My latest novella, Wall of Stone, in the collection 8 Weddings and a Miracle, tells the story of a young woman who goes on a bike tour in England. Although my piece is contemporary, I wondered about the history behind bicycle touring. I assumed this would be a relatively new concept and was surprised at what I found.
The earliest bicycle type vehicles, known as the dandy-horse, hobby-horse, or draisine, were patented in 1818. These two-wheeled inventions didn’t have pedals, but the rider sat in the seat and propelled himself by pushing his feet on the ground. Thus, the draisine had to be the right height for the person. This device was a lot of work on the up slope, but could be great fun going downhill. I can only imagine how interesting it would be to go on a steep downhill section with no brakes and what appears to be a minimum ability to steer. Even with all the work involved, there were still reports of some brave men touring places in Europe on the draisine.
In the 1870’s there were major breakthroughs in bicycle design. Pedals were added, so the rider no longer had to propel themselves by pushing along the ground. By this time the shape of the bicycle had changed. The front wheel was much larger than the smaller back wheel. The rider, seated up high behind the front wheel, could cycle at a much more rapid rate. Many problems arose from the precarious perch and the rough roads. I shudder to think about the precarious height combined with riding along rutted or muddy roads. How were they able to keep their balance?
The first bicycle club formed in Britain in 1878, named Bicycle Touring Club. The name was later changed to Cyclists’ Touring Club and is still in existence today. (In 2013, the Cyclists’s Touring Club had around 70,000 members.) People enjoyed the recreation of cycling, although at that time, touring was not the same as today.
Safety took precedence in the 1880’s when the shape of the bicycle changed once again. This time the two wheels on the bicycle were the same size and they were propelled by a gear attached to the rear hub. Now the bicycle was easier to mount, easier to control and became even more popular.
John Foster Fraser wasn’t the first to do a world tour by bicycle, but in 1896, Fraser and two friends set off. For the next two years, they rode around the world putting in 19, 237 miles through 17 countries and three different continents. Bicycle touring seemed to be on the rise in popularity and more people began to purchase bicycles for travel and for recreation. Other countries including the USA formed cycling clubs.
Today, bicycle touring is very popular around the world. There are several organizations that help people to plan a tour for their vacation. You can purchase maps, find places to stay, and figure out what and how to pack your gear. You can arrange a tour that is fully supported, complete with bicycle, meals and hotel arrangements, or you can decide where you want to go and set off on your own.
Modern Touring Bike
My husband, daughter and I love to ride bikes. We all have touring bicycles and plan to do some exploring as time and finances allow. What about you? Have you ever gone on a bicycle tour? Would you enjoy riding through England like the heroine in my story? If you had a choice where would you want to ride a bicycle? Please leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of 8 Weddings and a Miracle.
Leave a comment – Nancy will be giving away a print copy of the anthology 8 Weddings and a Miracle!
Weather the storms of life alongside nine modern couples who hope to make it to the altar—someday. Be it a meeting in the wrong place at the right time, an accident that opens hardened hearts, or weather that seems to blow things off course, sometimes love needs a little divine intervention. Penned by an exclusive selection of Christian fiction authors—including Tracie Peterson—this collection of nine romances will become an instant favorite.
Nancy began her book writing career in 2001, with the release of her first novel, Sonoran Sunrise (Barbour). Since then, Nancy has published multiple novels and novellas, and coauthored several nonfiction books. She now has over 375,000 books in print.
Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and one grandson. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Karen Ball of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.