Bicycles, like their forerunner, the once popular velocipede, appear to have been only the fashion of the day; but there are still some enthusiasts who cultivate the art of bicycle riding, and, judging from their reported exploits, it would appear that the constancy of those individuals is not unrewarded. Within the last few days a bicycle race has at least determined that it is possible for a man with no motive power beyond that of his own muscles to go from London to Brighton after breakfast and return in time for dinner. Now can this achievement be due to any extraordinary skill or power of endurance, since some half-dozen competitors accomplished the same feat and were only behind the winner in a trifling matter of time. To this may be added the fact that members of a London Bicycle Club have recently made a journey to the extreme northern point of the coast of Sutherland and have returned again, at a speed on the whole not less than one half the rate of the Brighton trip. In the face of these facts, unless it can be contended that human beings can, without mechanical aid, walk a hundred miles in ten hours, we do not see how it can be disputed that bicycles are capable of adding greatly to our power of locomotion and thus to some degree remedying a great defect in the human constitution. It is humiliating to think that in his power of moving from place to place a man is inferior to a fly – in deed there is many a fly that haunts our rivers in summer whose wings might defy the swiftest express train to overtake them. Altogether there does not seem to be any good ground for slighting bicycles. They no doubt require skill and practice to ride them; but so do horses. The truth is, that few people have the courage to figure in public in any eccentric way; and bicycles are, at present at least, by no means in general use. This objection, however, is one which would soon be removed if the leaders of good manners would only set us an example. Apart from the necessary ability to keep one’s balance, there is really no reason for being afraid to appear on a bicycle, beyond the fact that, at present at least, our neighbours decline to keep us in countenance.
The Graphic, August 23, 1873