Cycling Books from the 1890s


Pelotome’s guide to early travel cycling books.

The 1890s.

~ A Vacation Tour Awheel – Allan Eric (1897).

May 1890 – Published in 1891.

A Summer’s Cycling Reminiscence.

“The story of a three months’ bicycling tour through Europe and an account of some of the impressions received” compiled a series of articles which first appeared in the Canadian “Cycling” journal in February 1891, following its editor F.F. Peard, (on a 32″ Rudge safety bicycle), “one of the party” of six members of The Torontos Bicycle Club, on their June 1890 trip of Europe taking in Ireland, Scotland, much of England, and “with the knowledge that France was so close at hand,” Normandy and Paris. Here the group split and a second account of “a 400 mile tour on a grand old ordinary” follows C. Langley “From Paris, France, to Mannheim, Germany”, while R.H. McBride contributes “A Pleasant Memory” of his ride onward to Geneva and Mont Blanc, returning along The Rhine in Germany.

  • by F.F. Peard, C. Langley & R.H. McBride.
  • published by Press of “Cycling“, Toronto, Canada.
  • (illustration, not from the book, of an 1890 32″ Rudge Safety Bicycle, as ridden by F.F. Peard).

June 1890 – Published 1891.

Wheel Tracks in Foreign Lands.

“Recollections of a cycling tour through Europe during the summer of 1890” followed twenty riders of the “Elwell American Bicycle Party” on their safety bicycles as they peddled 1,500 miles around France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and England.

A leather bound limited edition of the book contained 28 photographs, including a group portrait, and another with their bicycles below William Tell’s statue in Altdorf, Switzerland.

“The famous conductor of travellers through foreign lands”, Frank A. “Papa” Elwell was part of the League of American Wheelmen and had been taking fellow cyclists on tours through Europe, the U.S.A, Canada, Jamaica and Bermuda since 1884. An account of “Elwell’s European Tourists” on his previous year’s outing – which included Joseph Pennell and A.J. Wilson (“Faed”) among the thirty-something riders – had earlier been reported in detail between June and August 1889 in The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, while he also added ladies tours in 1892.

  • by James E. Wilkinson.
  • Published by Hanzsche & Co., Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.

April 1891 – Published in 1894.

Across Asia on a Bicycle.

“The journey of two American students from Constantinople to Peking” is a beautifully illustrated book “made up of a series of sketches describing the most interesting part of a bicycle journey around the world,” in which the two young riders set off the day after graduating from Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, in June 1890 and, over the next three years, “covered 15,044 miles on the wheel, the longest continuous land journey ever made around the world.”

Rather interestingly, the two young Americans even get to meet “the Prime Minister of China”, Li-Hung-Chang, and detail their insightful interview with him.

  • by Thomas Gaskell Allen, Jr. and William Lewis Sachtleben.
  • Published by The Century Co., London.

May 1891 – Published September 1892.

Our Cycling Tour in England.

“From Canterbury to Dartmoor Forest, and back by way of Bath, Oxford and the Thames Valley” is a journal of a tour by the secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and his wife, on “safety bicycles”, in his mother’s native land. One chapter had previously appeared in “The New England Magazine” for May, 1892, entitled “Village Life in Old England.”

  • by Reuben Gold Thwaites.
  • published by A.C. McClurg & Company, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

June 1891 – Published in 1892.

The Brownies in “Yurep”.

“Or, cycling beyond the sea” is an incredibly rare book, with only 32 copies ever printed. It follows the “Members of the Elwell Bicycle Tour of 1891” on their ride in Europe with “Papa” Elwell, complete with photographs, from England, “touring through sunny France, mid Switzerland’s snow-clad peaks and lakes of blue, and down the fabled Rhine” through Germany and Holland – the same guided tour taken by James E. Wilkinson in “Wheel Tracks in Foreign Lands” a year earlier.

