the British public, at a time when only the upper classes had motorcars. These bikes were built to last 100 years, with reasonable care.

The condition, given that the bike is more than 40 years old, seems very good to me. It shows signs of even use and OK routine maintenance. The paint is chipped in many places and the handle bars and other chromed components have rust spots. On the other hand, the brakes work OK and the three speed shift works well, although it required some adjusting. The pedals spin better than all the pedals on my newer, nominally better bikes (which is food for thought ~). Unfortunately at some point someone removed and replaced the Brooks leather saddle with a very crummy modern foam thing, which is extremely ugly. For now I am just riding this bike to and from Shirlington nearby and it is fine for that.

Drive train works flawlessly

The chips in the pain are visible, but don't affect the way the bike works - and it does work

The fellow who gave me the bike more or less insisted I take a helmet and this book, published in 1973, which gave me the first clue as to what year the bike was purchased (although the hub is dated clearly, so that was an easy determination). This seems to be the first edition of "Glenn's Complete Bicycle Manual" - at that time it wasn't unreasonable to publish a book with that title that has reasonably complete coverage of issues one might encounter on most quality bicycles.

Cover of "Glenn's Complete Bicycle Manual" that may yet turn out to be useful

Sample pages showing photographs to provide guidance on how to make bicycle repairs correctly

Note hot pants-wearing model demonstrating a bike with the saddle at the correct height

Page with one of about a dozen photos of young woman on bicycle in then-in-vogue so-called hot pants. In one photo, Glenn is shown measuring her with his tape measure. It is a somewhat wacky aspect to this otherwise straightforward and serious book.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

More Images of Cycling History to be Found Online

"Millions of historic images posted to Flickr" explains how the Internet Archive is harvesting millions of images from books digitized and online into a new Flickr account for Internet Archive Book Images.

At this point, having put "only" 2.6 million images online taken from books, it is not clear exactly which books were harvested from, but a simple search on "bicycle" produces interesting results.

A very early bike carrier for an automobile in use

The above image was found simply by browsing results of a search for the single keyword "bicycle" - the search looks at the title of the book but also (most usefully) text that is captured that appears before and after the image. This can be a somewhat "noisy" search but for bicycles it seems, mostly on point. The above image is amusing since the bicycle is being carried on the automobile as backup transportation, not to take the bicycle to some location to ride.
Speedway is a believer in the motor vehicle as the conveyance of the future, but in the present, that he may always feel safe from having to walk home, he has his motor car equipped in above fashion.

An early bike rack, from 1896

There are some problems, but not too serious. The two examples above were pulled from the trade journal, "The Wheel and cycling trade review," which Flickr identifies as being from 1888, but that is when the magazine started - these images are from 1896, which can be determined by looking at the links to the pages where the images appear in the digitized publications like this one.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book about Schwinn HIstory in the Pubic Domain

Schwinn Roadster
Page from this company-sponsored history of Schwinn from 1945

Fifty years of Schwinn-built bicycles: the story of the bicycle and its contribution to our way of life. Arnold, Schwinn and company, Chicago. 1945. No author is given on the title page, but the dedication is from Frank Schwinn, son of the company founder, Ignaz Schwinn.

Typically books published after 1922 in the U.S. are still covered by copyright, but if published before 1964 (I think) then copyright has to be renewed after 28 years or the book goes into the public domain. Or perhaps the University of Michigan where this was digitized cleared the copyright otherwise somehow. Anyway, the full book is viewable through HathiTrust.

While primarily a book about Schwinn, looking back from 1945, there is quite a bit of general cycling history in this too (albeit presented in summary). There are some interesting photographs comparing a Schwinn factory in 1895 and 1945, and some discussion of the development of bicycle technology as it relates to technology in (then) automobiles and even airplanes. In many ways it is more interesting for someone interesting in Schwinn and bicycles than the much more recent No Hands that was published in 1996 but is more about Schwinn as some kind of extended business case study. (350 pages, published by Henry Holt & Co.)

Schwinn Family On Bike
The Schwinn family on a bicycle built for three

Schwinn's introduction of the balloon tire in 1933 is described in detail and makes clear that the bicycle industry in the U.S. following the initial craze of the 1890s had been negatively affected by the "single tube" tire that was difficult for individuals to repair but cheap for bicycle makers to sell.
The antiquated single-tube tire had been standard equipment on American bicycles from the 90's to 1933. Small double-tube tires were available, but expensive and little used. Everywhere else in the world only double-tube tires had been used for a generation, because they were readily repairable, while the single-tube tire was not. Small punctures in the single-tube tire could be repaired by makeshift methods, but large punctures could not be repaired satisfactorily, and a cut of any size meant the purchase of a new tire. The fiction that the American cycle buyer just wouldn't pay the additional cost of the practical, repairable, double-tube tire had taken root, and no serious attempt was made to encourage their use.

Schwinn Balloon Tire Ad 1933
Ad for Schwinn's 1933 bike featuring a balloon tire in the U.S.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

"Pleasure-Cycling" - a How-to Book From 1895

In 1895 the publisher deposited a copy of this book in compliance with copyright law at the Library of Congress - and it has been digitized and made available online.

