Bicycle History to Celebrate UCI Road World Championships

In the beginning. . .

When my interest is piqued, of course I turn to research. A friend told me that the gift shop at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens has two books on the history of bicycle racing in Richmond. True confession: I did not buy them—but you might want to. In the meantime, I did go on-line. As usual, Wikipedia has a lengthy article on the history of the bicycle. You might also be interested in visiting the Smithsonian Institute website, for their series America on the Move. These include pictures. Also, A Pictorial History of the Evolution of the Bicycle has great pictures

I’ll share with you some of what I learned. First of all, the immediate ancestor of the bicycle was the Draisine, also called a Velocipede, Hobby Horse or Swift-Walker. It was designed by Baron von Drais in 1817 and looked like a bicycle, but had no pedals. So one moved by walking along, feet on the ground, while seated. It was made of wood, with iron bound wheels, and weighed nearly 50 pounds. Even so, speeds of eight miles per hour were feasible.

Draisine1817
By Wilhelm Siegrist (1797-1843?) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although a two-wheeled bicycle with pedals may have been created as early as 1839, Pierre Lallement filed the earliest and only patent for a pedal-driven bicycle, in the US in 1866.

sketch for original pedal bicycle
Original pedal-bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

Soon after, in 1869, a pedal-bicycle was invented for ladies.

Velocipede for Ladies
Velocipede for Ladies by Pickering and Davis, New York. Engraving from Google’s scan of The velocipede: its history, varieties, and practice, author J. T. Goddard, page 85 in chapter Velocipedes for Ladies. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
A subsequent major development, the Ordinary or high-wheeler was first made abroad in 1869, and in the U.S in 1877. Depending on the length of the rider’s inner leg, the front wheel could have a diameter up to 5 feet! It was light-weight, fast, and dangerous. Because the rider’s weight was so high and so far forward, a bad patch in the road could cause the rider to “take a header” over the handlebars. The rider couldn’t fall free of the machine because his legs would be trapped under the handlebars. Broken wrists were common. And of course, death was possible. Women’s clothing as well as the social norms of the day made this “ordinary” bicycle unsuitable for women. Cycling became associated with reckless young men. Cycling clubs and races blossomed.

bicycle-ancestor-ordinary

The next major development came in 1885, when John Kemp Starley created—but never patented—the first successful “safety bicycle.” His improvements included a steerable front wheel, wheels of equal size, and a chain drive to the rear wheel. Bicycles became very popular for both work (commuting, deliveries, etc.) and pleasure uses. In 1895, Chicago put its mailmen on bicycles. The safety bicycle was the first bicycle suitable for women.

Whippet Safety Bicycle
Science museum [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A 1889 Lady's safety bicycle
A 1889 Lady’s safety bicycle. This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.

As far as I’m concerned, developments since then are all just tweaking! As the automobile became the preferred mode of individual transportation in the US, bicycles have been taken over for pleasure and exercise. As of the 1970s, cycling was the nation’s leading outdoor recreation. Still, bicycle messengers flourish in major US cities. In other parts of the world, the bicycle is still the “workhorse” of preference. In the People’s Republic of China, the Flying Pigeon was the government approved form of transportation, considered essential for every household, along with a sewing machine and a watch. In the 1970s, the post-Mao leader Deng Xiaoping defined prosperity as “a Flying Pigeon in every household”—which reminds me that in the presidential campaign of 1928, a circular published by the Republican Party claimed that if Herbert Hoover won there would be a chicken in every pot. A lucky duck. True confession: my mind works in mysterious ways.

duck
Flying Pigeons, chickens in pots, and lucky ducks

And that seems as good a place as any to end this!

UCI Road World Championships

From the UCI Road World Championships Richmond 2015 website:

The Road World Championships (Worlds) is cycling’s pinnacle event, held annually in an international city as chosen by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) through a competitive bidding process similar to the Olympic Games.

Worlds is a nine-day event, featuring 12 Championship races for Elite Men and Women, Under 23 Men and Junior Men and Women. It is a rare opportunity for the athletes to compete for their country, just as they do during the Olympic Games.

