1869 Australian Bi-cycling

Young men, possibly students, on bicycle trip 1870

With Steven overseas and complaining about cycling in other countries it falls to me to provide Australian content. Researching our rich cycling history I happened upon this letter to the South Australian Register in 1869 which I hope you will enjoy.

-Gusto

 

VELOCIPEDES.

TO THE EDITOR.

Sir— I was amused and interested by your article of velocipedes this morning, and hope it will be the means of drawing public attention to the novelty. I suppose there will soon be a literature of velocipedal science, and half a score new words will be added to our already copious language.

Velocipedestrianism (awful word) will be the name of the art of working the machine. Then are we to have bicycle, tricycle, &c., as the names of machines going upon two, three, or more wheels! Well and good; but please don’t let the people call them bicycles, rhyming with icicles, as I heard a man the other day ; but bicycles.

Now for the working. Doubtless we have admirable physical features in and around Adelaide for their easy use, from the Flagstaff on the South-road to Kapunda, from the hills to the Gulf, we have a clear sweep. And more, we could run round the head of the Gulf to Wallaroo with out any great natural obstacle. Another favourable feature is the dryness of our climate, which for nine months in the twelve permits us to enjoy a hard natural pavement, where not broken by dray-wheels, and I suppose a skilled operator on the two-wheeler would run from Adelaide to Wallaroo in the rut of the off-wheels of the mail as a kind of ready-made tram way.

After all, will the two-wheeler be the best? I am not contemplating the invention in its athletic or amusing aspect, but as a sober reality— one to be utilized to the utmost. Now, suppose doctors run about to their patients, post men with their letters, butcher boys with their chops and joints, I want to know how, with a bicycular machine, it is to be done.

With a three wheeler, I know all about it. I place my machine at the door, where it stands by itself, all alone; I quietly step into it, sit on the seat, put my feet in the slipper straps of the treadles, and when quite ready I depress the treadle that is higher, produce an immediate forward motion, and by the continued alternate action of the feet propel myself at such speed as may be convenient.

Take the case of the bicycle, and I understand nothing at all about it. Your machine won’t stand by itself, so you must lean it against the wall or a post. Next, I suppose, when the perilous feat of mounting is accomplished, you get somebody to give you a shove, perhaps to run along with you for 20 or 30 yards, and then, I can imagine, if a practised hand, you can trundle yourself along gaily enough; and if you were going to the Bay or to Mitcham, you would have a fine bowl along the hard roads.

But suppose you want to call at 20 places in an hour. What then? How do you stop the two-wheeled machine? Do you run it obliquely against a wall at the risk of ruining your pants, to say nothing of your knees! Or do you bring it to a stand in the middle of the road, when of course it falls over on one side or the other, and you and your velocipede are sadly mixed up together; then getting up, do you transact your business, leave the joint or the letter, and getting on again, ask some passing stranger to give you a shove, and so you repeat the process ad infinitum. To my view the bicycle may be grand for a journey, but disgusting for morning

I am, Sir, &c,

May 31. 1869. ARGO.

Young men, possibly students, on bicycle trip(1870). Retrieved June 22, 2012,from http://nla.gov.au/anbd.bib-an49360781 

Velocipedes (1869, June 1). South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), p. 3. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41406692
(Paragraphs my own)

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