LC control no. 04011762
LCCN permalink
Type of material Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name Clyde, Henry.
Main title Pleasure-cycling, by Henry Clyde.
Published/Created Boston, Little, Brown & co., 1895.
Description 186 p. illus. 18 cm.
Subjects Cycling.
Additional formats Also available in digital form on the Internet Archive Web site.
LC classification GV1041 .C64

Pleasure-Cycling title page
Title page - the free spirit (mostly) approach to cycling

This book is a fairly low-key introduction to cycling:
Ti this little book, the writer, looking back to his own days of inexperience in cycling, has endeavored to furnish some useful information and advice to those who intend joining the army of wheelmen, or who, in their first season on the road, are beginning to appreciate the healthy pleasure which cycling brings. The book being especially intended to aid the amateur rider of the safety bicycle in the intelligent use of his wheel, the writer has kept that purpose closely in view, and has not included matters aside from it; such, for example, as the history of the development of the bicycle, and training for track and road racing.
The LC copy still has its original cover, although a bar code sticker has (sadly) been applied to it.


Pleasure-Cycling, parts of a bicycle
A somewhat minimalistic explanation of what the parts of a bike are

Note what is missing - no brakes (or even a single brake)! This was a fixed gear bike, so mostly you would stop it by slowing down your pedaling. You could also apply a foot to the front wheel.

I. The Poetry of Motion .... 11
II. Choosing a Bicycle 31
III. How to Ride 63
lY. Taking Care of a Bicycle . . . 103
V. Dress and Equipment 123
VI. Cycling and Health 141
VII. On the Road 165

Pleasure-Cycling illustration
Sample illustration
Cycling gratifies the love of adventure which is latent in everybody. You may make a little journey into the world on your wheel, and, although you travel but a hundred miles from your home, you will be surprised to find how much of interest and amusement you meet along new roads, and among fresh faces and unfamiliar landscapes.

At less than 200 pages, this is a nice introduction to how cycling would have been introduced to a new rider in the 1890s.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cycling & the Law, 1890s

I was reminded that JSTOR now makes available U.S. journal articles published before 1923 that are in the public domain -- I searched on "bicycle." I was very surprised by the number of articles retrieved in legal journals about bicycle cases. I also found a review of the book The Road Rights and Liabilities of Wheelmen, (by George B. Clementson, of the Wisconsin Bar. Price 5o cents. Chicago: Callaghan & Co., 1895). The review states, "The bicycle as a means of locomotion has evidently come to stay. This essay is therefore opportunely published to define the status of the wheel and to give information to riders of their rights and duties in respect to the public highway. Mr. Clementson has made a successful and exhaustive collection and digest of the decided cases and where there are none upon important points he has ably reasoned from analogy. We commend the book to every wheelman."

"Tweed Ride" - 1896
This bucolic view of cycling doesn't represent all the potential legal ramifications . . .

It is possible to see the full book that has been digitized from the University of Michigan in Hathitrust.

The road rights and liabilities of wheelmen, with table of contents and list of cases.

Preface - The bicycle as a practical vehicle is comparatively recent. Only within the last decade has this means of locomotion and travel assumed an importance which justifies the statement that it is to-day one of the principal agents of passenger transportation. Its comparative novelty of course precludes the wheel from very extensive notice, as yet, by the courts. Yet bicycle law is not lacking, and is constantly receiving accessions. Many important questions in regard to the rights and liabilities of bicyclers are daily arising, and a solution of these is frequently sought by resort to the judicial tribunals. Few of these suits ever reach the courts of last resort; and in consequence the reported cases are not rich in bicycle law, though they contain enough upon the subject to pretty clearly define the status of the wheelman.
Notwithstanding the absence of much case law, the book runs on for 200 pages. The amount of discussion of which roads are available to riders and why alone makes one feel like perhaps the problems we have now aren't so bad.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guides du cycliste en France: de Paris à Toulouse et aux Pyrénees (1895)

The Internet Archive text archive (mostly books) has a great deal of interesting material, mostly published during the early 20th and late 19th century, but the assignment of subject keywords is not entirely regularized - one often finds surprising gems by trying different things. "Bicycle touring" for example returns only 18 hits - some of the items are advice about how to (do bicycle touring) while others are about particular bicycle tour experiences, although clearly most books in the later category have not been assigned this subject keyword pair (since there would be far more hits).

Among those 18 items I found this French guide from 1895 - Guides du cycliste en France: de Paris à Toulouse et aux Pyrénees published in 1895. My French is fairly poor but I can get a sense of what is being discussed (usually).

The well-preserved cover of Guides du cycliste en France ... from Boston Public Library

Advice on Hygiène

Le voyageur


Les règles d'hygiène que doit s'imposer le touriste cycliste sont fort simples et des moins gênantes; Porter de là flanelle, et en avoir une de rechange pour l'étape. Prendre le plus souvent possible une douche froide très courte ou un bain chaud.

S'abstenir d'alcool : absinthe, liqueurs, chartreuse, apéritifs, etc. Proscrire l'alcool même dans le café.

Ne jamais partir à, jeun. Ne pas fumer en route.

Par les grandes chaleurs de l'étc, porter des conserves en verre fumé pour préserver les yeux de l'éclat éblouissant de la route.

Se faire un couvre-nuque avec un mouchoir pour se préserver des insolations.

