One Hundred Miles on a Bicycle in 1869

In these days of velocipede wonders the following excursion may be considered the greatest feat yet accomplished.

On Thursday morning last Mr. G. R. Noble, of Thirlby House, Woodford-bridge, mounted on one of Charles P. Button’s Improved bicycles, and, accompanied by Mr. H. E. Kaye, also of Woodford, started from the latter place at half-past three o’clock for Colchester (a distance of about 49 miles), where they arrived about two o’clock, and in order to make up the 100 miles, they rode in and around the town about half hour.

After having sufficiently rested, the velocipedists started on the return journey, and reached home about one in the morning, having been absent just 22 hours.

Seven hours were occupied in taking meals and rest, so that 15 hours were actually spent in the saddle, giving an average of about seven miles hour for the whole journey.

  ~ The Times, June 30th 1869


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Charles Pomeroy Button, of 142 & 143 Cheapside, London, was famous for making hunting rifles before he moved into production of the “Improved Boneshaker”, and a popular tricycle called the “Rantoone”, in which both arms and legs were made use of.

The velocipede was made from a heavy metal bar with a fork at its lower end to hold the rear wooden spoke wheel. A vertical iron fork, topped by a horizontal handlebar holds the larger front wheel, with its 35 cm wide iron tire, and weighted bronze pedals attached to the crank.

On the front, a metal bar has two footrests attached so that the cyclist can put their feet up whilst freewheeling.

Braking would have been fun. When the handlebars were twisted, a cord attached to the rear wheel, would apply pressure to the brake shoe.

The padded, pigskin-covered metal saddle, mounted on a flat steel spring, could be adjusted forward or backward to suit the height of the rider, however it would have been unlikely to provide much comfort on the 100 mile trip.


🚴‍♂️ 118 miles (189 km)

~ Woodford to Colchester and back ~

(Recommended as 2 day cycle with overnight stay in Colchester).

The original 100 mile route would have likely followed what is now the very busy A12 dual carriageway. To take into account the beauty of the area, we have created a more interesting but longer circular route, ideal for cycling, which visits most of the main of tourist attractions on the route, including Mr. G. R. Noble’s house. [Click Here for Route & send to GPS]



 0km – Woodford – St. Mary’s Church


 3 miles – Epping Forest


 17 miles – Epping Ongar Railway


 30 miles – Chelmsford


 50 miles – Coggeshall (Photo: Wikipedia)


 58 miles – Colchester

🔈 Listen: “Mark Steel’s in Town – Colchester”

🛎️ Historic Hotels in Colchester:


 66 miles – Copford Church


 80 miles – Maldon


 82 miles – Beeleigh Abbey


 95 miles – Hylands Park

🛎️ Historic Hotels in Woodford:

Cycling with the Pennells

American writer and cycle “touring wheel-woman” Elizabeth Robins Pennell lived in London during the late 19th Century and, with her husband, was a pioneer in the art of writing bicycle travel books.

Born into a prosperous banking family, her grandfather was a trustee of the First Pennsylvania Bank and president of the Philadelphia Bank whilst her father worked as a broker on the Philadelphia Stock Exchange but lost much of the family’s wealth following the American Civil War (1861-85).

Elizabeth Robins met her husband Joseph Pennell, an illustrator and captain of the Germantown Bicycle Club, in 1881 whilst working together on an article about Philadelphia for “The Century Magazine”. They would go on to publish 230 books together.

Following their marriage in 1884, the Pennells moved to London – Elizabeth, aged 29, Joseph, 27 – from where they would write and illustrate a large number of books about their summer travels throughout Europe by tricycle, bicycle, and on foot.

I remember my first experience in 1884, when I practised on a Coventry “Rotary” in the country round Philadelphia, and felt keenly that a woman on a cycle was still a novelty in the United States. I came to England that same summer, but the women riders whom I met on my runs through London and the Southern Counties, I could count on the fingers of one hand.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Ladies In The Field” (1894)

During their thirty years in London they became good friends with Robert Louis Stevenson, William Morris, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, and Andrew Lang, amongst many other writers.

The first journey “ridden, written, and illustrated” by the couple was “A Canterbury Pilgrimage”, an 1885 cycling homage to Chaucer’s 14th Century collection, The Canterbury Tales.



