Cycling Books from the 1870s


Pelotome’s guide to the earliest travel cycling books.

The 1870s.

~ Le Tour du Monde en Vélocipède – Grand Jacques (1870).

February 1869 – published in February 1870.

The Bicycle – Its Use and Action.

Famous ex-champion London gymnast Charles Spencer’s pioneering illustrated practical guide on how to ride “the latest and best form of Velocipede, ‘the bicycle’, includes “London to Brighton by ‘Velocipede’,” a four page account (originally published in The Times, on 19th February 1869) of his journey with Mr. John Mayall, “the son of the well-known photographer,” and Mr. Turner, “an expert Velocipedist from Paris.”

Spencer was already the celebrated author of “The Modern Gymnast” handbook and would later team up with Messr. Snoxell to import and improve the “best Paris model of the new two-wheel velocipede.”

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • Published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.

Autumn 1869 – published in July 1870.

Wheels and Woes, or Words of Warning to Would-be Velocipedists.

This delightful little book “which unites instruction and merriment” includes a chapter wonderfully detailing the author’s three day, 107 mile (171 km) “experimental very long journey” with his companion on their 36 inch wheelers – from Lewes to Salisbury, via Arundel and Southampton – made in the Autumn of 1869, following the “Velocipede agitation” of Britain’s first ever Velocipede Derby at the Crystal Palace in May 1869.

  • by a Light Dragoon (Charles Wyndham).
  • with illustrations by the author.
  • Published by Ward, Lock and Tyler, London.

November 1869 – Published 1872.

Théorie vélocipédique et pratique.

“ou Manière d’apprendre le vélocipède sans professeur” (“Velocipedic theory and practice, or way of learning the velocipede without a teacher”) was a helpful non-illustrated 26 lesson guide on how to ride by Rémy Lamon, a Lieutenant in the 12th battalion of Mobiles de la Seine, and member of the Compagnie Parisienne des Vélocipèdes.

12 months after being hit by shrapnel in his leg at the Battle of Le Bourget, during the siege of Paris in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War – adding to an injury he had suffered when taking a bullet in the left hand, at the Battle of Magenta during the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 – Lamon had finished 14th out of 323 riders in the first ever Paris-Rouen race of 1869, taking home the bronze medal for a wooden machine. Among other races, the book gives a full account of the race and also points out that he was the only competitor to actually make the return journey the following day.

  • by M. Rémy Lamon.
  • Published by the author, Paris.


Le Tour du Monde en Vélocipède.

“Around the World by Vélocipède” is the earliest known cycle touring book ever published. Released a year after his charming “Manuel du vélocipède”, this fictional account, written in French by Richard Lesclide – under the nom de plume, Le Grand Jacques – and also serialised in the author’s bi-weekly magazine, Le Vélocipède illustré, follows an eccentric American millionaire and a “freak show” giantess on their bespoke Vélocipède from Paris to Siberia, crossing Russia into Alaska and Canada, before making their way down through Panama to Cape Horn, sailing on to the Cape of Good Hope and then heading back to Paris through Africa.

  • by Le Grand Jacques (Richard Lesclide).
  • with illustrations by Felix Regamey.
  • published in French by Librairie de la Publication, Paris.

April 1872 – published in 1877.

Bonn to Metz per Bicycle – in Six Days – 1872.

A “most interesting book” of how two English men, 20 year old London-born Charles Frederick Casella and his friend, Fritz, travelled in April 1872, the 800 km from Bonn in Germany to Bingen am Rhein and onwards to Metz – which, following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, had only just become part of the German Empire a few months earlier (although now lies in France once more), – “on bone-shakers made by Snoxell”; one of which “rejoiced in rubber tyres, as at that time this great luxury was just coming into vogue.”

  • by Charles F. Casella.
  • printed by Spottiswoode & Co., London
  • (illustration of a Snoxell velocipede, left, not from book).

June 1873 – published in July 1876.

The Modern Bicycle.

This updated version of Charles Spencer’s pioneering book from 1869, “containing instructions for beginners; choice of a machine; hints on training; road book for England, Wales, &c, &c,” was part of “Warne’s Useful Books, for the Country or the Fireside” series. Containing a comprehensive list of 245 routes with their mileage, under the section “The Bicycle Road Guide”, it also features an 18 page chapter providing “the detailed account of the trip from London to John o’ Groats, the longest on record which has ever been undertaken,” in June 1873, by four members of the Middlesex Bicycle Club over fourteen days, and an estimated 800 miles (“a very moderate estimate when the winding of the roads is taken into consideration, to say nothing of the continual ascents”).

