Thursday, September 23, 2010

19th Century Bicycling - Rubber Was the Dark Secret

After seeing the latest Squeakerness blog with all the bicycles, I ran across this article and really enjoyed it.

Here are a few quotes that I liked.  You will probably want to read the original article.  Lots of great old pictures.

“If the increase continues, the time is not very distant when not to own and ride a bicycle will be a confession that one is not able-bodied, is exceptionally awkward, or is hopelessly belated.”
“The Bicycle Festival,” July 13, 1895 New York Times

"In “The Winged Heel” column in the San Francisco Chronicle of January 25, 1879, the writer fully grasps the possibilities:
“The bicycle ranks among those gifts of science to man, by which he is enabled to supplement his own puny powers with the exhaustic forces around him. He sits in the saddle, and all nature is but a four-footed beast to do his bidding. Why should he go a foot, while he can ride a mustang of steel, who knows his rider and never needs a lasso?.. The exhilaration of bicycling must be felt to be appreciated. With the wind singing in your ears, and the mind as well as body in a higher plane, there is an ecstasy of triumph over inertia, gravitation, and the other lazy ties that bind us. You are traveling! Not being traveled.” "

"The 1890s would be the decade of the bicycle. The seven million bicycles found worldwide in 1895 used most of the world’s rubber, a boom that would not have occurred if not for the invention of the “pneumatic rubber tyre.” Although there had been bicycles previously, they rode on solid rubber tires. These were puncture-resistant, a boom on roads where nails were frequently shed from horseshoes, but they lacked suspension, were hard to steer, and were an unpleasant ride. This changed by the late 1890s. The market was flooded with steel tubes, ball bearings, variable speed gears, and high-quality chains. Above all else, it was flooded with replaceable rubber tires and inner tubes, mass-produced in the factories of Dunlop in Birmingham, England; Michelin in Clermont-Ferrand, France; and Pirelli in Milan, Italy. The bicycle was cheap and popular. People suddenly had a means of freedom that had been unknown. "



Andrew Hahn said...

Ah the romantic bicycle. I love the phrase "mustang of steel" (though I prefer a "mustang of aluminum."

I love traveling—and I did 30 miles of fire road on Saturday. It was a good ride. I love my bike.

Mike said...

I liked those quotes!