“A Canterbury Pilgrimage” (1885)


This beautifully illustrated touring narrative of their three day 70 mile pilgrimage, from Russell Square in London to Canterbury Cathedral – made on a Coventry Rotaryhigh-wheel tandem tricycle – is one of the first cycling books ever written and displays an adorable observational humour comparable to Mark Twain.

The door was suddenly burst open, and a short man with a bald head, who wore the Cyclists’ Touring Club uniform, rushed in.

“Are you the lady and gentleman that came on a tandem?” he asked, before he was quite in the room.

We said we were.

I don’t like tandems, do you?” he continued, fiercely, as if he was daring us to differ him. He seemed to think we had come there that he might tell us his grievances; which he did, with much elaboration, while we ate our lunch.

He explained the reasons for his dislike. The principal was, that the people one met on the roads always insulted riders on a tandem. Why, he had been off his machine a dozen times that morning, fighting men who had been chaffing him!

Then, the next objection was, that he had to sit behind his wife – she had to steer, and he would not be surprised if he were seriously injured, or killed, before he got back to London.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “A Canterbury Pilgrimage” (1885)

The couple’s next cycling adventure, published two years later, in 1887, indicated their Canterbury ride had merely been the start of a much longer trip.



“An Italian Pilgrimage” (1887)


Rather confusingly – at least for European readers more knowledgeable with the local geography – “An Italian Pilgrimage” sees their ride continue not from Canterbury, but in Florence – some 950 miles away – after a “railway journey straight through from London”, which “had been unusually tiresome because of our tricycle.”

We hope readers who followed us to London from Canterbury may bear with us to the end of the Pilgrimage to Rome, of which our first journey was but the beginning.

We warn them that the second stage, from Canterbury to Florence, has been ridden and written, but not yet wrought into work.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “An Italian Pilgrimage” (1887)

A fascinating diary of a tandem tricycle ride through Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, the content of “An Italian Pilgrimage” was compiled from papers, “originally published in the Century, the Portfolio, and Outing,” allowing for its out of synch release.

By now, the couple had switched to a Humber Tandem Tricycle, built by the Nottingham blacksmith turned velocipede manufacturer, whose machines were of such high quality he was regarded as the aristocrat among bicycles.

There was a pause whilst the young Italian sipped his coffee. But presently he turned to us and said in good English, but with a marked accent:

“I beg pardon, sare, but was it not you who came to Montepulciano on a tricycle?”

“Yes,” Joseph said, rather curtly.

“Ah, I thought so!” the Italian continued, well satisfied with the answer. “I have seen it – a Humber. It is a beautiful machine. I myself do ride a bicycle, the Speecial Cloob. You know it? I do belong to the Cyclists’ Touring Cloob, and to the Speedvell Cloob. All the champions belong to that Cloob. I did propose someone for director at the last meeting; you will see my name on that account in the papers. Here is my card, but in the country around Montepulciano all call me Sandro or Sandrino. I have ridden from Florence to Montepulciano in one day. I have what you call the wheel-fever,” and he smiled apologetically and stopped, but only to take breath.

We were fellow-cyclers and that was enough. We were friends at once, though Joseph was too ill to be enthusiastic, and though our record would have disgusted the Speedvell Cloob.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “An Italian Pilgrimage” (1887)


Joseph Pennell, “An Italian Pilgrimage” (1887)

As explained in the introduction of “Our Sentimental Journey”, published a year later in 1888, “the third part of the journey, was ‘ridden, written, and wrought into a work’ before the second part was begun.”

Like their original “A Canterbury Pilgrimage”, it was another literary pilgrimage; this time on the trail of Laurence Sterne’s 1765 travel novel “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy“, an epilogue to The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which was published barely days before the Irish author’s death.



“Our Sentimental Journey” (1888)


“Our Sentimental Journey”, sees the couple ride through France following Sterne’s route on their trusty tandem tricycle, from Calais to Rives, accompanied by their Baedeker guide.



Jospeh Pennell, “Our Sentimental Journey” (1888)


Our great ambition when we first set out on our tricycle, three years ago, was to ride from London to Rome. We did not then know exactly why we wanted to do this, nor do we now.

In our simplicity we thought by publishing the story of our journey, we could show the world at large that the oft-regretted delights of travelling in days of coach and post-chaise, destroyed on the coming of the railroad, were once more to be had by means of tricycle or bicycle.

~Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Our Sentimental Journey” (1888)

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout and is packed with humorous anecdotes, observations and conversations. It is simply one of the greatest cycling books ever written.



