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How popular was cycle touring in the US in the 1920s and 1930s?

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How popular was cycle touring in the US in the 1920s and 1930s?

Old 06-22-13, 10:55 AM
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How popular was cycle touring in the US in the 1920s and 1930s?

I ask because I'm writing something (fiction), set in the US, which references a book written as an instructional guide to cycle touring in the 1920s. I know it was very popular in Europe, but get the feeling it was not so in the States. About the only thing I've found on Google is this:

Later on, in the 1970s, I met more of these older cyclists who talked of the League of American Wheelmen in that time. The LAW had split into motoring and cycling factions in the teens of the century, and by 1920 the cycling faction was dead, remaining in the file cabinets of the last official. So it remained through the 1920s, unlike in Britain, where that decade saw the rebirth of the Cyclists' Touring Club, because of two-day weekends and sufficient money for good bicycles but not for cars. The Great Depression saw a rebirth of cycling and the LAW, because cheap recreation became respectable. Cyclists were still rare; chances were that if you met another cyclist while touring, you either knew him or knew of him.

Which comes from this website:


Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 06-22-13, 11:49 AM
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This corroborates it.
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Old 06-22-13, 12:08 PM
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Here's an interesting story from a few years later, but on the same vein...
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Old 06-22-13, 03:50 PM
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Try to get your hands on a copy of Robert A. Smith's A Social History of the Bicycle, which traces the rise and fall of bicycling's popularity from the late 1800's to the 1920's, when the craze (which peaked around 1899) fell by the wayside to the automobile. A quote from one of the final pages:

"...the bicycle was rapidly reduced to the level of a child's toy as Americans rushed headlong into their love affair with the automobile...During the Roaring twenties, the bicycle made little noise. There was a modest upswing in production in the middle of the period, but it amounted to less than a third of the output of 1899."
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Old 06-23-13, 06:44 AM
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I read a fascinating book titled "Bicycle Built for Two" by Jim & Elizabeth Young, about their trip across the USA on a tandem in 1938. The book was published in 1940. The book has a handful of photos. They biked from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic coast, then back to the Pacific. They sometimes stayed in places called "auto camps", which sounded like a precursor to modern motels.

Jim had a keen interest in the US Civil War and they visited battlefields and attended a Gettysburg reunion at a time when some Civil War veterans were still alive.

Concerning cycling, they wrote about meeting and riding with members of the St. Louis Cycling Club, which they wrote was founded in 1887 and was the "oldest uninterruptedly-active cycle club in the country".

Here's an Amazon link:

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Old 06-23-13, 07:32 AM
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IIRC, the 1922 LAW convention/rally was attended by 16 people and the post-rally tour was done by automobile.

Another take on what killed cycling in the US.

By the late 1930s cycling had picked up in the USA. More modern bike designs with better tires became widely available, sales rose above those of the 1890s bike boom for the first time, the railroads organized bicycle specials where they would haul folks and their bikes out for a day in the country, and the first few segregated cycle tracks were built. This was nipped in the bud by the world war, and afterwards American cycling by and large returned to the realm of childhood activities for the next two decades.

You can get a sense of this by looking through the Life photography archive and the material available to post on Rides a Bike.
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