Ne jamais forcer l'allure ni chercher à monter des côtes que l'on sent au-dessus de ses forces.

Google Translate renders this thus:

Hygiene rules should impose cycling tourists are very simple and less intrusive; Wear flannel there, and have a spare for the stage. Take as much as possible a very short cold shower or a hot bath.

Abstain from alcohol: absinthe, liqueurs, chartreuse, cocktails, etc.. Outlawing alcohol even in coffee.

Never leave an empty stomach. Do not smoke while driving.

By the great heat of étc, wear canned smoked glass to protect the eyes from the blinding light of the road.

Getting a neck guard with a handkerchief to protect against sunburn.

Never force the pace or trying to climb hills that we feel over its forces.

While there is a certain fractured nature to Google's rendering, generally it is clear enough. The exact advice might be updated in various ways but the issues remain, not surprisingly, the same.

Map of the region of France relevant to this guide

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Comparing Cycling in the U.S. and the Netherlands - Valid?

I am reading In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist" that turns out to be more of a history of this subject and less of a memoir than I was expecting. I will write a review of it when I am finished.

As someone who reads and thinks about how cycling could be better supported in the U.S., the Netherlands comes up as a model often, although I have to wonder about its validity as such. In some cases, people make comparisons or talk about aspects of cycling in the Netherlands and it isn't clear if they are holding the Netherlands approach up as a model or simply an example of how it can be different than it is here. The later seems more useful to me since the likelihood of our ending up with anything vaguely like what the Netherlands has to support urban (and interurban) cycling absent their 100+ history in this area along (not to mention all the other factors) seems rather low.

With that in mind, however, it can be interesting to look at examples of this "conversation."

Cycling in the US from a Dutch perspective from this blogger

The above video provides a quick understanding of how at least one Dutch cyclist views the American approach to cycling. I don't disagree with any of this analysis as such but in a short overview like this he presumably includes those points that he considers most significant and leaves others out. In my own experience, it has been difficult to transition from an automobile-centered way of thinking to actually using bicycles for more routine day-to-day transportation needs. I have several bikes that I use for commuting the 20 miles round trip (~34 km) to and from work, but these bikes have pedals requiring special shoes and as road bikes are not very good for riding a mile to the grocery store or library for those kinds of errands. So for many years I have ridden a bike consistently to and from work over a fairly long distance, with special clothing and appearing to be in a great hurry (since this doubles as my exercise program) but then I drive very short distances to do things where I would want to arrive wearing street clothes. Kind of strange.

Recently I have started using another bike that is a much more upright one, with a three speed hub shift (and therefore incapable of speedsterish activity), to ride back and forth to places a mile or less away to do errands, without changing into some special cycling clothes. I have been surprised and I suppose a little amused at how enjoyable this is.

Capital Bikeshare arrives in my extendedneighborhood, but closer to my typical destination for short rides-still, nice to have it around

In a roundabout way of thinking, I feel that bikeshare programs, such as the Capital Bikeshare program here in the Washington DC area, are very helpful with modeling and enabling this kind of cycling.

"Infamous" video of bicycle commuters at an intersection in Ultrecht (not Amsterdam) illustrating the level of cycling in an urban setting in the Netherlands

This video serves as a counterpoint to the first video looking at cycling in the U.S., illustrating the significant differences in the scale of cycling as an activity. While I don't think the Netherlands can be our "model" for where we want cycling in the U.S. to end up, it certainly illustrates that cycling on a scale that rivals and even exceeds use of motor vehicles is possible and that specialized infrastructure (or as the video's narrator says, "infra") can be created to support that level of activity. (It's noteworthy that the Dutch observer in his video takes the benefits of specialized infrastructure to support cycling as a given - no "vehicular cycling" for him.)

It's also interesting to see how the Dutch cyclists comply with their traffic signals in this video, for the most part. At a few points there are riders who ignore the light, but the vast majority comply.

This syncs with a recent report that in Portland stoplight cameras studied showed that there was 94 percent compliance with stop lights by cyclists. What?? Really?? Yes. Of course the obvious reason for why this could be true in Portland (and not quite what I observe around here) is that they have a larger number of cyclists and that as a community they act to informally enforce or support good (or anyway legal) behavior while in situations that I see often here of one or two cyclists and a zillion cars, it is much more tempting or attractive not to.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Online Book About Bikesharing Programs

Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding

Available here as a PDF.

A few bikes are "checked out"
Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington

LCCN permalink:
Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name: Shaheen, Susan A., 1966-
Main title: Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding / Susan A. Shaheen ... [et al.].
Published/Created: San Jose, CA : Mineta Transportation Institute, College of Business, San José State University ; [Springfield, VA : Available through the National Technical Information Service, c2012.
Description: xiv, 138 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.

This is a "high level" review of the topic. It's good that it covers all possible issues and provides summary breakdowns in many categories but from this you usually won't know what the situation is with a particular bikeshare system for any particular category.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

"Nobby" Bicycle Suits (1896)

"Bicycle Suits" (1896)
Cycling attire ad, 1896

From "The Referee and Cycle Trade Journal: a Weekly Record and Review of Cycling and the Cycle Trade." Volume 17, Number 1 - May 7, 1896.