  • by Charles R. Cutter and F. R. Goodrich.
  • published by Telegram Book Print, Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.A..
  • (advert for Elwell’s Tour of 1891 in Life, 2nd April 1891).

July 1891 – published in November 1893.

To Gipsyland.

The Pennells returned with an account of their summer ride in 1891, this time swapping their trusty tricycle for two safety bicycles (Elizabeth on a Marriott and Cooper’s Ladies’ Safety), in search of the Romani “gypsies” whose culture they had originally fallen in love with in their native Philadelphia.

Originally serialised a year earlier in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (Nov 1892 – Jan 1893), the book concentrated mainly on their time out of the saddle, among the local population in Hungary and Romania, while a more in depth account of their actual ride through France, Belgium, Germany, Bohemia (Czechia and Slovakia), Austria, and Hungary – entitled “From Berlin to Budapest”, appeared as a twelve part series in The London Illustrated News (23rd April to 27th August 1892), in which they described an evening spent with Mark Twain along their route.

  • by Joseph and Elizabeth Rose Pennell.
  • Published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.

May 1892 – published June 2010.

The Lost Cyclist.

“The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance” tells the tale of Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, who recast himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with its inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike.

In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg. He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail.

Bringing to light a wealth of information, this gripping narrative, published in 2010, some 118 years later, captures the soaring joys and constant dangers accompanying the bicycle adventurer in the days before paved roads and automobiles.

  • by David V. Herlihy.
  • Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

July 1892 – published February 1893.

Yankee Schoolboys Abroad.

“or The New England Bicycle Club in Scotland, England, and Paris, July – September 1892” is a collection of memories made by “twelve school and college lads, who, with two teachers, made a bicycle tour through Scotland and England.” Some of the accounts “were read by their writers before schoolmates in the Brookline High School” on their return.

  • Published by Press of C.A.W. Spencer, Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.A..

February 1894 – Published in October 1895.

Algerian Memories.

A bicycle tour over the Atlas to the Sahara” follows the pioneering 35 year old German-based American female mountaineer Fanny Bullock Workman, and her 47 year old husband, William, on their ride in Algeria, North Africa, from Oran to Beni Yenni and Aït Lahcène,

Although illustrated with photographs throughout, including some with their bicycles, a critical review in the Dundee Advertiser pointed out “it smacks too much of the guidebook, and tells us too little about adventures on wheels,” although the St. James Gazette was far more positive, remarking, “that a woman on wheels should cross the Atlas and enter the wastes of Sahara, albeit accompanied by her husband, is significant of the triumph of the bicycle and the pluck and endurance of the sex.”

  • by Fanny Bully Workman & William Hunter Workman.
  • published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.

March 1894.

To Constantinople on a Bicycle.

“The Story of My Ride” is the first published book from “the well known cyclist” Robert Louis Jefferson, following his “anything but pleasant” ride on a Coventry Machinist”Swift” safety bicycle, as special commissioner of The Cyclist, from Kensington “Constantinople” to “the real Constantinople”, through France, Switzerland, Italy and Hungary, across the Balkans, through Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

In 1905, the London-born author would retrace the journey by automobile, becoming the first person to drive a motor car in Turkey and exclusively publishing his narrative “My Motor-Trip to Constantinople” in the Wide World Magazine (Nov 1906 to Jan 1907)

  • by R. L. Jefferson.
  • published by The Cycle Press, London.
  • (photograph from a report of his departure in The Sketch, 14th March 1894).

March 1894 – Published in 1899.

Through a Continent on Wheels.

Prompted by the boom in guided cycle tours around Europe, the fifth cycling book from pioneering English long distance cyclist Robert Louis Jefferson covered the Continental European sections of his famous tours to Constantinople, Moscow, Siberia and Khiva, made over the previous seven years, in which he had “done his” Switzerland three times, the Rhine three times, the Riviera and the Tyrol among the “fashionable and,” in his opinion “somewhat frivilous haunts of the Cook’s tourists.”

