Monthly Archives: April 2022

Thomas Stevens

Thomas Stevens (1854 – 1935) is known for being the first documented person in riding a round-the-world-tour. He started this amazing trip with some socks, a spare shirt, a raincoat, a sleeping bag and a revolver as baggage on the 22nd April 1884.

His family migrated from Berkhamsted, UK, to the USA when he was a child. So early, he came into contact with a bicycle in San Francisco. The very first year of his fabulous trip, he bought a black, nickel wheels, 50 inches Columbia Standard bike on which he left Sacramento to the East of the USA. However, he encountered serious difficulties such as lack of roads which made him to walk for more than one third of the 6,000 kilometers until he arrived in Boston on the 4th of August. For these four months after the first riding, he enjoyed large parts of the country which he did not know at all as well as interesting persons, particularly the native Americans.

But he did not stop here. He spent Winter in New York and then embarked to Liverpool in the Spring of 1885. On 4th of May, hundreds of people said goodbye to him in the Edge Hill church. Then, he crossed the English Channel in order to pedal on France, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans and Turkey. He rested in Istanbul and continued to Anatolia, Armenia, Kurdistan, Iran and Iraq. Even if the Thomas Stevens adventure was covered in newspapers, he still faced problems. He was denied a permission to travel on Siberia, was expelled from Afghanistan which obliged him to detour to cross the Red Sea and had troubles of having to explain himself in China. As a result of this last point, he was almost lynched since Chinese people confounded him with a French man (at that time France was in war).

Finally, he crossed the Japan Sea and took a ship to California where he was received as a hero. Yet, his impressive life continued as he formed part of the Henry Morton Stanley team to explore the East Africa and became the manager of the Garrick theater in London.

World Bicycle day

The World Bicycle day was on 19th of April from 1985 to 2018. In April 2018, the United Nations changed the day to 3rd of June thanks to the support of 57 countries. Leszek Sibilski directed the international campaign and associations such as the World Cycling Alliance and the European Cyclist Federation which encouraged it. But why did the World Bicycle day was initially declared on 19th April?

Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemical, was the origin of it. He was the first person who synthesized, ingested and experimented the effects of LSD in 1943. At first, he ingested it in a casual way. Next, he carried out an aware LSD ingestion three days after. As a result, he experienced a more powerful trip than the easy return journey home by bike. He simply went crazy!

Going a step further, bicycles have improved the gender equality. For instance, it allowed women to travel by themselves without the need of any man. According to the suffragette Elizabeth Cady Staton, bicycle is a tool that motivates women to gain strength and assume an increasing role in society. Moreover, the suffragette Susan B. Anthony believed bikes as the most important to emancipate women in the world. However, it is not now just plain sailing.

When women started pedaling, it was said that bikes produced a rare illness called ”bicycle face”. The stupid diagnosis was invented by several doctors in a mixture of ignorance and machismo at that time. Indeed, they feared pedaling would cause women fertility lost, female tuberculosis or even an increment in women libido (this was dangerous in single women, what a nonsense).

Fortunately, these ideas disappeared and we enjoy biking no matter your gender nowadays.

Soldiers and bicycles

If a person thinks about the Overlord operation in the Second World War, he probably imagines soldiers, ships, tanks, guns and so on. Very rarely would he come across bikes on battlefields, and they were indeed because armies have been using the most advanced technologies close at hand in modern wars.

Britain paratroopers landed with folding bikes beyond Germany lines in the D day. They weighted about ten and a half kilograms plus guns, military uniforms and additional equipment. Imagine how strong they were. The Airborne Folding Paratrooper Bicycle was the chosen bike model to produce sixty thousand of these bikes between 1942 and 1945. They participated at least in the D day and in the Arnhem battles, and were used by British and Canadian soldiers.

Why did they used bicycles in such important days? Bikes are ideal vehicles to cover large distances without being identified. Thus, they contributed to win these battles. In some occasions, bicycles were abandoned in the middle of nowhere when soldiers considered them nuisances. Once paratroopers landed, special bike supports allowed guns to be attached and even fired in seconds.

The Canadian 9th Brigade Infantry landed directly riding bikes. Canadian soldiers had successfully used them in the Sicily invasion in 1943. Indeed, British and Canadian soldiers were not the only armies that used bikes in the Second World War. Japanese servicemen advanced long distances in Malaysia with heavy loads thank to bicycles in 1942. German soldiers used them in Poland back in 1939. However, nazi soldiers bound bikes with ropes to motor vehicles in order to tow them without making effort.

All in all, the Normandy invasion was the operation in which bicycles were used in a massive scale. A lot of these bikes were abandoned in battlefields in France and Norway, and you can find them in museums and private collections.