Women cyclists of the 1890s often wore special clthing specifically created and intended for cycling, such as bloomers. I usually think of the tweedily attired male cyclists from the 1890s as riding in a version of their regular clothes, but this kind of ad suggests otherwise.

The slogan of this company, Rosenwald & Weil, seems a bit obscure - "Distinctive gentility in style - like brevity in composition - represents greatest merit."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Betsey Jane On Wheels - Fiction & the 1890s Cycling Craze

Betsey Jane on wheels; a tale of the bicycle craze. - I found this online recently, digitized for preservation (and access) reasons at the Library of Congress.

Title page for "Betsey Jane on wheels," published in 1895

Online record for this book
Personal name: Brown, Herbert E.
Main title: Betsey Jane on wheels; a tale of the bicycle craze. By H. E. Brown.
Published/Created: Chicago, W. B. Conkey company, 1895.
Description: 285 p. incl. front., plates. 19 1/2 cm.
Subjects: Cycling--Fiction.

PDF of the entire book

Set of many of the illustrations from the book

The heroine in her bloomers

This book was apparently part of a subscription series that readers would receive "issues" of as one subscribes to a magazine - but each would be a different book. (Oddly this title was deposited on copyright promptly after publication in 1895 but apparently not cataloged for ten years. Keep in mind that I'm also a librarian, so such things are of mild interest - if only to me.)

This work of fiction, over 200 pages, describes a family and then town's infatuation with bicycles and cycling. It precedes from one son taking it up, to the daughter (who wears risque bloomers), to the father and then finally the title character, the mother of the family, Betsey Jane. Issues such as whether women should ride bicycles (and if so, what they should wear) and the views of churches and government on cycling are dealt with directly (more or less - considering it is a work of fiction). Written in 1895, before the cycling craze hit its peak and was then overcome by the automobile, some of the suggestions about the future of cycling are optimistic or anyway didn't come to pass - are the suggestions about uses of bicycles on farms at all serious? I don't know.

The author steps out of his fictional role (as Betsey) and has the following conclusion, which is editorial in its tone.


As the most interesting part of a book is usually the conclusion I have concluded to finish this work by writing a conclusion, but will leave the reader to form his or her conclu­sion in regard to its merits.

I have attempted to give some idea of the bicycle craze which is now so prevalent, and although some cases may be slightly over­drawn, I think that I am justified in such overdrawing, as the bicycle craze will undoubtedly reach more alarming proportions another season.

The large manufacturers of buggies, wagons and street cars having noticed a decided fall­ing off in the demand for their goods, and, profiting by this experience, have concluded to meet the popular demand by converting their plants in bicycle factories. They have declared their intention to place wheels on the market at less than one-half the present prices, which will bring them within the reach of nearly every­one. When a good wheel can be purchased for twenty-five or thirty dollars, few people will be without one, for as a means of conveyance the cycle eclipses all four-footed beasts, as it is cheaper, safer and faster.

That cycling is a healthy and profitable recreation, none can deny, but, like all other good things, there will be plenty of people who will carry it to the extreme, and many others who will condemn the whole business on account of the injurious use which is made of it by a few.

Cycling is one of the few sports in which ladies can indulge with the same freedom and good results as the more fortunate masculine element of society. There has long been a want of something which will afford the ladies both sport and exercise, but so far nothing has been introduced which equals the cycle. Men can play base ball, run foot races, hunt, fish, box, wrestle and jump, but poor woman has so long been debarred from any active amusement, that, physically, she has been deteriorating, and now the cycle comes in as a good Samaritan. It affords an asylum, a refuge, a sort of fire escape, and gives the gentler sex an oppor­tunity to build up their well nigh lost physical powers.

What if some do abuse the sport and themselves also? It does not follow that cycling is wrong, any more than a great many other institutions which have suffered from the same cause, or that because a few church members do not live up to what they profess, that the church is entirely wrong, yet there are people who will argue on this basis, and tell you that cycling is not right, and that no intelligent or sensible person will ride a wheel. But the world would not be able to move in its accustomed orbit without some cranks, as the millenium would soon arrive and put an end to cycles, cranks and all.
The coming "car craze" had not yet tempered this fanciful view of the future

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Getting On a Bike, 1899-Style

Dr. Neesen's Book on Wheeling published in 1899 has this guidance:

In learning to mount, head your wheel for the down grade, place your left foot on the little projection on the rear axle, shove off with the right foot, raise up on your left foot, and balance that way until the right pedal rises to its height, then place the right foot on it, glide into the saddle and seek the left pedal with the left foot. Experts are in the habit of mounting directly from the pedal as a horse is mounted. This requires considerable skill. Dismounting, however, is done from the pedal. Just as the pedal reaches it lowest level, and is about to rise, stand up on it and fling the other leg over the saddle. Mounting from the pedal is done in the same manner.
Of course, this mounting from a peg on the left of the rear wheel is quite different than what is generally done today. One may wonder why they felt that "considerable skill" was required to mount the bicycle as we typically do today, and the answer would be that this is a fixed gear arrangement so that whenever the bike moves, the pedals spin - there is no coasting possible - and this would make getting on a moving bike with the left foot on the left (spinning) pedal more difficult, assuming you try to get moving and get on at the same time (which apparently was the thinking).

