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Legends & Legacies: 1880s bicycling beginnings in Aspen

Legends & Legacies: 1880s bicycling beginnings in Aspen

William Martin, champion of the six-day bicycle rider of the world, 1891. | Library of Congress willoughby-atd-082022 The Aspen Times noted in 1884, “The bicycle…

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William Martin, champion of the six-day bicycle rider of the world, 1891. | Library of Congress willoughby-atd-082022 The Aspen Times noted in 1884, “The bicycle rider is said to be like a South American state, because he is always on the brink of a revolution.”

Acceptance was slow, and by the 1880s they had been around for decades, but you can see why just looking at the photo of one. Before gears were added they were direct drive and to have any speed the wheel had to be large making bicycles tall and riders far above the ground. They were hard to mount, although a horse was just as high. They flipped over easily, both forward and backward. Rocky roads added more complications.

Bicycle rider accidents made the papers almost weekly. At the same time there was fascination for the new transportation mode.

An 1883 account told the story of a Colorado miner whose mine, the Spondulix, was over 2,600 feet in elevation from the camp below. A fellow miner was injured and the rider volunteered, because “it would be swifter than on horse down the slope” to fetch the doctor. It was nighttime, but with good moonlight the rider flew down the rocky road and soon his brake broke, leaving him “nothing to do but stick to the saddle and take my chances.” Part way down he saw the lantern of a teamster heading his way. Fortunately, the teamster left just enough room on the mountainside of the road for him […]

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