When you think about American history, probably the first thought that comes to mind is not the bicycle. However, in Davis, CA, bicycles are VERY important, so this is the perfect place for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame. It is in downtown Davis, at 303 B Street. Our host, Bob Bowen, was the perfect Bicycles R Us spokesperson!
I remember my first bike, well actually it was my mom’s bike, but my dad painted it powder-blue so I would think it was new. It weighed more than I did, and the rust and oil from the chain gave my leg the tattoo-look before tattoos were popular.
No, this wasn’t the bike, but in the 1890s my great-grandfather rode one like this one when he was a kid. Big-wheelers were fairly dangerous, and no helmets were required. (or even imagined). The biggest problem was that there were no brakes!!! AND you were 8 feet off the ground, and when you did stop you took a “header” landing head-first in front of the bike.
Bicycle hero, Major Taylor from my home state of INDIANA, caught my attention. He was the highest paid athlete in the world for a time – a bicycle racer. Of course that was before pro-football. Even before pro-baseball. But in 1899 Major Taylor was the man.
On the second floor of the Bicycle Hall of Fame were more heroic stories, many of them female including Rebecca Twigg, whom I liked for her name. Born in Seattle, Washington – another of my favorite places, in 1963, she was an Olympic medalist, world and U.S championship race track cyclist.
Next, we went into the basement. Here the Hall of Fame houses the collection of bikes from across the ages. Transportation before bicycles was limited to walking and animal drawn vehicles. Finally, here was a vehicle that people could power themselves. The bicycle pictured below, called a running machine, started out without chains, brakes or other niceties that we consider essential today. Running machines, powered Fred Flintstone style, by running them, were used, mostly to go downhill, from 1817 up to the start of the Civil War.
Thank goodness women got involved in bicycling. Before women started riding bicycles roads were dirt, or at best, cobblestones. After women took the wheels, it wasn’t long until paved roads started appearing. No wonder they called the first bicycles “bone shakers”. Of course, the metal or wooden tires might have had something to do with that as well.
This is one of my favorite pictures. At some point bicycling became a family event. This bicycle seats 6. I remember riding a bicycle for two, and when the person in front came to a large fallen tree in the path, she wanted to go over it. I didn’t think that was such a good idea, but she was persistent. OK, stubborn. I think I tend to be somewhat passive aggressive. So when she continued to power forward, I bailed. I don’t think I made a very good back seat driver, so I hate to think of being in the back seat of this machine. …Yes, she crashed, and I felt badly, but still convinced that I did the right thing, and she should have stopped.
All in all we had a great time on Bob Bowen’s Bicycle Tour. I love alliteration. I looked for a “B” word to substitute for the word tour, and after a few thesaurian clicks on synonyms I found the word “bender” meaning “a period of time escaping life’s harsh realities”. Unfortunately it means a few other things as well, so we’ll stay with tour.
Some of us had more fun than others.
Some of us crashed.
Some of us took the sport very seriously! Win at all costs!
We all had a great time, and recommend this as a fun place to visit. Thanks again to our hosts.