Winner of the 2004 Award for Excellence in the History of Science sponsored by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers
Winner of the 2005 Sally Hacker Prize sponsored by the Society for the History of Technology
Synopses & Reviews
This lively and lavishly illustrated book tells the extraordinary history of the bicycle, an invention that precipitated nothing short of a social revolution. Recounting a story replete with disputed patents, brilliant inventions, and missed opportunities, David Herlihy shows us why the bicycle captured the publics imagination and the myriad ways it has reshaped our world.
A comprehensive genealogy of the two-wheeled savior of mass transit. . . . Herlihy takes what could have been just another history book and makes it a story worth telling your friends about.”Publishers Weekly
"Fun and informative."Baltimore Sun
Immensely absorbing.”Edward Koren, New York Times Book Review
"Lovingly written and beautifully illustrated."David Schoonmaker, American Scientist
A delight.”Robert Messenger, Wall Street Journal
Herlihy has traced the bicycles family tree with a thoroughness reminiscent of Laura Hillenbrand and her thoroughbred, Seabiscuit. . . . Bicycle is a good read for all and a must for the cyclists home library.”Joe Simnacher, Dallas Morning News
"[One of] the best cycling-related books I've seen in the past decade."Joe Lindsey, Mountain Bike
"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." Wall Street Journal
"Fun and informative." Baltimore Sun
"A work of real scholarly integrity, towering above most alternatives of the genre....Herlihy's style and presentation make sagas of legal struggles and technical design fascinating to any reader. Peppered throughout with lovely illustrations and boasting an impressive index, Bicycle should serve as the standard in years to come." The Ride Magazine
"Abundant primary and secondary materials...lavish use of illustrations. The visuals are reason enough to spend hours with this book....The book more than lives up to its billing as 'definitive.'" Sunday Oregonian
"A copiously illustrated history of one of the most efficient and utilitarian machines of all time perfect for any serious cyclist." Seattle Times
In the twenty-first century we have all experienced new technologies that promise to change our lives. 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 this, the definitive history of the bicycle, 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
A Conversation With David Herlihy
Q: 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 waysand#151;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: Youand#8217;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 itselfand#151;even in its crudest forms in the nineteenth century, the bicycle stirred passion and fired the imagination. It represented the spirit of the ageand#151;a determination to use technology to improve the human condition.