I noticed an image at work that needed to have its "title construct" (a made-up title that describes what the cataloger sees in the image) updated.

Bicycle Print
"Man on bicycle pushing to follow bicycling man in distance" - the original title given

In fact, this is a man getting on his bicycle, perhaps to give chase to the other cyclist. You can tell by where the left pedal would be compared to the right and where his left foot must be - he has his foot on the "peg" and is getting ready to swing himself up onto the seat.

Following my advice, the title was changed to this: "Man in foreground mounting bicycle to follow bicycling man in distance."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Americans & Narrow Tires in the 1890s

It is not so easy to come up with certain kinds of historical information about cycling, but mass digitization of many out-of-copyright books has certainly offered up material to plow through looking.

Single Tube Cycle Tire (example)
The basic (really basic) view of the single-tube tire, popular in America

In reading Peddling Bicycles to America recently I came to understand that most Americans in the 1890s and into the 20th century used "single tube tires" but I really didn't understand much about them - But I then found Pneumatic tires, automobile, truck, airplane, motorcycle, bicycle: an encyclopedia of tire manufacture, history, processes, machinery, modern repair and rebuilding, patents, etc., etc. ... in Google books, by Henry Clemens Pearson, published by the India Rubber Publishing Co. in 1922. While it talks a great deal about car, truck, and other tires, it also has a section about bicycle tires.

It starts with this introduction:
History Of The Bicycle Tire

The history of bicycle tires has not been studied as carefully as it deserves, because the majority is not so much interested in historical development as in actual results. Inventors and a few who are students by nature may be interested, but they generally prefer to read their history at first hand, which is in the patent office reports.
Ah yes, actual results. After some discussion of this and that, it continues:
The Single-tube Tire In America

. . . Nevertheless, it was not the Morgan & Wright tire, built by tire specialists, but the Hartford tire [a single-tube tire], built by a bicycle manufacturing company, that ultimately triumphed in America. The reason for this lies partly in the love of Americans for fast riding and partly in their mechanical aptitude and ability to handle tools. While the Europeans were riding 2-inch double tubes, held on by wires in France, and by beaded edges in Germany, and by both methods in England, the tendency in the United States was wholly toward single tubes of even smaller diameters, it having been found that a small single tube, pumped hard, is the fastest of all for road use. The Tillinghast Tire Association, which controlled the manufacture of all single tubes, finally produced an article which represented the high-water mark in bicycle tire making, in resilience, cheapness, beauty and speed. For anybody with deft fingers, it was also the easiest of all to repair, and this fact appealed strongly to the American.
So, the theory that thinner tires inflated to a higher pressure will encourage going faster - lower rolling resistance - than fatter tires inflated less goes all the way back to the 1890s. (Of course this says nothing about the accuracy of the theory, just that it is of long standing.)

Fisk Single Tube
Above, a single-tube tire, mounted on a rim - no clinching!

Then there are more somewhat complex ruminations about the European use of something other than single-tube tires . . . mostly included here for the slightly amusing categorization of the mechanical aptitude of various nationalities.
Though American single tubes invaded Europe and found hosts of friends, on account of their many virtues, the question of their repair could never be mastered by either the British or the Continentals. Could the Tillinghast Association have set up repair shops at convenient places throughout Europe, single tubes might have swept the world as they did America. Even despite hostile tariffs, they were sold in Europe cheaper than the home made kind. There were only 200 single-tube tires made in United States in 1891, while 1,250,000 were sold in 1896. In England the single tube was cultivated during the early years, the Avon Rubber Company being most successful; then, too, the W. &. A. Bates Company was using plugs for its tires in 1892; so that the repair of single tubes by the regulation method has been known in England as long as in America. The British are tolerably quick with tools, and the reason that the double-tube tire survived in the United Kingdom is probably to be found in the prevalence of hedge thorns on the English roads. These hedge thorn pricks are easily stopped with the thick repair fluids which were later developed here in America; and had the English known of this method early in the day, the single tube might have had a different history there. There are no hedges in France, and the avowed reason of the failure of the single tube there was the inability of the French to repair it. Another reason was probably due to the great influence of the Dunlop company there, no less than to the great growth of the Michelins. Even to this day, the wired-on tire is the dominant type in France.

Dunlop Clincher
A British "clincher"

The book then includes, apparently for amusement, a photograph of the largest tricycle in the world (and its tires) described in an earlier post - this photo is different than the one I used that came from a magazine of 1897.

Vim Tired Bike (from a 1922 book)
Poor quality due to low quality original and Google book digitization processes - the immense Vim tire sales aid, a nine-man tricycle

It is of course difficult for the non-specialist (that is, me) to be sure I am understanding what is suggested by all this, but it is still entertaining on some level. The more things stay the same, the more things . . . stay the same. Or so it seems reading this.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Peddling Bicycles to America - Book Review

Peddling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an IndustryPeddling Bicycles to America: The Rise of an Industry by Bruce D. Epperson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This seems to be one of those rare cases where the author's eagerness to include much of what he learned in his book diminishes the result. The author obviously knows an incredible amount about the subject - he documents this both in the preface and in the notes and bibliography, but what story is he trying to tell? Based on very last sentence, apparently his main point was to fit bicycle manufacturing history into its proper place between arms manufacturing and automobile mass production. If that's the case, then why did we need so many details about all the members of Albert Pope's extended family?

