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Coast to coast primarily gravel tour

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Coast to coast primarily gravel tour

Old 10-18-20, 12:01 PM
  #1  
fishboat
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Coast to coast primarily gravel tour

Just read a book, "The Wonderful Ride". A ride journal by George Loher.

..a credit card Oakland to NYC tour(without the benefit of credit cards, or electricity for that matter), on a single speed direct-drive (68 gear inch) bike, no brakes, with about 30 pounds of gear mounted much like bikepackers use today, on newly created Dunlap pneumatic tires, with wooden rims, 4354 miles in 63 riding days(avg 69 miles/day) on gravel, dirt, and sand roads, or no roads at all.. riding RR ballast and RR ties with a minor amount of cobbled or tarmac surfaces, with some walking when parts broke or up severe hills, in the year 1895. The bike used (not the actual one) is below.




Sort of makes one humble given the equipment, roads, and conveniences we have today. After reading this book I have to smile at stories of the $4k bikes we have today and folks "shredding" well established trails and fire-roads...for a day. With the bike above it was common to tie up and drag brush behind you to moderate your speed on long or steep downhill runs.

The Stearns Yellow Fellow bike above sold for $100 in the mid 1890's. It was said to be the Bentley of bikes at the time. About 30 years after his ride, one could buy a new car for $260.

The Yellow Fellow Model A is surprisingly lightweight..hard to imagine actually. 22.5 pounds with tires. Specs (image for the book) are below



The route:



Apparently, coast to coast rides by "Wheelmen" was somewhat common in the 1890s, although more direct routes were taken. George preferred the northern route to avoid riding in the desert heat. He started his tour in early August.

The book, published by George's granddaughter in 1978, is this(very entertaining , easy read):

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Old 10-18-20, 12:11 PM
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Stearns also made a tandem that steered from the rear position. The front top tube was removable to accommodate the ladies. Rear steering "relieved the ladies from having to worry about such things as avoiding other riders or obstacles".

Photo taken from:
https://onlinebicyclemuseum.co.uk/18...rtible-tandem/


​​​​​​​
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Old 10-20-20, 06:44 PM
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Great post! Factoring in inflation, the top-of-the-line $100 Yellow Fellow = a $3,000 bike in 1890s terms, though you get more for your money for $3K today.

Here's the amazing thing to me, how little bicycles have changed in 125 years. Retrospec or SE could more or less copy this 1890s bike and upgrade it with a good wheelset and a front brake, and sell it for $400 and it would be really cool.
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Old 10-20-20, 08:28 PM
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Rivendell still sells these bikes.
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Old 10-21-20, 08:47 AM
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..a credit card Oakland to NYC tour(without the benefit of credit cards, or electricity for that matter),

loved that line!
tough guy, and quite a story.
thanks for sharing
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Old 10-21-20, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Rivendell still sells these bikes.
But they use better paint now days.
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Old 10-22-20, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by RandomlyWest View Post
Great post! Factoring in inflation, the top-of-the-line $100 Yellow Fellow = a $3,000 bike in 1890s terms, though you get more for your money for $3K today.

Here's the amazing thing to me, how little bicycles have changed in 125 years.
IKR. I've always known how similar early bikes were, but the book really shined a new light on it. Pneumatic tires were new at that time and a big deal (developed by John Dunlop, veterinary surgeon who ran a veterinary clinic and experimented making pneumatic tires for his child's tricycle).

The biggest surprise is the weight of the bike, rather stunning to me, and the distances he rode/day(69 miles/day avg..very respectable even today). I wouldn't have imagined it possible given the roads(or lack of), trails, cowpaths, 8 inch deep dust "good roads", RR tracks... he rode on. He basically rode from early morning (5-7am) to sundown , and beyond if need be, with no lights to see the road he wasn't riding on.

Other than all that..his journey read similar to a any tour we'd do today with daily destinations and places to "apply for dinner". On a personal note, he rode through many places that are very familiar to me today with visiting relatives, or locations I've lived..Red Wing, Lake City, Minnesota City, Winona, La Crosse...he traveled the then sandy river roads on the west side of the Mississippi..now hwy 61(and as beautiful then as it is today). Then on to Madison, Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha...

Cyclists (Wheelmen who ride "wheels" rather than bicycles) were not liked by many folks back then. They scared horses and threatened the horse trade. Restaurants and theater owners didn't like them as they lost business to people enjoying bikes rather than their establishments..
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Old 10-23-20, 06:44 AM
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Great post. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 11-12-20, 09:22 PM
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After reading this post the other day I ordered this book. Came today and already got through half of it. Great read. He's not the best writer but captures everything well. It's a fascinating snapshot of the time, places and culture. Thanks for posting.
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Old 11-13-20, 07:29 AM
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Yah..it's an easy/fast read. On one hand it reads like any touring journal written today as people and experiences 100 years ago are not so different than they are today. On the other it's hard to fathom he could even do it, given the roads & infrastructure(and bike technology), or mostly lack of, he faced. All that, and cranking an avg 69 miles a day.

Someone once said, "It's hard to appreciate history until you've had some". We haven't come so far, nor accomplished so much as most think.

Last edited by fishboat; 11-26-20 at 06:43 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-25-20, 10:47 PM
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That was back when only real men rode bicycles.

Today, most “real men” wouldn’t be caught on a bike, out of fear of being called gay.
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Old 11-26-20, 03:34 AM
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Nah, the real men would only be caught on a fatbike.
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Old 11-26-20, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by urban_cyclist View Post
Today, most “real men” wouldn’t be caught on a bike, out of fear of being called gay.
not in my country and region where cycling culture is rather strong and has been for decades. Not as long as in France or Italy were the real men wear yellow and yes, gasp, pink jerseys.
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Old 11-26-20, 06:03 PM
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100+ years ago life was much harder, and people were tougher, IMO. I’ve wanted to do a cross country tour for sometime, but no way would I do it on a SS/FG...and brakeless!!
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Old 12-02-20, 07:31 AM
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Impossible! Did they even have Lycra in 1895?
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Old 12-02-20, 07:36 AM
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Originally Posted by urban_cyclist View Post
That was back when only real men rode bicycles.

Today, most “real men” wouldn’t be caught on a bike, out of fear of being called gay.
Sure, I get the comments all the time. “hey get out of the way gay!” “ you belong on the sidewalk gay!” “Can’t afford a car? Gay” ... but I just press on and continue riding on the hundreds of miles of recently installed bike lanes exclusively built for those of us that are unafraid to be called Gay!

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