Velocipathy (1869)


Skating, swimming and cricket are good in the development of muscle and for general corporal benefit, but no one of them combines the virtues of the bicycle. The velocipede may be used by young and old, by rich and poor, in any weather and at any season of the year. The expense is limited to its purchase. It is a horse that will go slower with oats and hay than it will without them: riding whips and spurs are mere dead weight. Its motion is pleasant and whilst riding along, it is easy to maintain the graceful and indeed dignified posture which so many people delight in. The tendency of modern civilisation is to ease and luxury. Men will not walk where they can ride and their carriages are built and hung, so as to render their motion as soft, as that of the infant’s cradle. Furniture is so padded and filled with springs, that the smallest strain on the human muscle is avoided and it is well-known that the tensile power and elasticity of the frame, becomes less from non-user, we cannot be astonished that the generations of today are feebler than those that are past. We hail therefore, with pleasure, this little machine, which, wherever used, will tend to brace the nerves and knit together the body of whoever uses it: which tends to prolong life, by energizing its physical sources and is at the same time of practical utility to people in every rank of life. There will be energy and perseverance called forth in acquiring the method of riding it, even although the accidents be few and the art soon learnt. Of course it is possible to get too much exercise out of the machine. A certain well known American humorist thus describes his experience: – “As a horsebackist, we have been called a success. Once we rode a mile. On another occasion we rode a brindle cow home from the fair, not to add to our comfort, but to pay the aforesaid bovine for not drawing the premium. On another occasion we undertook to ride a speckled steer, but for some reason or other, his finis department had a sudden inclination to elevate itself into the air and we dismounted over his head, simply because the mane of the beast did not amount to much for hanging on purposes. On another occasion we rode a saw-mill saw for half an hour, but we never tired it again. But we did try the velocipede. We got astride of it, and started. Immediately after a gentleman was discovered lying on the ground, to the merriment of lookers on. Once more we mounted the breach, if by these words a cast-iron pad may be called and undertook to propel the invention. Just then a gentleman struck his head with extreme violence against the curb-stone. More merriment. Another attempt, and just then a gentleman was discovered sprawling upon the ground with his left ear full of mud. More merriment, but not on the part of the victim. Pretty soon we got underway by the aid of two men to push and a small boy to steer, while we were getting used to the contrivance. But at such an hour as we knew not of our assistants departed from us. We made two lunges ahead, and while endeavouring to turn out for a young lady, cramped the wrong way, collided, took her on the invention in front of us and we both went off together, to the damage of a 10 dollar hat and a 23 dollar Grecian bend. The glory of that hat and that bend departed with much quickness, never more to return. Well, we tried it again. Undertook to cross the street and accidentally ran our contrivance plump against the hind end of a charcoal wagon. We got off, while the industrious velocipede took a scoot to the left, landing in the gutter. Such a nice place to put your feet! Good deal like sitting on a grindstone turning it with your toes. Aside from the delightful sensation experienced, it strains the muscles and is more wearing upon garments. Riding a two-story Indian hog just turned loose to fat on beech nuts would be sweet cream in comparison with this invention. Sliding down hill on a hand-saw, tooth side up, would be two degrees more comfortable than experimenting on one of these contrivances – but then it is fashionable! If any of our readers have a suit of clothes they wish to spoil, seven or eight pairs of legs they would loan for seven weeks, a high finish and moral back they don’t care for, fifteen or sixteen yards of court plaster; a dozen or more new hats and several pairs of boots to spoil, let him buy a velocipede and commence practice at once.” By all means, however, buy a velocipede: possibly you may not require the extra legs and court plaster. If indeed the art were as dangerous as here presented; all the other ‘opathies’ might be requisite to quench the ills of velocipathy, but few men have such an experience. Energy and courage are requisite in every walk of life. A faint heart never, either drove a bicycle or won a fair lady and it never will. Finally, to everyone engaged in a sedentary life ; to everyone who never walks when he can ride; to everyone who, like a friend of ours, is never known to run save an accident; and to everyone who wishes robust health and desires to strengthen mens sana by putting it in corporc sano we confidently say: – Try velocipathy.

(The velocipede, its past, its present & its future, Joseph Firth Bottomley, 1869, pp. 87-91)

Leave a Reply