Joseph Pennell, “Our Sentimental Journey” (1888)


During that period it was very rare to see women cyclists on the Continent and Elizabeth Pennell received an often hostile reception on the road, as highlighted in her “Cycling” contribution to the 1894 female sports compendium “Ladies In The Field – Sketches of Sport”, edited by The Lady Greville.

I have never made such a sensation in my life, and, for my own comfort, I hope I may never make such another: I ride to amuse myself, not the public.

It was clear that Italian women were more behindhand than the English or Americans.

There are, nowadays, more women riders in France, probably, than in any country, but in the summer of 1885, on the road from Calais to Switzerland, by Sterne’s route, I was scarce accepted as an everyday occurrence.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Ladies In The Field” (1894)



“Our Journey to the Hebrides” (1889)


In 1889 the couple published “Our Journey to the Hebrides”, in which they chose to ditch their trusty tricycle, instead travelling on foot.

Originally written for the “Harper’s Monthly Magazine”, it was “severely criticised for not giving second-hand descriptions, which are the stock in trade of Scotch guide-books, whether romantic or real.”

The couple were outraged by this response:

To go to a country and tell what really happened to you—to dare to say, for the information of future cyclers or travellers, that one small piece of road is bad, that on one day out of ten or fifteen it rained, that at one small hotel you were uncomfortable or turned away, is enough to make the critic declare that you have found everything in that country to be awry.

This was our fate when we attempted to describe the most enjoyable trip we ever made—our ride across France.

We have no hesitation in saying that our trip to Scotland was the most miserable.

We undertook to walk, owing to the misrepresentations of people who we do not believe ever in their lives walked half as far as we did a year ago.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Our Journey to the Hebrides” (1889)



Joseph Pennell, “Our Journey to the Hebrides” (1889)


The Pennell’s love of cycling was apparent throughout the book, and it was obvious they were missing their three wheeled friend; the jealousy they felt towards “peddlers whom we had passed—the only people, besides ourselves, we saw tramping in Scotland—overtook and passed us” even set them fruitlessly looking for a bike shop in Inverness.

Used as we both were to cycling, the slowness and monotony of our pace was intolerable. We longed for a machine that would carry us and our knapsacks with ease over the hard, dustless road. For one mile we tried to keep each other in countenance. Joseph was the first to rebel openly. The Highlands were a fraud, he declared; the knapsack was an infernal nuisance and he was a fool to carry it. About three miles from Tarbet he sat down and refused to go any farther.

Just then, by chance, there came a drag full of young girls, and when they saw us they laughed, and passed by on the other side. And likewise a dog-cart, and the man driving, when he first saw us, waved his hand, taking us to be friends; but when he was at the place and looked at us, he also passed by on the other side. But two tricyclers, as they journeyed, came where we were; and when they saw us they had compassion on us, and came to us, and gathered up our knapsacks and set them on their machines and brought them to the inn and took care of them. And yet there are many who think cyclers nothing but cads on casters.

To tell the truth, had these two men been modern Rob Roys, we would have yielded up our knapsacks as cheerfully; nor would we have sorrowed never to see them again.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Our Journey to the Hebrides” (1889)

In fact, most of Elizabeth Pennell’s experiences in Scotland are written from the point of view of a cyclist – “an objection sometimes made to cycling is that it is half walking; but in the Highlands you would walk less if you rode a cycle than if you travelled by coach” – and the book sits comfortably amongst their tricycle adventures.

In the first place, we had learned that for us walking on a tour of this kind, or indeed of any kind, is a mistake. Had we never cycled, perhaps we might not have felt this so keenly.

~ Elizabeth Robins Pennell, “Our Journey to the Hebrides” (1889)

Back on the bicycle, more cycling publications followed:

  • “From Coventry to Chester by Bicycle” (1884)
  • “Around London by Bicycle” (1897)
  • “Over The Alps on a Bicycle” (1897)

Abhorred by the destruction of the European cities and way of life they had grown to love, the Pennell’s returned to Philadelphia shortly after war broke out in 1914, before settling in New York in 1921.

After contracting influenza, Joseph Pennell died of pneumonia, on 23rd April 1926, aged 69. Elizabeth would die ten years later, on Valentine’s Day, 14th February 1936, a week before her 82nd birthday.

