Book Review — Cycling: The Craze of the Hour

Cycling: The Craze of the Hour by Various Authors from Pushkin Press is a collection of four short articles on the bicycle craze that became in the late 1800s, that would never last. The first article describes the process of riding the modern bicycle. Not what one expects when thinking of a modern bicycle. The Penny-farthing with the giant front wheels were the first modern bikes. The method of learning to ride is covered in detail. This was a time when adults were learning to ride rather than children. Most adults today know how to balance even if they hadn’t ridden a bike since childhood. Back then balancing on two wheels was a novelty. The awkward shape of the bike looked intimidating but was necessary because the front wheel was direct drive. There were no gears; one rotation of the pedals equaled one rotation of the front wheel. The larger the front wheel was, the easier the pedaling was.

Just as now health and nutrition were part of cycling culture. One author recommends something that sounds like a modern Atkins diet — plenty of meat and light on the starches. A doctor warns of the dangers of cycling. One would think one hundred years ago people would have lead a more active life than they do now. Many of the couch potato comforts and sedentary entertainment didn’t exist. Still, there were warnings of elevating one’s blood pressure to the point of bursting veins and internal hemorrhaging. The stories are well written and from popular authors of the time. These stories take the reader into the era of more recognizable bicycles as well as adding a little humor. A nice collection to look back and see what cycling was over a hundred years ago.

The reviewer is a life long cyclist and a professional bicycle mechanic.

 

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