Bicycle: The History by David V. Herlihy

Bicycle: The History

byDavid V. Herlihy

Paperback | August 16, 2006

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During the nineteenth century, the bicycle evoked an exciting new world in which even a poor person could travel afar and at will. But was the “mechanical horse” truly destined to usher in a new era of road travel or would it remain merely a plaything for dandies and schoolboys? In Bicycle: The History (named by Outside magazine as the #1 book on bicycles), David Herlihy recounts the saga of this far-reaching invention and the passions it aroused. The pioneer racer James Moore insisted the bicycle would become “as common as umbrellas.” Mark Twain was more skeptical, enjoining his readers to “get a bicycle. You will not regret it—if you live.”

Because we live in an age of cross-country bicycle racing and high-tech mountain bikes, we may overlook the decades of development and ingenuity that transformed the basic concept of human-powered transportation into a marvel of engineering. This lively and engrossing history retraces the extraordinary story of the bicycle—a history of disputed patents, brilliant inventions, and missed opportunities. Herlihy shows us why the bicycle captured the public’s imagination and the myriad ways in which it reshaped our world.

About The Author

David V. Herlihy is a historian and freelance writer. He has been interested in bicycle technology since his days as a member of the Harvard Cycling Club, and for the past decade he has researched extensively the invention and early development of the bicycle. His work has been featured on National Public Radio and Voice of America and...

Details & Specs

Title:Bicycle: The HistoryFormat:PaperbackDimensions:480 pages, 10 × 7 × 0.9 inPublished:August 16, 2006Publisher:Yale University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0300120478

ISBN - 13:9780300120479

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From the Author

A Conversation With David HerlihyQ: What was the impact of the invention of the bicycle?A: The bicycle had a substantial technological impact. It is not an exaggeration to say that the bicycle business of the 1890s spawned the automotive industry. During the peak year of production in 1896 some three hundred firms in the United States alone produced nearly two million bicycles, and many of these companies went on to make automobiles using the same highly advanced production systems. Many automotive pioneers, including Henry Ford, started out working with bicycles. And bicycle technology also helped produce the first airplanes. The Wright brothers were bicycle mechanics; they used bicycles for wind tunnel experiments and built the Wright Flyer in their workshop.Q: What about the social impact of the bicycle?A: The bicycle changed social life in all sorts of ways—for women in particular it provided a justification to dress more sensibly and a means to travel without supervision. And in the early twentieth century, when cars were still prohibitively expensive, millions of working-class people relied on the bicycle for everyday transportation. This is still the case in the developing world. And of course the bicycle has long provided healthy and fun exercise to people of all ages and backgrounds.Q: You’ve spent most of your life riding and writing about bicycles. What is it about the bicycle that has held your fascination for so long?A: My passion for bicycles began when I was a teenager in the 1970s, when America discovered lightweight European ten-speeds. For several years I lived in Italy, where I experienced the excitement of owning and riding a high-quality racing bike. The thrill of moving and balancing on two wheels is nearly as old as the bicycle itself—even in its crudest forms in the nineteenth century, the bicycle stirred passion and fired the imagination. It represented the spirit of the age—a determination to use technology to improve the human condition.