He provides accounts of “a tour taken through the Champagne Country in the Summer of 1895”; a tandem trip in the Moselle Valley; a March 1894 tour in Southern Switzerland; over the Simplon Pass; through Slovenia and Croatia, from the Adriatic Sea to the banks of the Danube; in the Balkans; “wheeling in the country of the Turk”; “through Poland awheel”; “across the Urals”; and “a ramble on the Riviera”.

  • by R. L. Jefferson. Illustrated by Harry Evans.
  • Published by Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., London.


Cycle Gleanings.

“Or wheels and wheeling for business and pleasure, and the study of nature”, was an offering from W.S. Beekman (head of The Ornithologist‘s Mineralogical Department) and “Allan Eric” (author of “Jamaica for Cyclists”), which, according to a review in the L.A.W. Bulletin and Good Roads journal, “contains a peculiar combination of features that make it of real interest to bicyclers and others. It has about sixty full-page half-tone pictures of the most striking landscape pictures to be found in the State of New Hampshire, making the volume a treasurable work of art. In addition to these are as many more pages of interesting chat about the wheel, and comments and discussions participated in by the members of outing parties. These observations, which are the unique feature of the book, range ‘from grave to gay, from lively to severe,’ and treat of everything from shooting stars to theology and the making of puns.”

  • by W. S. Beekman and C. W. Willis (Allan Eric).
  • published by Press of Skinner, Bartlett & Co., Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • (advertisement for 1894 Derby Cycle not from book).

April 1895 – Published October 1895.

A Wheel to Moscow and Back.

“The Record of a Record Cycle Ride” is the second book from celebrated long distance cyclist Robert Jefferson, in which he attempts to cover 4,200 miles in fifty days on his Imperial Rover safety bicycle, from Kennington Oval to Moscow and back, through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

  • by Robert L. Jefferson.
  • with a preface by Lieut-Colonel A.R. Saville.
  • published by Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London.

April 1895 – Published in April 1897.

Sketches Awheel in Fin de Siècle Iberia.

Wealthy Germany-based American couple Fanny and William Bullock returned with their second book, which was “based upon observations and experiences of the authors while on a tour through Spain in the spring and summer of 1895.” Although “riding was only a means to an end, and long runs were not attempted,” they still covered much of the country, including their beloved mountains.

In the U.S.A., the book was released under its English translation, “Sketches Awheel in Modern Iberia”.

  • by Fanny Bullock Workman & William Hunter Workman.
  • published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.

April 1895. Published in 1898.

Around the World on Wheels, for the Inter Ocean.

The travels and adventures in foreign lands of Mr. and Mrs. H. Darwin McIlrath, compiled from letters written by Mr. McIlratlh and published in ‘The Sunday and Weekly Inter Ocean’, from April, 1895, to November, 1898″ told the story of Chicago couple Harold Darwin and Hattie McIlrath’s 3½ year attempt at cycling around the world.

Pedaling west from Chicago to San Francisco, at exactly the same time that Annie Londonderry was heading in the opposite direction to complete her own pioneering world tour, they sailed to Japan and took in Hong Kong, China, Burma (Myanmar), Siam (Thailand), India, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, and Austria – where they met Mark Twain and the book ends abruptly, as explained in the Introduction:

“The unlooked for events of the three years following 1895, chief among which was the Spanish-American War, caused several material changes in the itinerary of the Mcllraths as originally planned. Though accomplished successfully, the long trip across Persia, taken during the dead of winter, resulted in delays that had not been anticipated and after the cyclists had entered Germany, it was deemed best by the promoters of the enterprise to bring the tour to an end. Mr. and Mrs. Mcllrath left Southampton, England, the first week in October, 1898,” (before cycling from New York to Chicago).

  • by H. Darwin McIlrath.
  • published by The Inter Ocean Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

May 1895 – Published in 1895.

Around the United States by Bicycle.

