Bike Shorts: The New Comfort
"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it-if you live." Mark Twain
Bicycling has had many champions in its long history, but few have been as hard working as Thomas Stevens. In 1884 he acquired a Pope "Columbia Standard" and got the fascinating idea to circle the earth on it. Looking at this "penny-farthing" type vehicle in which the front wheel had a diameter of roughly five feet and the rear wheel one, an adventure spanning the globe is not the first thing modern cyclists might decide on, but nevertheless, off went Stevens.
He started his journey in Oakland, California in the spring of 1884 carrying his indispensable possessions-socks, a change of clothes, a tent/rain slicker, along with a Smith and Wesson-in a handlebar bag. In 103 days (only eighty-three and a half were spent actually biking) he had reached Boston, having traveled 3,700 miles over rough paths. The next spring, he continued his journey after reaching England on a steamer. He journeyed across Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, continuing east. By the end , he had wound up in Iran and was ready to rest for the winter.
The spring of 1886 began with challenges. He was barred entry into Siberia and booted from Afghanistan, but after that things smoothed out for Stevens. Between steamers and his bicycle, he biked across India, China, and Japan, completing his long journey at Yokohama on December 17, 1886. He estimated that he had biked 13,5000. His marvelous travels are documented in his 1,000 page two-volume book called Around the World on a Bicycle.
Not a lot of people would be willing to risk such a journey in this day and age, but if they did, their handlebar bag would probably be a lot lighter! What are indispensable pieces of clothing to today's cyclists were not even dreamed of by the people of his century, but how much more fun they make riding. Modern cycling wear, such as bicycle shorts and shirts, are lightweight. Just think how much more comfortable Mr. Stevens would have been on his adventure if he had had the advantages of lycra!
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