GREAT MEMOIR

According to David Henry Sterry, speaking this morning at the James River Writers Conference, the key to great memoir is to have lots of really horrendous things happen to you and you don’t die.

Virginia Is For Mysteries on a Roll!

The Virginia Festival of the Book Crime Wave just ended, and I am dancing. Five contributors to VIFM presented a panel yesterday. More than 100 people attended, very receptive, good questions. The bookstore serving the Festival sold out of the books they brought AND all the books they could scrounge for consignment. Today we learned that Virginia Is For Mysteries was the best-selling book in the Crime Wave track! Book signings and talks are scheduled through February ’15! I’ll have to get off my duff and post the schedule as these events draw near.

 

I’d post a picture of me with Lisa Scottoline but my eyelids are at half-mast and I look half-smashed—just a smudge better than my driver’s license photo!

January, 2014, Appearances and Speaking Events

I am pleased to be speaking several times early in 2014!

 

I will be at the Library of Virginia January 9 at 5:30 p.m. for the launch of the short story anthology, Virginia is for Mysteries.

 

January 10, 10:00 a.m., The Hermitage at Cedarfield, Richmond, VA. I will be discussing my first Chesapeake Bay Mystery, Dark Harbor. Free and open to the public

 

January 11, 11:00-1:00, Chesterfield Library, .  I will participate in a panel discussion of Virginia is for Mysteries  for the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Free ad open to the public.

 

Jauary 21, 7:00 p.m., Historic Hanover Tavern, Hanover Courthouse, VA.  I will be discussing fact and fiction in my short story “Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery.” Free and open to the public.

Writing Tip: The Power of Transposition

You may recall that a while back I said that you mustn’t be bound too much by reality–e.g., that just because someone said it that way doesn’t mean it’s a good way to say it, just because it really happened doesn’t mean it’s interesting. This is in the same vein: just because it happened in 1964 doesn’t mean you can’t set it in 1934–and vice versa. Of course, if it is something famous, like the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, you can’t move it around too much unless you are writing sci fi or magical realism. But if you have a story about a great uncle who was married five times that the family knows about, there is no reason you can’t write about such a character in current time.

Similarly–with certain obvious exceptions–just because the actor was a male doesn’t mean you can’t attribute the action to a female. Ditto parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins.

Bottom line: be flexible.

Back From the Dead

Actually, I haven’t been dead, just buried. But after a long stretch when life was on top of me, I am again motivated to try my hand at social media. I’ve recently had a book signing at Sailing Associates, in Georgetown, MD, featuring Tiger Heart, the second Chesapeake Bay Mystery. The next signing scheduled is for the Chestertown Book Festival, Chestertown, MD, on Saturday, Sept. 21. img_7534

Writing Tip: Pay Attention to Your Body

Whether it’s a broken arm or acid reflux, pneumonia or shin splints—whatever your physical ailment—pay attention to your symptoms and sensations. Jot them down in your writing notebook, using language as specific and vivid as you can muster. This sort of detail often comes in handy when a character is suffering, and may work into a plot element.

The same is true of any strong emotions you experience, from euphoria to rage. Don’t just label it and move on. Be as specific as you can be on what the physical sensations and/or signs are—e.g., pounding heart, the heat of a blush, shakey hands, etc. Jot these in your notebook as well. They are great aids when you want to show a character’s emotions rather than summarize them with a label.

Writing Tip: Think Slivers, Not Chunks

“Finding time to write” often feels as though you need a chunk of time—at least an hour, say—or a free weekend. Whatever your definition of a chunk, it may be hard to come by. I suggest that you start thinking in terms of slivers: for example, commit to a hundred words a day. These do not need to be well-polished, sparkling gems. They just need to be words, words you may later use or scrap. But simply doing it builds confidence that you can. Carry a note pad with you so that you can build those one hundred words in five-minute increments, if necessary, during a bus ride or coffee break—whatever. Think slivers.