On a Wheel and a Prayer


“What was it about yesterday that made you think

I was a gentleman, Miss Blackwell?” 

                                                                                                                           -A Bicycle Built for Two

When you think of the old west, bicycles probably don’t come to mind. I mean can you honestly picture John Wayne chasing down bad guys on a tricycle  or boneshaker? Yet, the bicycle craze that hit the country in the 1890s was just as prevalent in the west as it was in the east.



The new craze not only changed the way people got around, but also the economy. An editorial in the Fort Macleod Gazette in the early 1890s stated, “If this craze for bicycle riding continues much longer our livery stable men will have to close down.” The same lament could be heard from hatters, dressmakers and carriage workers.

Not only did cowboys, sheriffs and outlaws join the wheeling club, but so did women

One Texas newspaper in 1895 issued this warning regarding female bicycle riders: “We have been watching the course of events with breathless anxiety and Nebuchadnezzar himself never saw the handwriting on the wall more distinctly than we see it now. The bloomer is coming sure enough.”


One Kansas newspaper lamented that “Women wear their trowserettes even when their machines are left at home.”  While bikes1jpgsome were criticizing women’s attire others like Susan B. Anthony declared bicycles “Have done more than anything else in the world to emancipate women.”

Head over Handlebars

Bloomers aside, muddy dirt roads and wooden sidewalks made for a wild ride. Newspapers regularly reported people taking a “scorcher” and “being knocked senseless” or “carrying an arm in a sling.”


One Texas town responded by adopting the following regulations:

          1.Anyone riding a tricycle or relocopede must be supplied with a bell or horn that must be rung at all crossings.
          2.Any persons riding a tricycle at night must have a suitable lantern.
          3. It is especially prohibited for three or more riders to ride abreast
          4. No person or persons shall rest their bicycle, velocipede, or tricycle against a building (including saloons) where the vehicle will be on sidewalks


Some cities imposed a speed limit in town, usually four miles an hour. Fines could be as high as twenty-five dollars. The ordinances created as many problems as they prevented. Not only was there suddenly a shortage of cowbells but the noise created by them posed another problem.


It wasn’t just riders that gave sheriffs and marshals a headache, but a new kind of outlaw—a bicycle thief. Bicycles were also used as getaways and one thief led his pursuers on a merry chase through Sacramento.


Hold on to Your Stetsons

An Arizona Territory newspaper reported that cowboys in Three Rivers, Michigan “have discarded their horses for bicycles in herding cattle. Cowboys in Arizona would have a happy time herding cattle on bicycles.”


Cattle didn’t always take kindly to bicycles as one doctor found out when he unexpectedly ran into a herd of cattle. He ended up with a broken shoulder blade and his $100 bike in ruins. Things got so bad that some insurance companies announced they would charge double for bikers.


Some lawmen like Arizona Sheriff Donahue decided to fight fire with fire and announced that he was the proud owner of a “handsome nickel-plated bicycle” and was in negotiations to purchase a Ferris wheel bike for his under-sheriff.  John Wayne will never know what he missed.


I don’t know how it is where you live but the bicycle craze has hit my town big time and I recently caught my husband drooling over a $1000 bike. How are wheeling conditions in your town and have you joined the pack?

 New on Amazon today!

To order click cover

A Bicycle Built for Two

Everything goes to hades in a handbasket when Damian Newcastle rides into Amanda’s life.

No one can pedal a bicycle around turn-of-the-century New York without a license, so Amanda Blackwell’s cycling school has become all the rage. The innovative establishment provides an income for the independent miss and her brother Donny, a special child. But in one afternoon, everything goes to hade in a handbasket. Amanda’s uncle is suing to put Donny into an institution and Damian Newcastle, the man she has every reason to hate, rides into her life to ruin everything.


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14 thoughts on “On a Wheel and a Prayer”

  1. I would love to get a bicycle and ride around the neighborhood but my husband says it isn’t safe with all the crazy drivers and I believe he is right. We don’t live in a large town but there are some really crazy drivers so for now I only have to pedal inside.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  2. I don’t ride a bike, but there are a lot of people in my town that do. They drive in packs. My husband always gets mad because they don’t stop at stop signs or red lights. I hope I never see one get hurt.

  3. A friend of mine has two kids in high school who participated in a state high school league bike race just a couple weeks ago. Unlike cross-country runners who race on rolling golf courses, they were on a doctored ski hill with steep, sandy verticals, sections that were practically scree, and sharp, sandy curves heading back down the loop track. Her kids were okay, but there were several carried out on stretchers and lots of stitches that day . . . all in a new, state-sanctioned sport!

  4. There are several hiking/biking trails in Wisconsin. The Ice Age Trail crosses the state. We bike a lot in the rural area where we live. Unfortunately, the winter weather curtails many months of biking.

    TREK bikes are made in Wisconsin.

  5. Rachael, that gives me the willies just reading about it.

    I heard that they’re turning some of our California ski lifts into bike runs as well. This sounds like an accident just waiting to happen.

    Just for the record I don’t do hills, sandy verticals or sharp curves.

  6. Sad to say I never learned how to ride a bike. We lived on a bit of a hill and my parents said it was too dangerous (although other children on the street did it). Later when I was married my husband bought me a bike but it had racing handles and one of those tiny seats and it seemed way too high. I was also embarrassed at the time to get out there in my 20’s and my husband isn’t the most patient when teaching so I never did learn. I really needed training wheels lol.

  7. Hi Catslady,
    I’m surprised at how many adults never learned to ride a bicycle. I thought it was a rite of childhood or something, but I guess that depended on where you lived.

    Training wheels sounds like a good idea. Do you know if they have training wheels for cell phones? I could sure use some help with my new one.

  8. I have never seen the style of 2 person, 4 wheel bike shown above. It would be interesting to ride it. I can’t imagine attempting to herd cattle on a bike. Sounds a bit crazy to me. You don’t have the speed or agility needed to stay out of their way or keep them where you want them.
    I can understand the popularity of the bike for women. It gave them a freedom few had before, except for the lucky ones who rode horses.
    There are a few nice biking trails in the area and bike lanes are starting to show up in some towns. It is a rural area and many resent the bicyclists. Unfortunately, they don’t feel they should share the road. Our son was run off the road several times when he was in school. Just last week a biker was nearly hit in front of our house. Those in the car that barely missed him turned around and came back to argue with him. It is a regular bike route, but they usually come in packs of 20 or more. You shouldn’t have to drive 20 to 30 miles or more in order to ride your bike safely.

  9. My father-in-law salivates over expensive bikes too,Margaret. I don’t get it, but that’s his thing. I didn’t know you needed a license to ride a bike in the 19th century. Learn something new every day! 🙂 Good luck with your book. It looks interesting!

  10. Hi Patricia B,
    Yes, there are those who don’t like sharing the road, here, too. I take issue with the rule that bicyclists have to travel the same direction as traffic. It would be a lot safer if we could see cars coming at us rather than from behind.

    Take care and have a great weekend.

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