Friday, September 17, 2010

BIKE BOOKS: Around The World On A Bicycle

I heard a while ago that Google was scanning books and making them available online, but I never expected to be able to read Around The World On A Bicycle by Thomas Stevens on a computer. Stevens was the first cyclist to bike around the world, leaving the west coast in 1884 and returning to America 13,000 miles and two years later.

He did the entire trip on a highwheel bicycle, also known as an ordinary or penny farthing. It was quite an accomplishment when you consider that approximately 1,000 people died from falls off these bicycles in the 10 years they ruled the roads. It's cool also to think that highwheels were the first tall bicycles and among the first fixies too, so Stevens was way ahead of his time.

Stevens financed his adventure by filing reports from the road that were published by Harper's and Outing magazines. Perhaps this explains how his story became a 2-volume, roughly 1,000-page epic. The actual books are highly collectible and can fetch as much as $500 per volume. You can also find them in some libraries, though they typically won't let you bring them home to read.

It's nice that we can all now read it and enjoy the great illustrations whenever and however we want. To get you started I've embedded Volume 1 - From San Francisco to Teheran. Here's the link to the book on Google in case the embed doesn't offer full functionality. Incidentally, the furthest I've ridden in a day on my 1886 Victor Light Roadster highwheel is 100 miles in Scotland in 1990.