My review is just as bad as the book in this regard - it assumes you know who Albert Pope is. This in fact is probably the greatest weakness of this book, which is that it is really intended for a specialist audience which seems too bad, since there is so little written on this topic for a more general audience. I think it would have been possible to have the book serve both audiences reasonably well, but that isn't this book.

Epperson debunks various commonly held (in small circles) assumptions or understandings about bicycle production from the 1890s, such as the number of bicycles built and sold by the big companies - it wasn't so many, basically. This seems to be one of his big goals, to correct the record. The book is put forth as a technical and economic history, but I don't quite see how an economic history can spend so little time describing the customers' interests and the market for bicycles generally during this period. Again, it is the "book for specialists" problem. (If this is a problem.)

This is a very interesting book for someone who has already read about this period and knows some of the history but it isn't a very good book for anyone else. Alas.

View my GoodReads list of cycling books and review.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good List of New Cycling Books ~

Podium Cafe has a nice list of new books about different aspects of cycling. Something fun to peruse!

It mentions that there will be a fourth edition of The Dancing Chain! Who would have guessed there was so much about bicycle chains (well, and the rest of the drive train too) to update!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Team 7-Eleven, by Drake & Ochowicz (Book Review)

Team 7-Eleven:  How an Unsung Band of American Cyclists Took on the World - and Won is a new book about the 7-Eleven sponsored cycling race team that was active in the 1980s. The blurb description of the books is as follows:
Founded in 1981 by Jim Ochowicz and Olympic medalist Eric Heiden and sponsored by the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores, the team rounded up the best amateur cyclists in North America and formed them into a cohesive, European-style cycling team. As amateurs, they dominated the American race scene and won seven medals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. As professionals, beginning in 1985, the team went to Europe and soon received invitations to the Tour of Italy and then the Tour de France, putting Americans on the podium in landmark victories that would change the face of American cycling forever.

Prepared with the enthusiastic cooperation of the team members and co-authored by the team’s founder, Jim Ochowicz, 7-Eleven is not only the most important missing piece in the story of American cycling, but the book that American cyclists have been waiting for ever since the 7-Eleven cowboys snagged that first yellow jersey.
The two authors are respectively a journalist who wrote about Team 7-Eleven (way back then) and Ochowicz, the team founder and manager (among other roles).

I am not an expert on pro cycle racing history, so I will confine my comments to fairly obvious stuff.

The book takes the obvious (and sensible) approach of presenting the story chronologically. The beginning focuses on Ochowicz and Eric Heiden - in the early years of establishing the team. Heiden's role was probably more important than Ochowicz since he was so supportive of the team and was a publicity and sponsorship magnet. The critical piece to launching the team was securing sponsorship from the Southland Corporation, which is described in some detail. (It was connected with Southland sponsoring building of an Olympic velodrome for the 1984 Olympics.) Finally in chapter 5 (of twenty) Ochowicz starts hiring and building the first U.S. 7-Eleven amateur team. The next several chapters describe the highlights of the amateur team's racing before the professional team was established, and the most prominent riders, such as Heiden and Davis Phinney. Chapter 12 segues to the building of the professional team that would compete in Europe starting in 1985 - it is the activities of this "senior" men's professional team, primarily when in Europe, that occupy the remainder of the book. Most of the narrative describes key team developments and critical race successes (and failures). The most well known race successes are covered in some detail, such as Andy Hampsten's Giro stage victory in the snow storm.

The two authors clearly know the subject extremely well and had the cooperation of most if not all of the important team members. Since this was Ochowicz's team, it is probably not surprising that certain more unpleasant subjects are not really covered - in reading this I was reminded of military regimental histories prepared by unit historians. Generally everything covered is given a positive spin - not to say that failures or bad days aren't covered, but . . . One technique is to have negative commentary attributed to other parties - it isn't the authors saying that in their early European racing the 7-Eleven riders were crash happy cowboys; no, that was what the other riders were saying about them. And not to worry; after a few years the 7-Eleven riders matured. Some controversial subjects are simply left out, most notably the almost complete absence of discussion of use of drugs in pro cycle racing.

Whether because of the "authorized history" approach or for other reasons, the description of events is fairly flat; the examples of "wildness" are not very wild, and so on. Bob Roll, for example, is described as "eccentric" and the "team clown" but the included example of his idea of humor rather tame, particularly since one can read far more outlandish stuff about him elsewhere.

Who is this book written for? I'm not a big pro bike racing fan, but I know enough to understand basic tactics (about as much as I know about American pro football, I suppose) and it seems the authors are assuming at least that level of knowledge. For example, at one point a 7-Eleven rider manages to win multiple jerseys in the Tour de France on one day, including a "combination jersey" for best standing in all categories (different than GC) - since this category no longer exists, this is explained, but the subtleties of the other categories are assumed to be clear to the reader.

The book includes a fair number of both color and black and white photographs, chapter notes, a good index, a the senior men and women's team rosters for the years the team was active (otherwise there is little said in this book about the women riders), and a "where are they now" epilogue updating the lives of the main (men) riders.