Entertaining sketches of the fun, pleasure and hardships, the sights and scenes incident to 274 days of riding” is a collection of stories “from the original as published in the Buffalo ‘Express‘, together with many new incidents.” describing “Tom Winder’s Famous Twenty Thousand Mile Ride” (as the book would come to better known).

A journalist from Warsaw, Indiana, Winder attempted “to ride a bicycle entirely around the border and coast line of the U.S. in 200 consecutive days – making the longest actual bicycle trip ever undertaken, in point of miles ridden,” – starting and finishing in New Orleans.

  • by Tom W. Winder.
  • published by Tom Winder, Elmira, New York, U.S.A..
  • (advertisement for Eclipse Bicycles not from book).

June 1895 – Published in January 1896.

Waif and Stray.

“The adventures of two tricycles” follows two English ladies on their Starley tricycles during a four month tour from London to John O’Groats, neither of whom had any cycling experience prior to making the trip. Written by Chilosà, “the nom-de-plume of a well known lady author and cyclist”, there are no further clues who this could be other than a photograph of the two women on their tricycles.

  • by Chilosà.
  • published by The Roxburghe Press, London.

June 1895 – Published October 1897.

In Jutland With a Cycle.

Two years after the unaccredited Cycling in Jutland” series was published in Cycling magazine (31st August – 21st September 1895), this book appeared with a more detailed, different account of the same ride through Denmark, from Esbjerg to Aarhus on a “Sunbeam” safety bicycle, by the same Wolverhampton writer of non-cycling travel books “Letters from Crete”, “Sardinia and the Sards,” and (horseback) “Rides and Studies in the Canary Islands,

  • By Charles Edwardes.
  • Published by Chapman and Hall, London.

August 1895 – Published in 1978.

The Wonderful Ride.

“Being the true journal of Mr. George T. Loher who in 1895 cycled from Coast to Coast”. A member of the Acme Bicycle Club, Loher cycled from Oakland, California, to New York, in 80 days, on a Stearn’s “Yellow Fellow” fixed gear saftey bicycle.

Published in 1978 by his granddaughter, the book is based upon a typed copy of his journal entries made during the ride, which she had found in a box some 25 years after his death,

  • By George T. Loher, with commentary by his granddaughter, Ellen Smith.
  • Published by Harper & Row, New York, U.S.A..

March 1896 – Published December 1896.

Across Siberia on a Bicycle.

For his third book, long distance cyclist Robert Jefferson published “the Siberian portion” of his 6,574 miles, 150 day bicycle ride from London to Irkutsk, “which is likely to be most interesting to the reader”, including five chapters, related to “the principal incidents and impressions of my ride across the European portion of the journey.”

Jefferson would follow the book a year later, in 1897, with the non-bicycling title, “Roughing it in Siberia; with some account of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the gold-mining industry of Asiatic Russia.”

  • by Robert L. Jefferson.
  • published by Cycle Press Ltd., London.
  • (advertisement for Clincher Tyres not from book)

1896 – Published June 1897.

A Pedaller Abroad.

“Being an illustrated narrative of the adventures and experiences of a cycling twain during a 1,000 kilometre ride in and around Switzerland” was clearly influenced by Mark Twain’s own Swiss adventure in 1880, “A Tramp Abroad“, and followed Charles Simond and his artist friend’s three week trip in 1896 on “two singles” after swapping them for the tandem they had ridden from London to Dover on, a few days before.

Simond had previously authored “Cycling in the High Alps”, an account of another three week tour in July 1895, published in The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes (June 1896).

  • by Chas. F. Simond.
  • published by Sir Joseph Causton and Sons, London.

March 1897 – Published 1897.

From Ocean to Ocean.

“Across a continent on a bicycle” is “a record of a trip across the continent of Australia from Adelaide to Port Darwin” or “an account of a solitary ride” by Irishman Jermome Murif, as he set out to join the “names of heroes” in “a book of ‘Human Records” by crossing Australia on a bicycle, “piercing the very heart of a continent, facing dangers, some known and more unknown.”