  • by Charles Spencer.
  • with practical illustrations.
  • published by Frederick Warne and Co., London.

Nov 1874.

Arcadian Walks and Drives in the North-West Part of London.

“For the pedestrian, carriage, horse, and bicycle” was an early guide to 22 routes – stretching from Kensal Green to Edgware and Harrow – from W. Alfred Johnson, Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. Although marketed to bicyclists, its contents are mainly for walkers looking to improve their health by escaping the city centre to what was then countryside, with the note that “the carriage or bicycle can usually pass along much of the route mentioned in these pages by continuing the road where the pedestrian enters the field, the footpath usually being but a shorter way to the village or town.”

  • by W. Alfred Johnson
  • Printed by Emily Faithfull, London.

Dec 1874.

Bicycling; Its Rise and Development.

“A text book for riders” aimed to cater for the rapidly developing bicycle movement by filling the void, after early books about the wooden wheeled machine had become valueless. With numerous illustrations to assist the beginner, the book is the first to be published with 25 informative routes of England, four in Ireland, and five in Scotland, while a section of “Continental Tours” gives a further six in France – including “The Battlefields of 1870″, and the “Upper Rhine” [Alsace] , five in Switzerland, five in Belgium, two in Holland, and another in Germany- each highlighting the points of interest, hotels, museums, mileage, gradients and road conditions along the way,

  • Published by Tinsley Bros., London.

1874 – published in March 1875, with editions in 1876, 1877 & 1878.

The Bicycle for 1874.

Written by the honorable secretary to the Surrey Bicycle Club, this first in a series of his “record of bicycling for the past year” for the weekly Bicycle Journal magazine, includes a short account of the author’s fifty miles cycle from London to “a small farm in Sussex”, where his father was staying, on his “very giraffe of a bicycle as to height, no less than forty-five inches in the driving wheel.”

  • by Alfred Howard.
  • Published by Henry Kent Causton & Sons, London.
  • (illustration of an 1874 racing bicycle, left, not from book).

Oct 1874 – published in Nov 1875.

Paris to Vienna by Bicycle.

In this 32 page book, W. Saunders recounts Frenchman M. A. Laumaillé’s notable 760 mile, 12 day journey of October 1874, “the longest bicycle tour on record”, from the French to the Austrian capital on an English machine. The journey, “of upwards of 760 miles in spite of bad roads, disgraceful treatment by villagers, heavy rains, and many other discouragements” was also wildly reported in international medical journals at the time, due to Laumaille’s invention of a natural tonic made from liqueur de cocoa, which “supported him and gave him strength.”

  • by W. Saunders.
  • Published by Tinsley Brothers, London.
  • image, left, proved by University of Bristol Library.

1877 – with later editions in 1878, 1879 & 1880.

The Bicycle Annual for 1877.

With British maps and routes – complete with mileages and a description of the state of the road – and an important review of the previous year, the weekly Bicycling Times magazine’s annual release arrogantly boasted by its third edition, in 1879, that “its success last year was simply unprecedented in bicycling literature. It would be in the worst taste to refer to the fact that the only rival to this publication [Alfred Howard’s “The Bicycle for…” guide] will not this year appear, having fairly been run off the field.”

  • Edited by C.W. Nairn & C.J. Fox Junior.
  • Published by Bicycling Times Office, London.


The Guardians.

“Or, Is ‘union’ strength? A bicycling burlesque in one act” by the mysterious nom de plume, Ixion, was a short parody. A review in the English Mechanic and World of Science in January 1878 slated it “is doubtless amusing to those who like the word-torturing that nowadays does duty for wit. ‘Our horses swiftly through the counties glide, And grow less tyred [sic] with every mile we ride,’ is perhaps the best couplet in the whole of the effusion.”

  • by Ixion.
  • Published by Hardwicke & Bogue, London.
  • (illustration of an 1877 Ariel Bicycle, left, not from book)

December 1877 – Published May 1886.

My Cycling Log Book.

Advertised as “Papa Weston’s Log Book”, “a memorandum of the number of miles travelled by cycle, with such notes of roads, routes, occasions and incidents on the way, as may be convenient or interesting for reference by the owner” was a log book for cyclists to record their efforts and, as examples, came published with the routes covered around Boston by Frank W. Weston, editor of the American Bicycling Journal, in December 1877.

The London-born founder of The Boston Bicycle Club has been labelled the “father of American bicycling.” and remains the first and only American member of the Bicycle Touring Club of England.

  • By Frank W. Weston.
  • Published by Charles. H. Whiting, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Image from advertisements in Bicycling World, May 1886.

1878 – with later edition in 1879

The Bicyclist’s Pocket-Book and Diary for 1878.