In some descriptions of the book, it is noted that Lance Armstrong started with the successor team, Team Motorola, that took over this bicycle team after Southland ended its sponsorship - but wanting to know more Lance-history wouldn't be a motivation for reading this; he is only mentioned a few times in passing.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Knack Cycling for Everyone - Book Review

Cycling for Everyone - A Guide to Road, Mountain, and Commuter Biking by Leah Garcia and Jilayne Lovejoy (Knack, 2010) is lovely to look through and reflects considerable effort, but I'm not sure that it is "the ideal new resource for anyone looking to get introduced, or reintroduced, to today's world of cycling" (as it says on the rear cover).

Amazon has a "look inside" link for its page for this book so you can get a fairly good sense of what the book is like.

What's good:

* More than 400 photographs - it must have been a major effort just to figure out and produce all of these; it's a fun book to page through.

* Certainly introduces at a high level many issues connected to cycling.

* Presents some topics quite well when the book's format (that seems to be part of the Knack series) provides the right amount of space.

What's not-so-good:

* Typically one photo is all that is provided for any particular issue, even for the description of maintenance activities where a sequence would be more helpful. In this regard, the extremely structured format of the book works against it.

* The highly structured format for each page also means that there can't be much detail written about any particular subject - for the most part each subject is dealt with in two facing pages.

* Despite being an introduction to the subject, it often reads as though you already know something about the subject - in the summary of what makes a road bike a road bike, it says "uses 700c wheels, caliper brakes, and skinny smooth tires" - skinny smooth tires is clear, anyway.

* Doesn't answer many "why" questions. Again, due to the limited space for text, much of what is provided are descriptions without explanation.

* The glossary is too short and misses many terms used in the text without explanation, and is the one part of the book with no images. In the text one is told to avoid potholes to avoid getting "pinchflats" which are just one item not in the glossary (or the index, for that matter).

I concluded that there is far more to cycling than I had realized since it doesn't turn out to be possible to provide anything like a comprehensive introductory guide to the different types of cycling (mountain, road, commuting) in a single book.

I was somewhat amused by the subjects where the authors chose to provide additional information - since they live in Colorado, they are quite a bit more into mountain biking than commuting by bike so unlike most subjects that must be dealt with in two pages, you get "terrain tips - part 1" and "terrain tips - part 2" (or four pages!) on handling rough riding on a mountain bike. (The coverage of bike commuting in this book is weak, when you get down to it.)

And they are pretty much satisfied with the modern buy-lots-of-crap-and-keep-corporations-afloat approach to cycling - this is most noticable in their discussion of winter clothing, where wool sweaters you might already own are not mentioned - the models are attired in hundreds of dollars of special cycling clothing. (Don't get me wrong, I happen to take that approach too, but I'm pretty sure it isn't the most cost effective and I sure didn't start that way.) I think this reflects a lack of enthusiasm for true beginning bike commuters - mountain biking is more fun.

Summary - it's a pretty book to look at, and has it's tidbits of useful info here and there. It isn't a particularly useful comprehensive introduction.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bob Roll's "Two" Books

Roll on a Murray
Bob Roll in his days with the 7-Eleven team

Lately I have given up Swedish detective novels (of which there seems to be a never-ending supply) in favor of cycling books of various sorts, from "policy tomes" (think Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities) to cycling travel narratives (now I'm reading Take a Seat: One Man, One Tandem and Twenty Thousand Miles of Possibilities and also the occasional book about professional cycle racing.

Which brings me to Bob Roll, and his "two" books. Bob Roll has been a cycle racing commentator for OLN and more recently Versus for the Tour de France following his racing career, but his first sports journalism efforts were writing for Velonews.

I work in a very large library in Washington DC. We don't have everything, but we have quite a lot (of books, anyway). Given Roll's performances for "Road-ID" ads (you can watch the regular ads on the Road-ID channel on YouTube, although you get the best sense of Bob during the first third of this "outtakes" collection video. He even talks about his books, saying, "I am an author - although the books aren't that good." He was joking.

So it seems plausible that a book by Bob Roll could be pretty funny. And, according to the very large database at the library where I work, Bob has written two "memoir" type books of his racing career! (Leaving aside two books he has co-written that are "how to understand the Tour de France" guides.) Fantastic!

Bobke One book record
The "bibliographic record" that describes Bob Roll's first book, from the very large database of such things

So, above is the description of Bob's first book, published in 1995 - 124 pages of Bob. It's a fun book, in a large paperback format with quite a few photos of Bob being amusing, or sometimes just racing his bike (without being amusing). Most of the text is taken from stuff he wrote for Velonews and is in the form of cycling race diary entries (he was writing while still racing at that point). It's a little random in spots.
Lourdes is a bizarre place. It's a sort of Kmart for Catholics, and provided a weird takeoff point for this final mountain stage.
And like that. So a little random.

Nevertheless, if in the right frame of mind, Bobke I (as I think of it) is a good (and quick) read.

Bobke II book record
The "bibliographic record" that describes Bob Roll's "second" book, from the very large database

Why do I put "second" in quotes?? Because once I got my hands on the "second" book and started reading, I thought, "wait a second, I read this book already!" And I had, mostly. The first two thirds of Bobke II is the same as Bobke I, except that it is now in a smaller paperback format (with more pages, yeah) and no photographs (boo! on taking out the photographs). And in fact, on the verso (that's "back side" for non-librarians) of the title page it says, "Part I [of Bobke II] was previously published as Bobke (VeloPress, 1995)." So, what one gets that is new in Bobke II is "Part II (of Bobke II)" and that amounts to about 65 pages. To paraphrase Bob, "ouch!"