Replacing the name of the manufacturer on the frame with the word “Diamond“, he dipped his bike into the waters of St. Vincent’s Gulf on March 1oth, 1897, before riding across the island-continent, and, arriving at Sydney on May 14th, rode to the point off Fort Hill, and submerged his bike again in the ocean, “to make sure that he had done it all.”

  • by Jerome J. Murif.
  • Published by George Robertson and Co., Melbourne, Australia.


A Vacation Tour Awheel.

C.W. Willis returned, under his “Allan Eric” pseudonym and, this time, accompanied by his wife, the “Junior Partner”, for an account of a trip upon his Overman “twenty-five pound Victor”, with “New York the objective point, and the route was laid through central Massachusetts, to the northwestern corner beneath the shadow of the Housac Mountain peaks; thence southward through the Berkshire Hills, turning to the west and following the course of the Housatonic river, and so on into New York State, through the famed Cherry Valley to the Hudson river and to Greater New York.”

  • by Allan Eric (C. W. Willis) and The “Junior Partner”.
  • published by N.E.R.G. Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
  • (1897 advertisement for Victor Bicycles, not from book).


Awheel Thro’ The Tide-Water of Virginia.

Although not published as a book, this illustrated nine page account of a cycling trip through Virginia “on a pilgrimage to Pocahontas-land” appeared in the April 1897 edition of “Outing“.

  • by John E. Carrington.
  • Published in Outing, New York, U.S.A.

July 1897. Published in 1898.

Following the Tow-Path.

“And through the Adirondacks awheel,” was the second bicycle trip from “Allan Eric” (C.W. Willis) with his wife, the “Junior Partner”. as they headed “out through the Mohawk Valley, in New York State, famed for its beauty, thence northward to the lake and Adirondack region; and east, to Lake Champlain, that great inland sea of historic fame, which spreads across the boundary between the states of New York and Vermont, and stretches north to the Canadian border.”

  • by Allan Eric (C. W. Willis) and The “Junior Partner”.
  • published by N.E.R.G. Publishing, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

July 1897 – published in June 1898.

Over The Alps on a Bicycle.

Although they would continue to publish many cycling journals in various publications, such as “Around London on a Bicycle” (September 1897’s Harper’s Magazine), and “Cycle Touring in Many Lands” (a six part series in The Leeds Mercury, 11th March to 15th April 1899), the final cycle touring book from the Pennells followed their visit from Dijon to tackle ten of Switzerland’s mountain passes – The Col de La Faucille, Forclaz, Grand St-Bernard, Simplon, Splügen, San Bernardino, San Gottardo, Furka, Grimsel, and Brünig – a record for a female cyclist.

Although their earlier walking trip in Zermatt, as detailed in “Play and Work in the Alps” (published in The Century Illustrated, May 1891) had Elizabeth proclaiming “I know no lovelier place to go for a month’s holiday”, now “scorched by the sun, stifled by the dust, drenched by the rain,” the experience had left her “a good hater of the Swiss,” which is apparent throughout the book, stating “Switzerland would cease to exist tomorrow but for the tourist.”

Following his wife’s record-breaking bicycle ride, Joseph Pennell would become the first to ride a Werner Motocyclette motor bicycle across the Alps.

  • by Elizabeth Rose Pennell. Illustrated by Joseph Pennell.
  • Published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.

July 1897 – Published in June 1898.

Cycle and Camp.

Following his canoe and camping books “Watery Wanderings” and “Mid Western Lochs”, the founder of the Bicycle Touring Club (in 1878), Thomas Hiram Holding penned this iconic book detailing his pioneering cycling and camping trip in Connemara, Ireland; a long-standing idea that “came on with the old ‘Ordinary,’ which was practically an impossible machine with which to camp. The idea lay dormant from the blessed birth of the ‘Safety’ until July of this more blessed Jubilee Year of 1897.”