Editorial Reviews

"Profusely and charmingly illustrated."—Richard Eder, Boston Sunday Globe "[A] wonderful new book. . . . Herlihy combines the thoroughness of a scholar with the dogged investigative skills of a newspaper reporter and presents his finding with a literary flair not normally found in authors who possess thoroughness or doggedness. The result is a fine read sure to be of great interest, if not to 87 million once-a-year riders, then certainly to the 8 million core cyclists."—Stephen Madden, New York Post "A fascinating historical account of the bicycle, from its conception in the 19th century to the present day, lavishly illustrated, too."—Sara Nelson, New York Post (Required Reading) "A prodigious researcher vividly recounts the development of a great machine that wasn’t fully practical till the 1870’s."—The New York Times Book Review "Immensely absorbing. . . . Herlihy’s prodigious research is always entertaining, as are the period illustrations that copiously grace the volume. . . . While reading Bicycle, I was all too often overcome with the desire to jump on my own machine. I would relish having David V. Herlihy as my cycling companion any day."—Edward Koren, New York Times Book Review "This is a book that ought to fascinate any reader who cares about well-researched, well-written, beautifully illustrated history. . . . Yet to call the book a traditional history is misleading. Herlihy uses brief boxed asides, artwork, photographs, cartoons, technical drawings and other tools to dazzle. . . . Bicycle .. . is compulsively readable."—Steve Weinberg, San Francisco Chronicle "Herlihy’s book gives a history of the bicycle from its painful beginnings right through to the amazingly technical machines available now."—Toby Clements, The Telegraph "A definitive look at the bicycle."—Craig Wilson, USA Today "Mr. Herlihy concentrates on [the bicycle’s] social history, especially its manufacturers and riders. Culling from the popular press, he builds a very readable account of the public perception of the bicycle as it moved from one stage to another. The book is also one of the best-illustrated histories I have ever seen. It is a delight to leaf through."—Robert Messenger, Wall Street Journal "The reader is taken on a joy ride of stories, fact and anecdotes. . . . Herlihy deserves praise for his exhaustive research. . . . I’m glad he invited us along for the ride."—Colman McCarthy, Washington Post & Chicago Sun Times "This extraordinarily researched work is not just for those interested in the history of the bicycle but for anyone who wants to follow the international history of an idea or invention. . . . Dozens of attractive images enrich the story and could be issued as a worthwhile book of their own. Highly recommended for all academic collections."—Library Journal "A comprehensive genealogy of the two-wheeled savior of mass transit. . . . The author’s vivid account of this story could not be more detailed if Herlihy himself had personally lived through every experience he recounts. . . . Herlihy takes what could have been just another history book and makes it a story worth telling your friends about."—Publishers Weekly "Herlihy’s book exhibits the rare combination of absolute scholarly rigor with an easily readable style, and it will appeal to anyone interested in the history of bicycling."—American Heritage of Invention & Technology "[A] lovingly written and beautifully illustrated volume. . . . There’s no need to be a cyclist to enjoy this ride."—David Schoonmaker, American Scientist "Herlihy’s weave of anecdotes and analysis adds up to a fascinating social history. . . . To Herlihy’s and our good fortune, the rise of the bicycle also coincided with the golden age of illustration. Herlihy and Yale University Press have taken full advantage of this fact. The author’s prose is brought to life by the extraordinary and plentiful period photographs and illustrations. Bicycle is a handsome and visually pleasing volume."—Alden Mudge, Bookpage.com "Bicycle is a fascinating book. David Herlihy is a true historian, and he has uncovered a stunning amount of new material about the history of the bicycle—at times it reads like a detective story."—David Gordon Wilson, professor, MIT and co-author, Bicycling Science, and Human-Powered Vehicles "If you could only own one book on bicycle history, Bicycle is it. David's account is not only thorough and accurate, but offers a great read to both the aficionado and those new to the bicycle world. A great addition to anyone's library."—Jill DiMauro, Owner Proteus Bicycles, "Bicycles through the Ages" hands on mobile bicycle exhibit "The bicycle's history is rife with confusion and myth, so it's wonderful to have David Herlihy's thoroughly researched and delightfully written account to set the record of this remarkable and important invention straight."—Jim Langley, Cycling Writer "David Herlihy is a widely recognized expert on the history of the bicycle, and this book offers the most comprehensive account to date of the bicycle and its development from a novelty for the elite to transportation for the masses. Frequently wry and always intelligent, Herlihy takes us on a marvelous tour of the bicycle's fascinating history."—Peter Joffre Nye, U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame and co-author of The Lance Armstrong Performance Program