Still, there is some good stuff in those 65 pages. There is a description of Bob's training rides in North Carolina with Lance Armstrong and there is probably the most amusing article-length first person description of a professional road race that I have ever read anywhere, although I may be heavily influenced by the central role of the Russian "Team Lada" cycle team in it. (I have some college degrees in Russian studies. Oh - and somewhat oddly, the full text of this story is online.)

I assume the reason that the publisher decided they could get away with this is that the number of copies of Bobke I printed and sold was tiny - at that time, the only reason anyone would know who Bob Roll was would be from being a bike racing nut (remember, 1995 was before Lance Armstrong won any Tours) and (or maybe or) reading Velonews. This isn't a huge market. By the time of Bobke II, in 2003, Bob had already put in several years as a TV commentator and although the audience was still skewed to people who were interested in cycling, thanks to Lance this was much larger market - so for the three people who accidentally bought Bobke II who already had Bobke I; well, they should be more careful.

I feel some affinity for Bob Roll, although for no good reason I suppose. Bob has a gap-toothed smile and I have a gap-toothed smile. Parked in that gap-toothed smile Bob has a tooth that (from the color) I would guess has a dead nerve and guess what, so do I. Bob thinks he's pretty funny and I would like to think I'm funny (but I concede wacky crazy funny to Bob). And Bob is a former professional bicycle racer and I like to sit on a bicycle from time to time and pedal to and from work.

At any rate, I hope I have cleared up the "two Bob Roll memoirs" situation sufficiently.

If after all this, you are still interested in some further amusement, I offer a link to a 1987 video from the 7 Eleven Cycling Team that I came upon while doing "research" for this blog post.

Springer watches 7 Eleven team
At 2:18 during this very dated video there are a couple of seconds of this Springer, attentively watching the bicycle race. This would be Springer with different interests than the one in our house.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rights of Cyclists on the Road (1895)

From page of Cycling for Health and Pleasure, published in 1895:

Rights of Cyclists on the Road. — The right of the cycle on the road is the same as that of other vehicles, — neither more nor less, — and is so held by the courts. Wheelmen have, in some places, been put to considerable labor and expense to establish this fact; but have done so with uniform success, chiefly through the efforts of the League. Of course, when the cycle makes its first appearance in new regions, the blind conservatism which seems to be inherent in human nature is apt to breed prejudice against it; but moderation and experience, with firm prosecution of any case of infringement of rights, will soon put things on a right basis.
Rights of Cyclists on the Road
The more things change, the more they stay the same

Keeping in mind that this was before there were cars on these "highways" mentioned, it goes on to say:
In many localities wheelmen have been accorded advantages much in excess of their rights. They have been granted the privilege of using side paths and even paved walks; no objection has been made to their coasting on crowded hills, and forcing other vehicles from their track; and they have been permitted to ride at racing speed, even on crowded highways. Such concessions have had the effect of making many wheelmen very careless of the rights of pedestrians, and of those of drivers of wagons and carriages, while asserting their own rights and privileges to the full. By so doing they have intensified the prejudice already existing in some quarters against the sport, and have aroused the prejudice of others whose rights have been infringed by being rudely driven from their path, or portion of the road, by the necessity of giving ample space to some reckless rider. It is not only bad form and worse manners to act in this way, but it is most wretched policy, for it injures the whole body of wheelmen in the eyes of the public.

Where roads are bad and wheelmen are permitted to use side paths, they ought to reciprocate the privilege accorded them by extending every possible courtesy to pedestrians, never warning them off the path by bell or whistle, but rather, by riding slowly and requesting the pedestrians to kindly allow their passage, and thanking them when they have done so. There are many cyclists who are thoughtless in these matters, and there are others who pretend to believe that it is pusillanimous to extend such courtesies ; but they ought to remember that they are on a path
only by courtesy, and are bound, in common decency, to return that courtesy.
In summary, cyclists have equal rights, but they should behave reasonably towards others. And if they have been accorded special rights, courtesy is to be expected.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

An 1890s View On Safety

Title page
Title page of the popular 1890s book, "Cycling for Health and Pleasure

The view on crashes between two bikes would probably not meet with the approval of modern litigators. From page 67 of Cycling for Health and Pleasure, published in 1895:
Riders ought to observe all the rules of the road, and not court disaster or engender ill feeling by disregarding them. It is very common for a number of wheelmen to divide, both on meeting and passing vehicles, and in so doing increase the chance of frightening horses, and make collisions far more probable. In the case of collision between two bicycles, it should be remembered that the aggressor will receive the less damage if the machines are of equal strength, so that if a collision is actually unavoidable, it is worth while to become the aggressor if possible, or at least to endeavor to give as much shock as you receive.
"In case of collision between two bikes"

"Cycling for Health and Pleasure" was apparently popular - the Library of Congress has editions from 1890, 1895 and 1896. The 1890 version was published by the small "Wheelman Press" while the later editions were published by the large commercial publisher Mead, Dodd.