Proclaiming the trip a success, he declared “it is now clear the poor clerk or workman, who wishes to see fresh countries at home and abroad, may gratify his whim and have a fine holiday on the weekly expenditure of his pocket money and be independent of weather, distance, or, to him, the prohibitive tariff of hotels.”

An early pioneer of camping, Holding would go on to found the Association of Cycle Campers in 1901 (today the Camping and Caravanning Club). and write ‘The Camper’s Handbook” in 1908.

  • by T. H. Holding.
  • published by Ward, Lock & Co., London.
  • second issue by L. de Vere, London.

October 1897 – Published in 1900.

In the Ice World of Himálaya.

Fanny and William Hunter’s third offering, “among the peaks and passes of Ladakh, Nubra, Suru, and Baltistan,” has become a classic mountaineering book. The couple went to Asia in 1897 with the idea of bicycling over large portions of India, Ceylon, Java, Indo-China and Burma for several years, visiting “many places, that would have otherwise been difficult to reach,” “In order to escape from the heat of the Indian plains,” they spent two summer seasons cycling to Srinagar and Darjeeling, from which they then climbed in the high Himalayan mountains.

Fanny had earlier been one of the first women to climb Mont Blanc, in 1891, and one of the first to climb the Jungfrau and the Matterhorn – using Peter Taugwalder as a guide, who had made the famous first ascent with Edward Whymper in 1865. With nothing in the way of modern equipment, she reached around 23,000 feet (7,000 metres) in the Himalayas, an altitude record for a woman at the time, which she would go on to break on subsequent visits.

  • by Fanny Bullock Workman & William Hunter Workman.
  • published by T. Fisher Unwin, London.

April 1898 – Published October 1899.

A New Ride to Khiva.

For his fourth cycling book, which had been preceded by an account in the March 1899 edition of Wide World Magazine, celebrated English long distance cyclist Robert Jefferson tried “to emulate Captain Burnaby’s ride to Khiva, but as a sportsman only”, on his specially-built Rover machine, with a dog whip attached to the handlebars.

Royal Horse Guard Fred Burnaby had published “A Ride to Khiva: travels and adventures in Central Asia” in 1876, with “the stalwart guardsman” riding by horseback from St. Petersburg, “through Russia and the deserts of Asia to Khiva,” in Uzbekistan, the previous year.

  • by Robert L. Jefferson.
  • published by Methuen & Co., London.


Cycling in Europe.

“An illustrated Hand-Book of information for the use of touring cyclists” was written by none other than Frank A. Elwell, “the famous conductor of travellers through foreign lands.” “Containing also hints for preparation, suggestions concerning baggage, expenses, routes, hotels, etc. etc. and a list of famous cycling tours in England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Germany and Holland, giving each day’s stopping place, and notes of attractive features along the route.”

  • by F. A. Elwell.
  • Published by the League of American Wheelmen, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.


“I made a bargain with myself to strive to give my longing a local habitation and a name — to set about discovering something to be done that no man had yet even dared.

In my quest of a world to conquer, I bought a book of ‘Human Records’ (which is not to be confounded with ‘A Human Document’) so I might know what spheres had been already vanquished.

There inscribed were the names of the heroes who had sucked the most eggs, eaten the most dumplings, drunk the most liquor, chopped the biggest tree, drawn the most teeth, vaulted the most horses.

I passed these dizzy heights with a sigh. They were far above me. Besides, cui bono ?

And then, my mind revolving many things, speeding from one to the other, passing as the bicycle-scorcher passes the mile posts on the road-side —

Of course ! Why, what else could it be ?

To cross Australia on a bicycle, piercing the very heart of a continent, facing dangers, some known and more unknown — it was the very thing.”

– “From Ocean to Ocean”, Jerome J. Murif, 1897.

%d bloggers like this: