Velocipede Riding Extraordinairy (1869)

Velocipede Riding Extraordinary

A curious display took place yesterday at the well-known Velocipede Riding School in Old Street, St Luke’s. A number of English gentlemen, who have learned to use the velocipede during the last few months, were assembled to welcome a young Frenchman who had come over on the invitation of Messrs. Snoxell and Spencer, to prove how great is the proficiency to be acquired on the instrument which is just now the rage. The leading English amateurs present displayed much excellence in the new art and in the games of “follow my leader,” and “touch me not,” won the praise of their rival and guest. But Mr M Henri Pascaud, the young gentleman in question, stands alone. The feats he accomplishes have never been approached in this country and it was amusing to remark the utter amazement of the velocipede teachers and their pupils as he went on, adding marvel to marvel on the two wheels. The bicycle will not stand alone, and it is only when in motion that the rider can support himself upon it, which he generally does by means of a guiding bar that balances him and the instrument he sits on. This remembered, M Henri Pascaud’s performance will be seen to be most extraordinary; for he stops the bicycle when at full speed without using his hands or applying brake-power. So true is his seat that he manages the machine with his feet alone and yesterday he went round the school neck and neck with his competitors, while his arms were folded, his hands unemployed and his face and eyes apparently turned in every direction but that in which ordinary riders would find themselves compelled to look. The skaters regard cutting the figure 8 as an elegant accomplishment; but they would have been struck yesterday at the smallness of the space in which it was done on a velocipede; while the sharpness of the curves and turns, the rapidity with which the course of progress was reversed when the rider was at a speed of 12 miles an hour and the dexterity with which he doubled on his pursuers, seemed little short of magical. The first heat was between Mr Mayall, the distinguished expert, who made a successful trip to Brighton the other day and Mr Henri Pascaud. The latter started first and the former’s task was to come abreast with and tap him on the shoulder. This seems little to tell, but to those who are familiar in any degree with the working of the velocipede, it will be seen to be fraught with difficulty. It is not a question of mere racing. The Frenchman’s tactics are much more wily. To beguile his adversary into following him into a corner from which there was apparently no escape, and then, by a dexterous twist in a direction which only he could execute, to leave him at full speed and within a few inches of the wall, was one of M Pascaud’s favourite devices. Again and again did Mr Mayall seem on the point of reaching his fellow-player and again and again did the latter elude his grasp in a way which seemed little short of miraculous, until the Englishman by a bold push at length succeeded in giving the necessary pat, amid the loud cheers of the people looking on. The next trial was one of speed and curves. In the centre of the great room a space was marked out which was scarcely more than the bicycle would stand in; the end of its two wheels being within a few inches of the limit at either end. In this spot M Pascaud turned round and round on the velocipede with perfect ease; and then proceeded to show how slowly he could work it round the school. To move slowly is, it will be understood, a matter of considerable difficulty and prizes are given both in Paris and America, to the slowest as well as the fastest rider. Now this Frenchman crawled. None of the Englishmen attempted to vie with him on this and he remained the conqueror in the field of slowness. Then came a long game at Follow my leader and Hare and Hounds and here again M Pascaud was triumphant. The eight gentlemen who followed were all splendid riders and nothing could be prettier than the long row of velocipedes, rushing round and round at even distances and in regular line. The pace was tremendous and it really seemed at times as if they formed one long train at express speed. Finally, M Pascaud set his hosts a series of playful tasks, which, if we mistake not, will give many gentlemen with a taste for velocipeding employment for their leisure for months to come. He stopped short under the most difficult circumstances and started again without using his hands; he vaulted upon and stood on the saddle while at full speed; he vaulted on and off at the same pace; he rose on his feet on the peddles and while thus standing saluted the company with his hands; he sat sideways, in the position a lady occupies on horseback and worked the velocipede with one foot and without using his hands; he stood on the extreme end of the spring’ propelling it now with one hand, now with the other – in short the machine seems to him a perfect toy. It was stated that M Pascaud is seventeen years of age and that he has only practised on the velocipede for some twelve months. He attained his proficiency, however, by frequent attendances at the Cascade of the Bios de Boulogne and at the Place de la Bourse, where for some time past the best velocipede practice in France has been exhibited.

Daily News, May 7, 1869


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