In 1886, now each on safety bicycles, they journeyed to Eastern Europe.[21] This was at a key time in the history of the bicycle, and, of course, in the history of women’s rights as well, and they were both intertwined, in the figure of the New Woman. Suffragists and social activists such as Susan B. Anthony and Frances Willard recognised the transformative power of the bicycle. By the time the Pennells had gone Over the Alps on a Bicycle (1898), Annie Londonderry had already become the first woman to bicycle around the world. There was a ready audience for Robins Pennell’s books, and the last-mentioned was chosen as a book of the month .

Spices We Love

Spices are something really special for me, the smell and taste reminds me of special times. Some travels, certain events or how someone teached me a recipe. I especially love Indian spices or spices from South East Asia. In sit augue, pid porta scelerisque lundium, egestas in! Montes odio mid turpis egestas penatibus, porttitor vut mattis elementum eros velit augue cursus? Rhoncus scelerisque urna integer, in sociis? Parturient dolor, nec! Ut, a et, eu, magna? Quis cursus, nisi! Rhoncus, platea, in rhoncus, est integer odio. Pid, pid ut proin, dictumst augue etiam porttitor placerat elementum! Nascetur est magnis, integer odio lacus! Elit enim sit aenean, dis porta eros parturient, scelerisque sed risus, facilisis ac rhoncus quis integer lacus ac ac penatibus pulvinar amet dolor.

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Behind the Scenes @ Elmastudio

As you may have notices already, it’s really important to us to create kind of personal live demos for our WordPress themes. And we always have such a fun time getting creative and think of some new photo ideas and stories for our live demo blog posts. I would love to have my own personal blog as well and write about food, travels and personal things. Hopefully I can make this dream come true in the next couple of month, but I want to make sure that I will have the time to maintain the blog and write new content often.

So for now we enjoy to “get wild” in our live demos and write, take pictures and do some art or graphic work to present our new themes to you 🙂

Welcome to the Zuki Magazine Theme

Zuki is a modern, flexible WordPress Magazine theme by Elmastudio. You can feature your posts on the custom front page in multiple widget areas and with a wide range of Recent Post widgets that can be filtered by categories. Next to the custom front page Zuki also comes with a beautiful default blog layout with a right-aligned sidebar. Zuki is a truly flexible, easy-to-use theme that is fun to use for professional and hobby bloggers alike.

Take time and drink a beautiful, delicious cup of Matcha tea :)
Take time and drink a beautiful, delicious cup of Matcha tea 🙂

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Quote & Notebook

I recently bought a new note book with a quote I really love. Note books are so great and I always carry them with me to write down a note or sketch some idea I have in mind.

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Getting Ready for a Creative Day

What should I pack for a creative day outside, maybe writing and sketching some ideas and getting away from the computer for a while. Well, I would take my camera, a book by Seth Godin, my little notebook and a pencil. And to stay comfortable while maybe sitting in a park, I would also need my KeepCup for a Coffee to Go and my favorite jeans and sneakers.

Croissant liquorice halvah donut donut donut carrot cake sweet caramels. Pastry cotton candy pudding jelly beans wafer gummi bears sweet Apple pie wafer gummi bears topping pudding. Gummi bears pudding sesame snaps cheesecake bear claw tart lemon drops cake ice cream. Fruitcake chocolate bar pastry lemon drops. Cake pie soufflé ice cream liquorice sweet roll Pastry toffee sugar plum tootsie roll liquorice jelly. Chocolate sugar plum oat cake. Chocolate bar pie ice cream. Cheesecake caramels fruitcake fruitcake pastry tootsie roll dessert donut. Lollipop liquorice cotton candy toffee chocolate bar macaroon danish cotton candy pie. Ice cream lollipop jelly-o sugar plum brownie oat cake oat cake carrot cake sweet. Macaroon fruitcake brownie tootsie roll candy canes tiramisu croissant cheesecake chupa chups.

Shanghai: Life in the Big City

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High above the city

Bike Riding in Shanghai

Walking in the City

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Fresh Lavender – Like the Smell of Summer

I have to admit that, if I thought of lavender for a long time, I could only think of an old closet, since lavender is ofter used against clothes moths. But since we live right next to a huge field of fresh lavender it always reminds me of summer now and I love the smell and the colors of course. So I recently picked up a whole bunch of fresh lavender and I really loved the smell inside the house, too. It actually smells very warm and dry and instantly reminds me of the sun and of summer.

So I definitely want to give lavender another try and see it as a lovely summer flower and not only as a closet smell against moths 🙂

My New Owl Stamps

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