A publication from “The Country – A Journal of Rural Pursuits” , 170 Strand, this 167 page neatly bound book came complete with pencil and pockets. “Contents very well chosen and valuable.”

  • Published by “The Country”, 170 Strand, London.
  • (illustration of an 1878 Simpson & Son “Defiance” bicycle, left, not from book).

1878? – published in Jan 1879.

Eydtkuhnen to Langenweddingen by Bicycle.

A 24 page account of “an attempt to ride from the Russian frontier to Calais” in winter, from Eydtkuhnen – the village on the East Prussian (German) side of the border (today the settlement of Eitkūnai in Chernyshevskoe, Kaliningrad, on the border with Kybartai, Lithuania) – to Calais, France.

After passing through modern day Kaliningrad (a Russian enclave) and Poland, the author abandoned his journey, due to thick snow, at Langenweddingen in Prussia – today part of Sülzetal, Magdeburg, “near Brunswick” (Braunschweig), – over 600 miles (877 km) into his journey.

The book contained “a miniature map and views photographed by the Woodbury Company, from pen and ink sketches by the traveller,” which he made over his 26 day journey, twelve of which were spent at various towns, with walking excursions.

The 34 year old author made a book reading at the Drill Hall, Bromley, Kent, England, on January 25th 1879.

  • by W.S. Yorke Shuttleworth.
  • Published by John Snow & Co., London.
  • (illustration from an old postcard, left, not from book).

1879 – revised in 1880.

The American Bicycler.

Perhaps taking its inspiration from Alfred Howard’s British “The Bicycle for…” series, “a manual for the observer, the learner, and the expert” gives instructions on how to ride a bicycle, including the rules of the road, and also features chapters on road racing, American clubs, and suggested routes around Boston with mileage. A review of 1878 also states that “the bicycle has begun to supersede those ill-starred velocipedes ; and Detroit leads the country in having an aristocratic lady- bicycler”.

A revised edition in 1880 was enlarged to include 85 routes, more than half being outside Massachusetts,

  • by Charles E. Pratt.
  • Published by Houghton, Osgood & Company, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

May 1879 – Published in May 1887.

Ten Thousand Miles on a Bicycle.

The father of all bicycle literature, this massive 800 page tome from New York journalist Lyman H. Bagg (under the pseudonym of Karl Kron), was four years in the making, with many chapters teased during that time in the cycling press and over 3,000 subscribers eagerly awaiting its eventual release. “Its ideal is that of a gazetteer, a dictionary, a cyclopædia, a statistical guide, a thesaurus of facts. The elaborateness of its indexing shows that it is designed less for reading than for reference, – less for amusement than for instruction, – and debars any one from objecting to the multiplicity of its details.”

Despite the only illustration being that of the author’s pet Bulldog, as well as a comprehensive guide to every known English-language cycling book or journal published prior to 1886, “the volume is a sort of autobiography” complete with accounts of the author’s own long distance travels on a 46-inch Pope “Columbia” high wheeler, covering 10,082 miles between 1879 and 1884 in 23 States (including those “protected by the British flag” and others in the Union), leading the author “to assume that it has ‘seen a good deal more of America’ than any other bicycle a going.” Even the distances the rider pushed the bike or accompanied it by train, steamboat, canal-boat, row-boat, omnibus, horse-car, and horse-cart are listed, as are those where the machine was sent alone by freight.

  • by Karl Kron (Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg).
  • published by Karl Kron, New York.

August 1879 – Published in June 1881

A Bicycle Tour in England and Wales.

“Made in 1879, by the President, Alfred D. Chandler, and Captain, John C. Sharp Jr., of the Suffolk Bicycle Club, of Boston, Massachusetts.” this account of an American’s adventures with his friend on a trip to Britain originally appeared in four editions of the “Bicycling World” magazine (January and February, 1881), before being released as a book. Travelling from London to Portsmouth and the Isle of White, then northwards to Burton-on-Trent, Manchester, Leeds and North Wales, it offers a valuable insight to their life on the road, with many black and white photographs of the places visited – although sadly none of the two cyclists or their bikes – and even includes a chapter tackling the question of the time: “Is Bicycle Riding Healthy?”

  • by Alfred Dupont Chandler.
  • published by A. Williams & Co., Boston.


“It is unpleasant to have to revert to it, but 1878 has been signalized by some most unjust decisions in both County and Police courts with regard to bicyclists, every case teeming with the personal animus entertained by non riders against bicyclers. In many cases riders have undoubtedly been wrong; but in others they have had to suffer, not for being wrong doers, but simply for being bicyclists.”

– The Bicycle Annual for 1879.

%d bloggers like this: