the "cycle cycle"

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Anonymous's picture

"While I've been waiting for the cycling weather to improve and while I'm recovering from a cold I have been catching up with my business reading. CNBC's Ron Insana's excellent ""Trend Watching"" traces he history of investment fads, manias & bubbles""

The book starts with Holland's 17th century tulip bulb mania and ends with our recent debacle. At the end of the 19th century there were 300 US firms mass producing bikes and there were 10 milion cyclists among a population much smaller than we now have. Stephen Crane wrote an article ""Everything is Bicycle""

Due to the popularity of bikes, piano sales plunged by 50% and the supply of horses declined by 7 million . Cyclists had to wait months for their bike to be delivered. Their price ranged from $40 to $100 against an average annual income of $1,000.

The crash came in 1905 as the auto rose quickly in popularity. Bike production plunged by 75% and by the time the shakeout was completed, only 12 manufacturers survived."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)
Ups and Downs

The barrel rolls. Just as with anything else – the economy, stocks, crime, fashion – the current becomes outdated and the disdained becomes popular.

Look at bicycling – on the rise now again for the last few years. Why? Perhaps Lance, the Tour, lighter bikes, fitness awareness, urban considerations, conservation, many other factors. Cycling clubs, bike sales, commuters, racers, explorers grow with this upturn. And I hope it becomes more than a mere “upturn,” that it engrains itself upon our culture as a permanent icon. Bicycles forever.

Now, if the ****in’ rain will wait on the dreary Sunday morn 7:50 AM ... or should I just hit the sack again ;-)

Anonymous's picture
Slippy (not verified)

Their price ranged from $40 to $100 against an average annual income of $1,000.

That seems out of line with what I've seen. I have a repro of the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalogue. Sears claimed that they owned 25% of the bike market (of course, on another page they sell Wonder Pills claimed to be a sure-fire cure for everything from alcoholism to typhoid fever), and their prices range from $8.95 to $15.95

Anonymous's picture
Hank Schiffman (not verified)
Is there a dog pistol in the catalogue?

Someone at Bicycle Habitat once told me he had an old Sears catalogue that had an advertisement for a dog pistol for cyclists. It was a small pistol to use on dogs who chased cyclists.

Anonymous's picture
Peter Hochstein (not verified)
Bicycles, Bloomers and Class Warfare

"Somebody gave a fascinating lecture at a NYCC club meeting some years back on the ""Bicycle Bubble"" (that's not what he called it but the idea's the same) circa 1890s-1910 or so.

Some of the more remarkable points I remember from his lecture:

• The bicycle was credited with the rise of women's ""bloomers,"" named after one Amanda Bloomer, but made popular by the fact that women needed pants-like garments, not skirts, to swing a leg over the top tube, get seated on a saddle, and pedal away without getting their clothing caught between the chainwheel and the chain. Since the bloomer simultaneously played a part in the rise of feminism, which in turn led to women's sufferage by 1919, one could make a slight, umm, stretch and say that if it were not for the bicycle, American women today would not have the vote.

• Riverside Drive here in New York was packed -- packed! -- with cyclists of both sexes on Sunday mornings. I still remember a slide of a woodcut he showed us -- of hundreds of cyclists, four and six abreast, using the drive as their bike path.

• The highwheel bicycle played a part in the rise of late 19th Century class warfare. (Republican and talk radio bloviators take note.) Until the highwheeler's advent, the the only people who could afford their own private transportation were the rich, who rode horses. They wore special clothing (which you still can see in Central Park when the occasional rider goes by) and stood as handsome and heroic figures heads above the crowd by virtue of the fact that they were seated atop five or six feet worth of horse. Then along came the high wheeler and guess what? The riders, too, were handsome and heroic figures who wore special costumes (knickers and a kind of beanie cap), had five or six feet worth of wheel diameter beneath them, and also stood above the crowd. But you could get a highwheeler bicycle for about a fifth the price of even a run down nag, so ""common people"" could ride them and compete for a kind of social stature and admiration with the moneyed class. This absolutely infuriated the rich. Our speaker read an excerpt from a ""gentlemen's magazine"" of the time that said something like this: ""It is a disgrace that bicyclists are allowed to ride along the same roadways as carriage and horseback traffic. They are terrifying the horses. They ought to be horsewhipped!"" (Betty Dewing of the East Side whatever weekly news seems to reflect the same sentiments today.)

• The bicycle saved the gene pool of France. (Too long a tale to go into here. Catch me on a ride or club meeting some time and ask about it; it'll cost you a beer.)

• Alas, yes, once the common man could afford an automobile, the bicycle was relegated back to the category of ""toy,"" which may explain why so many postings and rants on this board sound as if they were written by children.


Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)
I'd heard...

"that farmers didn't like cyclists either, (city folk with ""leisure time""), and would put sticks in the spokes of the high-wheelers causing them to crash. That's why the L.A.W. formed- protection. Could be horse farmers in particular didn't like us. They could see their way of life going down the toilet."

Anonymous's picture
Evan Marks (not verified)

Bikes spooked the horses, then as now.

Toilets? They had toilets? That part I didn't know...

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